Thursday, December 11, 2008

Visit to Abraham Hefetz Lab, University of Tel Aviv; Israeli Philharmonic Concert

As graduate students, both Abraham Hefetz and I met at the University of Georgia. He was mentored by Murray Blum (ants). So it was a great opportunity on my trip to Israel to meet up with him again at the University of Tel Aviv. He is currently a full professor, mentoring a number of students in social insect behavior. In an ad hoc meeting with his lab, I found out that he is currently involved in two projects involving exotic insects.

Wasmania auropunctata, a non-native ant was recently found in several Israeli villages. DNA analysis reveals that all ants so far detected have come from one queen. These ants are damaging in several ways and when present can affect the human population greatly. The research is also involving geographic analysis using Gis. This ant is causing problems elsewhere elsewhere in the world as well.

A similar dynamic is involved in Apis florea, also a recently detected invasive bee species. All colonies so far found appear to be the offspring of a single queen. Apis florea is known to be present in Oman. How it got to Eliat, Israel is not known, but it appears only a matter of time before it will spread across the Negev Desert, probably aided by humans (roads, trucks, etc.). There is debate in scientific circles here about what to do.

The Deparment of Zoology maintains a small zoo with endangered animals and others. I saw several cat species and birds of prey, but my visit was cut short due to rain.

After my visit, Abraham drove me down to where I was to meet my hosts and go to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, accompanying a young Argentine pianist Ingrid Fliter in Chopin's Concerto No. 2 in F Minor for Piano and Orchestra. Other pieces done included Song of Ascent For Symphony by Alexander Uriyah Boskovich and Prokofiev's 5th Symphony.

No comments: