Current Research Focus

Дата канвертавання18.04.2016
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Alex Van Dam

Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Animal Science, UC Davis

One Shields Av. Davis CA 95616

Current Research Focus:

  • Domestication process in phytophagous insects and host-plant switching in their wild relatives.

  • Using molecular markers to delineate the geographic origins of the cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus) that has been used as a brilliant red dye since pre-Columbian times in Peru and Mexico.

  • Investigating genetic evidence of domestication in D.coccus.

  • Molecular Phylogenetics of Dactylopius spp. identifying host-plant switching and imbedded lineages within recognized morphological species.


  • M.S. Entomology UC Riverside 2007

  • B.S. Entomology UC Riverside 2004

Publication History:

Van Dam, A., May B.P. 2012. A new species of Dactylopius (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae) from the Chihuahuan Desert. ZOOTAXA. Currently in Review by Editor.

Van Dam, A., Householder J.E., Lubinsky P. 2010. Vanilla bicolor (Orchidaceae) from the Peruvian Amazon: auto-fertilization in Vanilla and notes on floral phenology. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 57:473-480.

Walton, W.E., Van Dam A.R., Popko D.A. 2009. Ovipositional respones of two Culex (Diptera: Culicidae) species to larvivorous fish. Journal of Medical Entomology. 46(6):1338-1343.

Van Dam, A., Walton W. E. 2008. The effect of predatory fish exudates on the ovipositioning behavior of three mosquito species: Culex quinquefasciatus, Aedes aegypti, and Culex tarsalis. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 22: 399-404.

Van Dam, A.R., Van Dam M.H. 2008. Impact of off-road vehicle use on dune endemic Coleoptera. Annals of the Entomological Society of America.101(2):411-417 Annals of the ESA March issue [COVER ARTICLE].

Van Dam, A., Walton W. E. 2007. Comparison of mosquito control provided by the arroyo chub (Gila orcutti) and the mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis). American Journal of Mosquito Control. 23(4): 430-441.

Van Dam, A., Van Dam M. 2007. Cacti and succulents of the Socorro sand dunes. The Cactus and Succulent Journal. 79(3): 131-134.

Van Dam, A.R., Van Dam M.H., Heraty J.M. 2007. A comparison of pyrethrum fogging and screen-sweep netting of Hymenoptera in Southern California chaparral. Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 16(1): 192-205.

Lubinsky, P., Van Dam M.H., Van Dam A.R. 2006. Pollination of Vanilla and evolution in Orchidaceae. Lindleyana 75(12): 926-929.

Van Dam, M.H., Van Dam A.R. 2006. Description of the larvae of Pseudocotalpa sonorica Hardy (Scarabaeidae: Rutelinae: Rutelini) with notes on life history. Coleopterists Bulletin, 60(1): 31-35.

Van Dam, M.H., Van Dam A.R., Wilcox M.D. 2006. Description of the third-instar larva and adult male of Megasoma sleeperi Hardy (Scarabaeidae: Dynastinae). Coleopterists Bulletin 60(1): 59-67.


  • 2011 van den Bosch Scholarship Award in Systematics $15,000

  • 2011 California Desert Research Grant $2,000

  • 2010 UC MEXUS Dissertation Research Grant $12,000

  • 2010 van den Bosch Scholarship Award in Systematics $5,000

  • 2009 Pacific Rim Advanced Graduate Research Fellowship $17,477

  • 2008 Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant, $2,000

  • 2008 Lewis and Clark Scholarship, $3,000

  • 2008 Jastro-Shields Graduate Research Scholarship $400

  • 2007 Pacific Rim Research Program Mini-grant, $2,969

  • 2007 Coauthored UC MEXUS Mini-grant $2,000

  • 2007 Jastro-Shields Graduate Research Scholarship $440

  • 2006 California Desert Research Grant $3,400

Skills Set:
Molecular Biology Data Collection:

  • PCR: well trained in PCR optimization and troubleshooting

  • Sequencing: preparing PCR products for sequencing and operating an ABI 3730xl & ABI 3130xl sequencer.

  • Cloning: plasmid cloning of PCR products for amplification and later sequencing of PCR products.

Phylogeny Reconstruction:

  • Phylogeny reconstruction using: MrBayes, PAUP*, DIVA,BEAST, & MESQUITE.

Insect Museum Specimen Curation:

  • Preservation: pin mounting, point, card mounting, and slide mounting techniques.

  • Database construction and operation: am quite familiar with Adobe Filemaker and how to construct a working database to catalog a museums holdings.

Ecological Habitat Assessment:

  • Species Diversity Data Collection: Multiple field survey methods

  • Species Diversity Estimation and Statistical Evaluation:

  • EstimateS: individual abundance, species diversity, species evenness, and species richness, and shared species indices between different habitat fragments.

  • Systat: comparing species richness over time between different habitat fragments for significant effects.

Additional Languages Spoken:

  • Spanish (ILR scale 3: Professional working proficiency)

Work Experience:

  • 2009 to present: Molecular systematics and population genetics techniques training in the labs of Dr. Bernie May.

Currently training in molecular techniques for reconstruction of phylogenies and population networks, primer design, sequencing on an ABI-3730xl platform, and PCR optimization.

  • 2010 Molecular Cloning in the lab Dr. Steve Nadler Lab: Learned how to clone PCR amplified fragments. Cloned fragments were then used to design species specific primers for phylogenetic analyses.

  • 2008: Survey of Argentinean Cochineal Insects: Working with Dr. Lucia Claps of La Universidad de Tucuman. This survey was conducted in order to collect Dactylopius specimens from the different species and tribes of Opuntioid cacti found only in Argentinian deserts.

  • 2007: Cochineal insect production and survey of the cochineal insects of Southern México.

Established collaborative projects with the Universidad de Guadalajara faculty Dr. Liberator Portillo and Ana Lilia Vigueras. Also traveled to southern Mexico to collect Oaxacan cochineal insects. This project was undertaken in order to try and discover where the cochineal insect originated by using genetic markers to compare genetic diversity of Mexican cochineal insects to Peruvian cochineal insects.

  • 2006-2007: Assesment of fish chemicals effects on Mosquito Oviposition.

As part of my Masters research investigated if three different mosquito species are deterred from oviposition sites that have water containing fish chemicals.

  • 2005-2007: Comparative Efficacy of Mosquito Control and Mosquito Oviposition Deterrence by Fish.

This work was part of my Masters research, and was focused on assessing if an alternative to mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) could be used in managed wetlands in Southern California. Assessed both of these treatments for affects on non-target aquatic organisms.

  • 2005: Scarabaeid Survey of the Algodones Dunes in Southern California.

Undertook this study in order to assess the impact of Off Road Vehicle (ORV) use on endemic spring flying scarab beetles at the Algodones Dunes.

  • 2005-2006: Biogeography of Dune Endemic Insects of Southern California.

As part of a California Desert Research Grant collected a variety of dune endemic insects from sand dunes in Southern California. These specimens would later be used in phylogenetic analyses in order to better understand the evolution and species delimitation of dune endemic insects.

  • 2005: Pollination and Dispersal of Neotropical Vanilla.

This collaborative project was aimed at the pollination mechanisms of neo-tropical Vanilla founding aguajales (palm swamps) in southern Peru. Tasks included recording phonological data on the Vanilla species there as well as documenting the bee diversity of the aguajales.

  • 2004: Lab Technician in the Dr. William Walton Laboratory UCR.

Determining various water quality standards (total dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, nitrite, ammonia, etc.) in managed wetlands in order to correlate this aquatic insect abundance particularly mosquitoes.

  • 2003 and 2006: Biological Surveyor for the federally endangered species Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis.

Worked as a subcontractor for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if potential habitat for R. terminatus actually contained this species. Surveys entailed detailing the invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant life in vacant lots in Riverside, Rialto, Colton, and Fontana CA. This work is done in order to protect unique relict Delhi Sand Dune habitat from development in order to preserve several unique species found no where else.

  • 2001: Lab Technician and Undergraduate Research in the Dr. John Heraty Laboratory at University of California Riverside.

Tested efficacy of different methods for collecting micro-Hymenoptera in Mediterranean ecosystems. Data-based the collection in the UC Riverside Entomology Museum database and currated the collection down to genus and morpho-species level. Evaluated three different collection methods based on numbers of specimens, morpho-species diversity, and morpho-species evenness of micro-Hymenoptera.

  • 2000: Lab Technician in the University of California Riverside Entomology Research Museum.

Working for Dr. Douglas Yanega I was responsible for documenting the level of curration of different parts of the collection as far as level of taxonomic identification.

  • 2000: Participant of the Scarabaeidae survey of Honduras.

Helped collect scarab beetles for of a team of researchers from the University of Nebraska interested in documenting the scarab beetle diversity of cloud forests to better understand their ecology and for conservation purposes.

  • 1999: Lab Technician in the Vertebrate Paleontology Lab at LACM.

Working for Dr. Lawrence “Larry” Barnes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History I helped to curate subsets of the collection, re-organizing specimens, re-labeling specimens, and repaired earthquake damaged specimens.
Scientific Symposia:

  • 2011 Evolution Student Presentation

  • 2009 Ecology Graduate Student Symposium at UC Davis.

  • 2007 Invited Student Speaker at the Society of Vector Ecology Symposia.

Awards, Honors:

  • 1999 Los Angeles County Museum Vertebrate Paleontology Lab Volunteer of the Year

Teaching Experience:

  • 2009-2012 TA Bio 2C Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life, UC Davis:

Core course at UC Davis for students receiving a B.A. or B.S. in Biology. I ran labs allowing students to reconstruct phylogenetic trees, and related this information to defining characters of different clades and classification of all organisms. Responsibilities included lecturing for the first 10-15 min of each lab, followed by helping the students through the labs, grading in-class and homework assignments

  • 2008 TA Introduction to Biodiversity, UC Davis:

Organized students papers for grading and gave feedback on oral presentations to students

  • 2006 TA Aquatic Entomology, UC Riverside:

Helped teach students how to identify aquatic insects to genus and graded the collections on accuracy of identification

  • 2006 TA General Entomology, UC Riverside:

Helped students how to identify insects to family and answered general entomology questions related to development, physiology, classification, and ecology

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