The Bockler wasp. Andrew Richards/Courtesy photo

Local News

How the Bockler wasp got its name

By From page A5 | July 30, 2014

It’s official. There’s a new wasp species named “the Bockler wasp,” thanks to a concerted drive to memorialize a beloved science teacher, and the taxonomy work of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis, and its nonprofit BioLegacy Program.

When award-winning biology teacher Donald “Doc Boc” Bockler of Arlington (Mass.) High School died at age 65 of an apparent heart attack on Sept. 2, 2008, at his home, two of his former students from the Class of 1993 — Tabatha Bruce Yang of the Bohart Museum and Margaret Dredge Moore of Arlington — launched a fundraising drive to name an insect after him.

They selected a newly discovered species in the genus Lanthanomyia, which was being described by Bohart Museum senior museum scientist Steve Heydon. They sought the name Lanthanomyia bockleri.

Heydon recently published his work on Lanthanomyia bockleri Heydon in Zootaxa, a worldwide mega-journal for zoological taxonomists, and the name is now official.

“Once an article goes through the scientific review process and is published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, the name of the new species is official and immortalized in the scientific literature,” explained Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a professor of entomology at UCD.

Kimsey described species-naming as “a unique, lasting form of dedication” and “a great honor both for the person giving the name and for the individual or other honoree whose name is being given to the species.”

Heydon said Lanthanomyia is a genus whose species are restricted to central and southern Chile and adjacent parts of Argentina. The new species is found in the Nothofagus forests of Patagonian Chile, including Chiloe Island. It belongs to a family of parasitic wasps called the Pteromalidae.

“Unlike other related species, this one has a unique dorsal attachment of the head to the thorax,” Heydon said. “If you see a specimen of Lanthanomyia with the neck attaching close to the top of the head, you know it is bockleri. Adults are reared from galls on Nothofagus and are thought to be parasites of gall-forming weevils.”

Said Yang, who is the education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum, “Donald Bockler was fascinated by evolution and nature and he would have been proud.”

Like many other students of Bockler, she credits him for influencing her decision to pursue a career in science.

Bockler, a member of the Massachusetts Hall of Fame for Science Educators, taught science for 35 years, including a short time in Peru and Puerto Rico before joining the Arlington High School faculty in 1972. He retired in 2003.

His former students and teaching colleagues said the naming of the insect is a fitting tribute to a teacher who lived for and loved science and instilled the enthusiasm in his students.

Wrote one colleague in an email to Yang and Moore: “His students were blessed by his passion and devotion to inquiry learning. As a friend and mentor, he left an indelible mark on my career as a teacher and scholar. … Most importantly, he helped us all believe in the value of our work.”

Bockler’s obituary in the Boston Globe related that he “found his place among the subjects he loved and the students he taught. During his career he led classes in all levels of biology, environmental science, and earth science.”

“His essence is reflected in comments made by students and teachers,” the obituary continued, ” ‘The learning community has lost one of its greats.’ ‘A gentleness is passed.’ ‘He was loved by all and will be sorely missed as our world has lost one of its finest teachers and human beings.’ ”

The Bohart Museum, in Room 1124 Academic Surge on Crocker Lane, established its BioLegacy program “to support species discovery and naming, research and teaching activities of the museum through sponsorships,” Kimsey said.

“At a time when support for taxonomic and field research is shrinking, researchers find it increasingly difficult to discover, classify and name undescribed species,” she added. “Yet there are thousands yet to be discovered. Taxonomy is the basis of all biology and without species discovery and naming much of the world’s biodiversity will remain unknown and therefore unprotectable.”

Agriculture and human settlement are expanding, and according to conservative estimates, about 17,500 species become extinct every year.

“Most of these have not even been discovered, let alone researched or exploited,” Kimsey said. “This loss has ecological and economic consequences which, though difficult to measure, are undoubtedly of major significance. Extinction is forever!”

The Bohart Museum of Entomology posts information about naming rights and insects needing names on its BioLegacy website, http://biolegacy.ucdavis.edu. A minimum sponsorship of $2,500 is requested.

Participation in the BioLegacy Program is open to the public and scientists in research organizations. The Bohart Museum is a nonprofit organization, and donations are tax-deductible.

Kathy Keatley Garvey

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