- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis doctoral alumnus Marek Borowiec, now an assistant professor in the University of Idaho's Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, is one of many who drew inspiration from Wilson, the Pulitzer-Prize winning biologist considered "the" global expert on ants.
As a master's student from Poland on a Ernst Mayr grant, Borowiec worked near his office at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ).
Borowiec posted this 10-itemed thread Jan. 4 on his Twitter account:
- "Ed Wilson's passing marks an end of an era. He inspired generations of myrmecologists. Here's my story. I was a biology college freshman in Poland when I read Naturalist. I had already read several of his books and was mostly interested in what he had to say about human nature."
- "Reading Naturalist, however, it seemed to me that Wilson was more excited about chasing ants around the world than toppling paradigms. I thought, 'huh, if this guy thinks ants are so fascinating, there must be something to it.' "
- "On my next walk in a local park I picked up some ants and stuffed them into the toothpick compartment of my Swiss army knife. I identified them using a microscope my parents got me, using an outdated key to insects of USSR."
- "As boring as Lasius niger is, at the time I thought this was the coolest-looking thing I ever saw. My dad, also an entomologist, saw his son's potential path to the dark side and pointed out that a modern key to the ants of Poland had just come out (Radchenko et al 2004)."
- "A year later I had the thing literally memorized. I could run through most of the Myrmica key in my mind without even opening the book. Soon, I was given an opportunity to work for @mil_janda (Milan Janda) who put me in charge of sorting some mind-blowing material from Papua New Guinea."
- "Initially I thought I wanted to study ant ecology but the diversity of shape and form of tropical ants made me want to study systematics. As a Masters student, still in Poland, I went to MCZ on an Ernst Mayr grant and spent two weeks working opposite to Wilson's Harvard office."
- "Ed wasn't around then but Stefan Cover convinced me I should apply to grad school with Phil Ward (who, I believe, was inspired to study ants after reading Wilson's The Insect Societies). Fast forward a couple of years and I landed in Sacramento as a starry-eyed PhD student."
- "I visited MCZ three more times since then and was finally able to meet Ed in 2019. At 90 his enthusiasm was still infectious, his mind enviably lucid for any age. I am grateful to have met him, however briefly."
- "All this has been an incredible adventure. Many supported me early in my professional journey, including but not limited to my parents Marta and Lech Borowiec, Alfred Buschinger, @mil_janda (Milan Janda),@GaryDAlpert1 (Gary D. Albert), Stefan Cover, Phil Ward, @BBlaimer (Bonnie Blaimer), @bramic21 (Michael Branstetter)...
- "But it all starts with Ed's Naturalist."
Borowiec received his doctorate at UC Davis in 2016, studying with major professor and myrmecologist Phil Ward.
"My focus has been primarily on ant diversity and evolution and in my research I combine field work, morphology, molecular phylogenetics and comparative methods," Borowiec writes on his website. "I am also interested in computing and phylogeny estimation from high-throughput sequencing data. Ants are the world's most successful eusocial organisms. Long history, high species diversity and extreme variety of life histories make them an excellent group in which many evolutionary questions can be addressed."
E. O. Wilson influenced so many scientists.../span>