- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Smith will show attendees how to pin butterflies during the three-hour open house. The event, free and open to the public, will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
"This open house purposely coincides with UC Davis dorm move-in weekend," says Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. "Our target audience is new students and their families, but everyone is welcome. The focus is how to study insects at home and in school--any age."
The UC Davis Entomology Club, headed by Chloe Shott, president, will participate. Undergraduate entomology student advisor Brandy Fleming will be on hand (tabling) to talk about classes, careers, and fun with entomology. Yang is also planning a display featuring cabbage white butterflies for educators.
Smith, a resident of Rocklin, curates the 400,000-specimen (and growing) collection. The entomologist has spread the wings of more than 200,000 butterflies and moths, or about 7000 a year, since 1988. “I do most of the work at my home (Rocklin), where I spread and identify specimens and add them to the museum collection,” he said.
“My life is dedicated to this passion of entomology,” said Smith, an associate of the Bohart Museum and a member of the Bohart Museum Society and the Lepidopterists' Society. He was named a recipient of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' "Friend of the College" award in 2015.
“Entomology is my passion and the Bohart Museum is my cause.” He retired in 2013 from a 35-year career with Univar Environmental Science but that just means he can spend more time at the insect museum.
It's not easy to pin a butterfly. Just ask research entomologist Tom Zavortink, a Bohart Museum associate who told us: "Personally, I am astounded by the thousands upon thousands of butterflies and moths that Jeff has prepared for display or scientific study. 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 holds two bachelor's degrees from San Jose State University: one in biology and one in environmental health, both with concentrations in entomology. In between degrees, he served four years in the Air Force as a ground crew chief on B-52s and KC-135s. The Air Force awarded him the master crew chief certificate earlier than other crew members. He saw duty in Thailand and Guam.
Smith also engages in woodworking, a craft he learned from his father. To date, he has made thousands of drawers for the Bohart Museum and “about half are from scratch,” he said. They include 150 drawers from recycled redwood decking and fencing. He makes and donates spreading boards for open houses and for UC Davis Entomology Club clinics.
One of Smith's philosophies is “to leave the world better than I found it, and that pertains not only to my work in the Bohart but also to my 35-year career at Univar.”
Another involves the Golden Rule, or as he says “If you wouldn't want someone doing it to you, don't do it to them.” And a third philosophy "that I stole" from an inspirational man who teaches music to inner city youth in Los Angeles: “Love what you do, do what you love, and take the time to teach others about your passion.”
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids, and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
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, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.