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Monday, May 18, 2009

Adults can learn from children too!

Here is Gabriel Leal, the boy who taught grown women and men scientists some new knowledge about their "world" which they never might have learned if it hadn't been for Gabriel! Wait a go Gabriel! Best wishes to you in all you do in life!

In our world, due to the fact that adults have been on the planet longer than children, some adults assume they can never learn anything from a child.This could not be farther from the truth!! Every person in this world has their own experience and perspective on the world, which has been developing since they were very young. To assume that a child cannot teach an adult anything, is simply wrong, and denies a child the chance to develop self-esteem and also develop a love of learning. Why am I mentioning this? Because during some web-surfing today, I came upon a wonderful article concerning an eleven-year old boy in Davis,California USA, who has through his sixth-grade science project, taught professional entomologists something about an insect called the navel-orangeworm which entomologists did not know!!

What did these professional Adult entomologists not know about navel-orangeworms?
Well, first let me digress and explain to you what a navel-orangeworm is.
Navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella) is a moth pest that attacks the nuts of Almond, Pistachio, Macadamia and Walnut.Navel orangeworm larvae reduce yield by consuming the nut meat,leaving behind frass and webbing. This damage then leaves the crop open to infection by aflatoxin producing fungi, further reducing quality. As this pest is concealed within the shell, nuts in shell cancontinue to be spoilt during storage and even after packaging and sale.This pest is found in the USA and Canada where it causes damage to Almond, Pistachio, Walnut, Fig and Orange crops. It is also known to occur on Macadamia and Grapes. Source:

Here is a photo of one:

Now back to the main point of this blog entry.Chemical ecologists at the University of California, Davis, are changing their navel-orangeworm research direction after an elementary school student’s science project found that the major agricultural pest prefers pistachios over almonds and walnuts.

"Gabriel Leal, 11, a sixth grader at Willet Elementary School, Davis, prefers pistachios over all other nuts so he figured that the navel orangeworm would, too.

“Pistachios taste better,” reasoned Gabriel, whose family says he can eat an entire bag of pistachios at one sitting. Pistachios have long been his favorite nut, so why wouldn’t the navel orangeworm prefer pistachios over almonds and walnuts, too?

Why not?

So the sixth grader hypothesized that the insect would lay more eggs in pistachios than in almonds and walnuts, contrary to widely published research that indicates an almond preference.

“Everybody knows that navel orangeworms prefer almonds,” said his father, Walter Leal, a chemical ecologist and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. Research published recently in the California Agriculture journal also indicates the preference.

“But in science,” Leal said, “we should believe what we see, not what others tell us. I know that Gabriel prefers pistachios, but I assumed the navel orangeworm’s taste receptors were different.”

Wrong. Gabriel’s research showed that the insects preferred pistachios, just like him.

The findings led to a report at the Almond Board of California’s 32nd Almond Industry Conference, held Dec. 1-2, 2008 in Modesto, and launched a new direction of navel orangeworm chemical ecology research at UC Davis.

Gabriel, a student in Leslie Whiteford's class, performed his research in his father's UC Davis lab, under the volunteer supervision and mentoring of chemical ecologist Zain Syed.

Said Leal: "Gabriel got enough replicates to demonstrate that female navel orangeworms do prefer pistachios over walnuts and almonds. We are very excited with our little scientist's discovery. I reported 'our' findings at the state almond industry conference in Modesto. And these findings changed our research direction, because we are now interested in determining what chemistry in pistachios attracts female navel orangeworms."

"Oviposition (egg-laying) attractants derived from almond oil are used to monitor female populations in the field," Leal explained, "but during hull split, the chemical from the natural source (crop) competes with the synthetic material in traps. If we use pistachio-derived attractants in the almond field there will be no competition throughout the flight season."

Research entomologist Brad Higbee of Paramount Farming Co., Bakersfield, called the boy's research "interesting, provocative and intriguing."

"It's provocative in the sense that we know little about the natural preference of the navel orangeworm (NOW)," Higbee said. "NOW is a pest that attacks tree crops planted on over one million acres in California and it is the primary and most destructive pest on almonds and pistachios, which represent about 800,000 of those acres. About 152,000 are in pistachios. The economic impact of NOW damage varies from year to year, but it can easily reach $10-15 million for our company and much higher statewide."

Gabriel initiated the project in September after text-messaging the idea to his father, who was 7000 miles away. Leal was in his native Brazil to deliver the keynote address at an entomology conference on the mode of action of the mosquito repellent, DEET. Contrary to 50-year-old assumptions, DEET does not mask the smell or jam the senses, the Leal lab discovered in groundbreaking research published in August. Mosquitoes can smell DEET and avoid it because it smells bad.

So while the father was thinking DEET, the son was thinking how neat it would be to do research on an insect that's a fellow fan of pistachios.

"When I received the text message, I thought 'No way,'" Leal said. "No way would the navel orangeworm prefer pistachios over almonds."

Syed also thought "No way."

But they figured that Gabriel, despite a wrong hypothesis, could learn more about the scientific method and about an agricultural pest that wreaks havoc on California nut orchards.

"Gabriel was really excited about the project, especially when he was counting the number of eggs laid in the pistachios," said Syed.

"The results," Syed said, "shocked us."

"The take-home message? "Well, in science we should never underestimate anyone's idea," Walter Leal, said. "That's why the academic environment is so enriching: students come with new ideas, but I never imagined we would benefit so much from a science project for elementary school."

source of photo and information contained in this blog entry: Photo taken by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.