Entomology is not for the faint of heart.
Posted: August 19, 2013
If there’s anything that I’ve learned this summer, is that research, especially entomological research, takes a lot of determination, motivation, and a strong work ethic. When most people think of entomologists, they think of people running around with butterfly nets; however, I only participated in this behavior once this summer, catching lady beetles. Anyway, a normal day at the Tooker Lab consists of fieldwork in the morning. This could be checking shingles to survey the diversity of insects, arachnids, and other arthropods in each field. This could also be opening and collecting pitfall traps which survey these same groups over a longer period of time, usually about five days. However, my personal favorite activity would have to be sentinel prey. Maybe I’m a little bit of a sadist. This event involves setting out waxworms in our fields as mock prey, and checking on them periodically to see what attacks them. All of this was done in a variety of weather conditions, ranging from fairly chilly to hot as a desert, and from sunny to down-pouring rain. These fields and their precious data would not wait because the weather was less than ideal, and therefore we, often begrudgingly, persevered.
Afternoons were often a little slower. Data from the morning had to be entered into spreadsheets, and any samples that had been collected had to be processed. This meant cleaning pitfall samples, pinning beetles, and identifying other insects within the samples. This was a very tedious process that took patience and attention to detail. Often, it was easy to overlook a specimen underneath the microscope, or rush and forget a step in one of these processes. It takes a bit of creativity and plenty of diligence to be able to thoroughly and effectively repeat these tasks for every plot and collection date. By the end of the field season, this has easily reached 200 samples for each of our fields. I only possessed few of these traits at the beginning of the summer. However, through the enthusiasm of the other members of the lab, my eagerness to want to learn more about our research and other insects grew. With this, came some of the necessary qualities needed to accurately to complete each assignment. These are qualities that I hope to be able to carry with me throughout my academic and professional careers.
-Lacy Heberlig, 13 August 2013