Systematics of Neotropical Butterflies at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History
Opportunities for butterfly research at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera, FLMNH
A number of undergraduate student volunteers help with my research at the McGuire Center. For longer-term volunteers there are many possible projects that can be pursued as independent research, for degree credit if appropriate. There are two principal projects in which students can make a valuable contribution: a long-term study of the diversity, distribution and conservation of the butterflies of Ecuador, and a project on the butterflies of the tropical Andean region, from Venezuela to Bolivia. Research areas include systematics and classification, biogeography, ecology and conservation. Collections play a key role in all of these areas, and the Florida Museum of Natural History contains one of the largest collections of Andean butterflies in the world. However, much work remains to be done to extract information from specimens and make them available.
Potential activities for assistants include helping with identification of specimens and curation of the collection, databasing information from specimen labels and literature using a Microsoft Access database, photographing examples of each species to provide images for a web archive, and preparing dried, papered specimens for incorporation into the collection. Since each of these activities involves a significant period of training, students should be committed to working for a minimum of 4 hours per week for at least one semester, though hours are flexible. Students can expect to learn a variety of techniques used in museum curation as well as gain a broader understanding of neotropical diversity. Students should be hard-working, careful, prepared to work alone after training, have experience in working with computers and have a keen interest in zoology. Some knowledge of biological classification and Spanish would also be helpful.
I welcome enquiries from potential students interested in research into butterfly systematics, evolution, ecology, biogeography or conservation. As can be seen from my publications, much of my work to date has focused on butterfly systematics. The neotropical butterfly fauna is the most poorly studied in the world and a reliable systematic framework is an essential foundation for all other research. We are now reaching a stage, however, where large distribution and hostplant databases can be applied to numerous fascinating questions in biogeography, ecology and conservation, and I expect to become more involved in these fields over the next few years.
The FLMNH is not a degree-conferring department of the university, so students should apply for admission to the Entomology and Nematology Department, at which I am a member of the graduate faculty and thus able to serve as a graduate committee supervisor.
Application and admission information:
The Entomology and Nematology Department has a few funding opportunities, see the Graduate Handbook.
There are a limited number of McGuire Center Research Assistantships available for students who already have ideas of the kinds of projects they might conduct, and/or who demonstrate a keen interest in butterfly research. Such students may contact me for details, enclosing a brief CV and short statement (200 words) of areas of research interest, if appropriate.
For students considering research with relevance to biodiversity conservation, the Tropical Conservation and Development Program at the Center for Latin American Studies offers "an interdisciplinary certificate and concentration program focused on integrative approaches to conservation and development in Latin America and other tropical regions". The program is open to students enrolled in Master's and PhD programs in TCD's affiliate departments, including the Entomology and Nematology Department. Students take a variety of courses from the TCD Certification and Concentration Curriculum, as well as courses required by the Entomology and Nematology Department. The TCD offers Fellowships and Assistantships to Latin American students in particular, and Moore Scholarships to residents of several Latin American countries, among other eligibility criteria.
International students should consider whether a Fulbright Scholarship may be available to them.
See here for more information about the McGuire Center Graduate Program, including faculty and staff research interests, funding opportunities, eligibility and deadlines.
Visiting undergraduate or graduate students are welcome to come and use the facilities and collections of the McGuire Center in their research. Please contact me well in advance if you plan to come for a long period of time and require laboratory and/or office space, and we will hopefully be able to accommodate you.