- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
And appropriately, butterflies adorned his tie.
Smith, who curates the 400,000 butterfly and moth collection at the Bohart Museum, was nominated by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Smith sat on stage with the other 2015 recipients: Jacqueline Beckley, Chuck Nichols and Tony Smith, alumni awards; Chris van Kessel, faculty; David Ginsburg, staff, and John Meyer, friend.
But since this is a Bug Squad blog, we'll focus on the "bugman." (Yes, "bugman" is in his email account.)
Smith has “brought us international acclaim and saved us $160,000 through donations of specimens and materials, identification skills and his professional woodworking skills," Kimsey wrote in her nomination. "This does not include the thousands of hours he has donated in outreach programs that draw attention to the museum, the college and the university.”
Kimsey praised Smith for completely reorganizing the butterfly and moth collection. “It's no small feat to rearrange this many specimens, housed in roughly one thousand drawers,” she said. “Many thousands of the specimens needed to be identified, and the taxonomy required extensive updating and reorganization.”
Lauding Smith's “phenomenal knowledge of urban insect and spiders,” Kimsey said: “We often go to him with questions we get from the public and from colleagues. He volunteers for our weekend open houses as often as he can, as well as the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day in February and UC Davis Picnic Day in April. Few volunteers, faculty, students or staff work as well with the public as Jeff does. He has a wonderfully engaging way of talking to children and adults, and he knows just how to inspire and educate every age group. It's awesome to watch.”
Indeed, it is no easy feat to pin a butterfly or moth. Just ask research entomologist Tom Zavorink, a Bohart Museum associate.
"Personally, I am astounded by the thousands upon thousands of butterflies and moths that Jeff has prepared for display or scientific study," Zavorink said. "This is no small task because butterfly and moth specimens are usually brought from the field in envelopes or boxes with their wings folded over their backs or around their bodies, and preparing them for display or scientific study involves relaxing them in a humid chamber so their wings and legs can be manipulated, carefully spreading open the wings, positioning them on a flat surface, and securing them in that position until the specimen dries again. This is an onerous task that many entomologists, myself included, shun because we don't have the time, manual dexterity, or patience it takes to prepare quality specimens."
Smith puts it this way: “Entomology is my passion and the Bohart Museum is my cause.”
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year. See open house schedule.