Heather Wilson's ESA Video "I Wanna Be an Entomologist'' Going Viral
Oct. 11, 2011 Watch Heather Wilson's video
Heather Wilson created an innovative video for the Entomological Society of America's YouTube video contest that's going viral. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
DAVIS---A spider prowls its web for unsuspecting insects. Honey bees buzz in and out of a hive. A butterfly flutters into a bush.
A bucolic scene, right?
Wait, something funny is about to happen. University of California, Davis Regents Scholar Heather Wilson opens a car trunk, retrieves an insect net, and holding it upright like a flag, sprints down a country road like a cartoon character.
Her antics—antics that led to her being named “class clown” in high school —are part of an innovative video she created for the Entomological Society of America’s YouTube video contest.
Next scene: Wilson sits in a lab, baseball cap on backwards, singing plaintively “I wanna be an entomologist, so freakin’ bad.”
Wilson, a researcher/lab technician in the Frank Zalom lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, created the video as a parody of the Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars' (I Wanna Be a) "Billionaire" video.
And to make people laugh.
In the 1.42-minute, low-tech, low-budget video, Wilson peers through a microscope and “counts bugs” in the Zalom lab. She explores the Bohart Museum of Entomology while two resident walking sticks cling to her T-shirt. She cradles a rose-haired tarantula and a Madagascar hissing cockroach and cuddles a display of butterfly specimens.
Heather Wilson in the lab. Click to watch the video she entered in the Entomological Society of America's YouTube video contest.
All the while, she sings “I wanna be an entomologist.” The background music? That's her strumming her guitar.
The lyrics include:
I wanna be an entomologist
so freakin’ bad
Count all of the bugs inside my lab
I wanna be on the cover
Of Economic Entomology
Smiling next to Frank and Jim Carey
Oh, every time I close my eyes
I see my name on ESA’s website
A different paper published every night, oh, I swear
The world better prepare
For when I’m an entomologist
Oh, oh, oh, oh
When I’m an entomologist
I wanna be an entomologist so freakin' bad.
“It’s hilarious,” said entomology professor James "Jim" R. Carey, unaware of the video until it was posted on the ESA website. Carey, a newly elected ESA fellow, taught a class last spring on “How to Make an Insect Collection” and launched the pilot program of the UC systemwide research seminar series on UCTV.
The "Frank" she mentions in the lyrics is integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and in line for the presidency of the 6000-member ESA.
The video link is drawing rave reviews on social media.
“Who wouldn’t want to be an entomologist?” responded UC Riverside entomologist Marshall Johnson on Facebook.
Wilson, a senior majoring in biological sciences and treasurer of the UC Davis Entomology Club, finds her work in the Zalom lab “fascinating.”
The tiny Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) that Heather Wilson studies. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“I am currently working on my own research project that involves tracking movement of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) among different fruit crops,” she said. “So this involves going out to field sites weekly and collecting traps. Also I have been helping (entomology graduate student) Kelly Hamby with her research since I started working at the Zalom lab. That includes boring things like feeding flies to keep the lab colony of Spotted Wing Drosophila going, but also fun things like field work and molecular biology stuff. Unlike other undergrads who only wash dishes in labs, I get to be really involved in the research process and actually suggest my own opinions.”
Wilson will be presenting her SWD research project at the 59th Annual ESA Meeting, to be held Nov. 13-16 in Reno.
ESA Video Competition
To view the Entomological Society of America entries in its YouTube contest, click on the categories below. (Heather Wilson's video is in the open category.)
The winning entries will be shown at the ESA Annual Meeting in Reno, set Nov. 13-16.
Winners from each category will receive $200 and a trophy.
How did she come up with the idea for the video? While listening to "Billionaire" in the lab.
Wilson credits several friends with assisting with the project: entomology major Ivana Li, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club; entomology major Danielle Wishon, vice president; and animal biology major/Zalom lab technician Doris Yu.
“I just think it’s a creative and fun video,” said Wishon. “Heather did an amazing job mimicking the ‘Billionaire’ video with her own creativity.”
“Billionaire,” the lead single from Travie McCoy’s debut studio album, Lazarus, and featuring Bruno Mars as a guest vocalist, zeroes in on what it might be like to become a billionaire. McCoy ponders his desire to be on the cover of Forbes magazine, “smiling next to Oprah and The Queen.” The hit song has sold more than 3 million digital downloads since July 2011.
“Billionaire” is a very catchy tune but “it’s unrealistic that we can ALL become billionaires,” commented Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum. “But honestly, we can all set our sights on becoming an entomologist. Now that’s a realistic dream.”
Yang described the Wilson’s video as “fun,” comparing it to distinguished entomology professor Bruce Hammock’s annual water balloon battle, when faculty, researchers, and undergraduate and graduate students all leave their labs to engage in “15 minutes of aim” on the Briggs Hall lawn. (Wilson participated in the 2011 water balloon battle.)
“It (the video) is taking a little bit of time and having fun with it--especially in a department where students, staff and faculty work incredibly hard," Yang said.
Wilson, described by her friends and colleagues as a talented guitarist and vocalist, began playing musical instruments at age 9, but “just as a hobby.” And, although voted class clown at Esperanza High School, Anaheim, Calif., she is also a top scholar. The Regents Scholarship she received is the most prestigious scholarship on the UC Davis campus and is based solely on academic and personal achievements.
Wilson will graduate from UC Davis in December but will continue working in the Zalom lab.
“I’m baffled at the popularity of the video,” said Wilson, who submitted the video on deadline day of the worldwide competition.
“It would be cool if I won, but I never take things in life too seriously, so all I hope is that it makes people laugh,” she said.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology