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1. What inspired you to enter the field of entomology?
I took an entomology class as a junior in college. My interest started when I looked at insects through a microscope. I’ve always had an interest in biology.
2. What specific kind of work do you do?
I’m working on three major revisions. One is on the Heliothines of North America. There are difficult species to discriminate in heliothine species complexes. I’m working a phylogeny of a large genus. Another project I’m finishing is a revision of the Lymantria of the Palearctic. It’s about species related to the Gypsy Moth. Another group that I’m working on is a notodontid genus in Costa Rica with about 80 species. There are about 250 species in the genus all together. And then I do "urgents" every day. Urgents are quick moth identifications. Officials hold commodities at various U.S. ports of entry until they determine the identifications of insects that come into the U.S. with the commodities. I also do routine identifications.
3. What taxonomic groups of arthropods are your assignments?
I’ve been involved with various groups. I work with Noctuidae, because I was hired by USDA to work on this moth family. I didn’t work Noctuidae before I took this job.
4. What is the most exciting project you have worked on?
They’re all about the same. Different projects have different things to examine. The notodontid genus problem is interesting, because researchers are discovering new notodontid species on a regular basis. A lot of notodontids look the same on the outside, but when you dissect them, they’re quite different inside.
5. What keeps you excited about your profession?
Answer not available.
6. Would you like to work on any arthropod group that is currently outside your assignment?
I worked a little bit with tropical treehoppers, and they were very interesting. There was a hectare plot in Ecuador where other researchers and I collected more than twice as many treehopper species as there are in all of North America. The Ecuadorian treehoppers comprise a very unusual insect group.
7. In retirement (if you ever feel like retiring), would you still continue work with arthropods?
I don’t know right now. It depends. I know I have a lot of other interests. If I were to continue work, I probably wouldn’t do that much publishable research. I would try to come into the Museum to make sure everything is identified in certain parts of the arthropod collection.
8. How often do you see changes occurring in species due to environmental changes that occur in your specialty arthropods?
Answer not available.
9. Is biotic conservation important to you? If yes, why?
Yeah it is, especially in the tropics, because of habitat destruction. We don’t know much about insect species in the tropics, and we’re barely scratching the surface of insect biology down there.
10. What is your most remarkable "bug" encounter?
Before I worked for USDA, I worked for the Smithsonian. I was involved in a canopy project in the tropics, and other workers and I sorted through the specimens that we collected. The mimicry and other morphology of some of the canopy insects were incredible. Continually during the day, while passing dishes of specimens around, we said "Look at this! I’ve never seen anything like this before!" There was lots of mimicry. There were insects that looked like spiders, cockroaches that looked like beetles, and moths that looked like wasps.
11. What is your most dangerous "bug" encounter?
I haven’t had any dangerous bug encounters.
12. If you had to choose between a vertebrate or arthropod for a pet which would you choose?
A vertebrate [chuckles]. I would probably choose a dog or a cat. My family just got a new puppy. The only arthropod I had was a katydid that I kept in my tent in Peru for about 3 weeks while I was there. That’s about as close as I got to having an arthropod for a pet.