Great Bear Rainforest
Dr. Joel Gibson
Why did you want to become a curator?
I love learning about the natural world. I like details and organization and pursuing questions about the animals around me in nature. I always knew that I would work in biology, but did not think it would be in entomology. The first time I looked at insects under a microscope, I was hooked. The beauty and variety of insects makes me want to learn about how and where they live in BC.
How did you become a Entomology curator?
I took as many science courses as I could in high school. I went to university to study wildlife biology. I worked in labs and the insect collection while I was there and decided to pursue a masters’ degree in entomology. I took a break to get a teaching degree and teach high school for a few years. After that I went back to school and earned a PhD in entomology.
What do you do as curator of Entomology?
My job involves meeting with the public and working on the collection. On any given day I might answer an email asking about some unusual insect someone found or I might have an interview with the newspaper or television station about insect stories. I also regularly give behind the scenes tours of the collection to students and adults. When I am not talking about insects with the public, I am identifying, organizing, and data-basing insects in our collection. I organize the data in our collection into scientific papers that answer questions like “how many species of house flies are in BC?” or “are some species of beetles moving farther north as the climate changes?” I also plan a few field trips every year to collect insects in parts of the province that we do not have many insect records from.
Why did you want to become an entomologist (someone who studies insects)?
I was keen on insects from as early as I can remember, so becoming an entomologist was a natural fit. I always had jars with live insects in them and I am told I even insisted they be in my crib with me! Of course when I was little no one told me I could do what I loved and get paid for it, but that is exactly what has happened. My interests extend to everything biological, but my passion is for terrestrial arthropods—insects, spiders, and their relatives.
How did you become an entomology collections manager?
For schooling I have a undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in biology. In between I also did a high school teaching degree with an emphasis on math, general science, and biology. What I found out during my teaching experience was that not everyone loved nature and science as much as I do, so I came back to my true love: entomology.
I am still learning new things every day that relate to my career and interest in nature and am always on the lookout for courses where I can learn even more about the species that make up the huge field of entomology. On that note I have taken a course called The Bee Course, another course on bark beetles, and I am keeping my eye on the schedules of The Ant Course, The Hym Course, and others.
What does an entomology collections manager do?
My overall role is to make sure the entomology collection is available for research. There is still so much left to learn in entomology that the collection is in high demand for study. A typical day for me could include putting together a loan of specimens for shipment to researchers anywhere in the world, or a visiting researcher could come here and work directly in the collection. I spend most hours each week making sure the specimens are well curated: prepared properly (labelled, pinned, stored in preservative, etc.), that all the information about the specimen is captured digitally so we can search what is in the collection, putting things into the collection where they go, and making sure they are easily found when they need to be. I can only do all of this with the help of a big group of volunteers.
I also answer questions about all aspects of entomology every day and these questions come at me via email, phone calls, and some people even come right to the museum with critters in containers.
Something I don’t do every day but what I consider a critical part of the job is to add to the collection through fieldwork. It is amazing to spend even a short amount of time every year in natural areas all over the province.