By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Special to Dixon Patch
Danielle Wishon, an entomology major at the University of California, Davis and president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, acknowledges that she’s always loved insects and “anything creepy crawly for that matter.”
While other girls played with dolls, she spent many of her non-school hours collecting and playing with insects, snails and slugs, pill bugs, spiders and other invertebrates.
At age 4, she created a habitat for 30 garden snails in a shoebox. “I took the box up to my room and put it under my bed. Sometime later I came crying down the stairs because all of my snails had left me. Apparently I had not yet learned the concept of a lid. My mother then proceeded to help me collect my snail pets off my bed post, the walls, the nightstand…”
Fast forward to today. Her enthusiasm for insects, mollusks, arthropods and other invertebrates remains keen. She’s the recipient of the Department of Entomology’s 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, the first recipient in 17 years.
Her name appears on a perpetual plaque outside the Department of Entomology’s administrative office on the third floor of Briggs Hall.
Wishon, who transferred to UC Davis in the fall of 2008 from Sierra Community College, Rocklin, calculates she has almost a year left of classes before she’s awarded her bachelor’s degree. She works at the Bohart Museum of Entomology with director Lynn Kimsey, and interns in the forensic entomology lab with Bob Kimsey. The Kimseys, husband and wife, are longtime faculty members of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“Danielle works in the museum sorting insects from around the world --from California sand dunes to the Indonesian rainforests,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology. “There's no one better at this. But she also takes the time to show visitors around the museum and get them excited about insects.”
Bob Kimsey, who presented the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award to her at a recent ceremony, jokingly says that “Danielle infests my lab.” He serves as the advisor of the 50-member Entomology Club, which meets every Thursday night during the school year in 122 Briggs Hall.
"She is the hardest working student I have ever seen,” Bob Kimsey said. “And, her overwhelming concern for humans of all kinds earns her the title of latter day Florence Nightingale."
Although she’s always loved insects, Wishon recalled that in the third grade, “we had to write an autobiography and description of our desired future.” She wrote that she wanted to become an ice skater and have six children.
“It’s amazing how times change,” said Wishon, now 29. “Soon after I completed it, a family friend who knew my affinity for insects, read the autobiography and informed me that I could become an entomologist. It had never occurred to me that I could play with insects as a profession.”
Born on Coronado Island, she moved to Las Vegas at age 11. She’s a 2000 graduate of Cimarron Memorial High School, Las Vegas, and attended colleges in Las Vegas and San Diego before settling in Rocklin, and now Davis.
Her road to becoming an entomologist meandered at times as she overcame a diagnosed learning disability. But she stayed the course, getting good grades, and never losing sight of her love for entomology.
“My insect collecting was limited while I lived in Las Vegas, but I kept several black widows, jumping spiders, and beetles,” Wishon said. “I also dipped into herpetology a bit and became the editor of the Southern Nevada Herpetological Society.”
“My mother and older brothers were becoming worried that if I stayed in Vegas any longer I would fulfill the stereotype of becoming a stripper,” she joked.
“Although I am itching to be done with school and officially become an entomologist, I am so happy to be here at Davis as a part of this wonderful department. I love forensic and medical entomology, the order Diptera (flies), and arachnids (including spiders and scorpions), but I also love the complete diversity of insects that I am able to study at the Bohart, so I’m not sure exactly what direction I want to go from here.”
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