Lynn S. Kimsey is an entomologist, and has been one for most of her life.
It's an interesting piece. Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, traces her interest in entomology to age 5, when she received her first butterfly net.
"I've pretty much had a burning passion for insects ever since, except for a brief foray into marine biology as an undergraduate," she told LiveScience.
Kimsey recently drew international attention with her discovery of gigantic "warrior wasps" on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.(The male measures about two-and-a-half-inches long, Kimsey says. “Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs.)
And what is "the most important characteristic a researcher must demonstrate in order to be an effective researcher?"
"A burning curiosity and the need to know."
Kimsey is also quick to point out the societal benefits of her research. "Understanding insects, where they occur and the ecosystem services they provide, is critical for our how important insects are to us. They are our principal competitors — they feed on us and our animals, they make us sick and yet provide critical pollination, recycling and nutritional services."
We're glad to see LiveScience singling out scientists for a "behind-the-scenes" look. It humanizes the scientists who do such intriguing research.
We remember when apiculturist Marla Spivak, a 2010 MacArthur Foundation and Distinguished McKnight Professor and Extension entomologist with the University of Minnesota, shared some of her thoughts with LiveScience.
When asked "If you could only rescue one thing from your burning office or lab, what would it be?" Spivak answered "My students." Then, showing a trademark sense of humor, she added "If there were bees in the lab, I would grab them, too."
Kimsey, too, has a honed sense of humor. The Bohart Museum is the home of a global collection of seven million insect specimens and what she calls "the live petting zoo"--insects you can touch and handle. They include Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a rose-haired taranatula, and walking sticks.
We thought she might gleefully answer "walking sticks" when she was asked what she would RUN out of burning building with, but no.
Kimsey replied: "My external hard drive: My entire research life, my brain, is in that drive."
News media, the scientific world, and the general public can't believe it.
Yes, the male "warrior wasp" is 2-1/2 inches, not centimeters.
The new species of "warrior wasp" that Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus, discovered on the Indonesia island of Sulawesi, is the new conversation piece in the bug world. Kimsey has nicknamed it "warrior wasp" and "the komodo dragon of wasps." Others have called it "Godzilla."
But what's really interesting besides the length is this: The male wasp is equipped with jaws longer than his front legs.
"What are those large jaws used for?" another reporter asked.
Well, little is known about the biology of this wasp, but Kimsey figures it's probably similar to wasps in the same genus; that the large jaws probably play a role in defense and reproduction.
"In another species in the genus the males hang out in the nest entrance," said Kimsey, a professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology as well as director of the Bohart Museum, which houses a worldwide collection of more than seven million specimens.
The jaws, she said, serve "to protect the nest from parasites and nest robbing, and for this he exacts payment from the female by mating with her every time she returns to the nest," she said. "So it's a way of guaranteeing paternity. Additionally, the jaws are big enough to wrap around the female's thorax and hold her during mating."
Kimsey said she'll name the insect-eating predator--which belongs to the genus Dalara and family Crabronidae--"Garuda," a powerful mythical warrior that's part human and part eagle. Garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia.
Kimsey collaborates on a five-year $4 million grant awarded to UC Davis scientists in 2008 to study the biodiversity of fungi, bacteria, plants, insects and vertebrates on Sulawesi, all considered threatened by logging operations and mining developments. Much of the mountain was logged two decades ago and now there are plans for an open pit nickel mine, Kimsey said.
“There’s talk of forming a biosphere reserve to preserve this,” she said. “There are so many rare and endangered species on Sulawesi that the world may never see.”
Globally, how many more undescribed insects are out there? A recent article in National Geographic related that scientists have identified 1.5 million insect species, but the total number of undiscovered insect species probably ranges from "10 to 30 million."
Could be more...
The new species that Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi measures a whopping two and a half inches long.
That's the male "warrior wasp." The female is a little smaller. Just a little.
First thing folks say is "Wow!"
Next they ask: "Does it sting?"
Like all wasps, the female does; the male does not.
The male's jaws "are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed," Kimsey says. "When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs. I don’t know how it can walk."
Indeed--those jaws look like elephant tusks dragging on the ground.
Kimsey discovered the warrior wasp on the Mekongga Mountains in southeastern Sulawesi on a recent biodiversity expedition funded by a five-year grant from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program.
The insect-eating predator belongs to the genus Dalara and family Crabronidae.
Kimsey says she's going to name it Garuda, after the national symbol of Indonesia. Garuda is a mythical half-man, half-eagle warrior, magnificent in combat.
Kimsey is a collaborator of a five-year $4 million grant awarded to UC Davis scientists in 2008 to study the biodiversity of fungi, bacteria, plants, insects and vertebrates on Sulawesi, all considered threatened by logging operations and mining developments. Much of the mountain was logged two decades ago and now there are plans for an open pit nickel mine, Kimsey said.
“There’s talk of forming a biosphere reserve to preserve this,” she says. “There are so many rare and endangered species on Sulawesi that the world may never see."
This is one they can see.