June 12, 2011

Learning to See

A few days ago I hiked through the forest for the first time covered in DEET. I swatted at every insect that came near me. Finally I conceded that I did come to the rainforest with an entomologist. I was going to have to touch some bugs. About halfway through I got my vial out and started catching beetles. Every time I caught a beetle I'd ask Dr. Chaboo, "What kind is this?" it turns out that, each time, I had caught a chrysomelid, her specialty. I wondered how she could tell what kind were chrysomelids. They all looked different to me. After lunch we had our first art lesson. We all picked something to draw. I chose one of my beetles. We spent about 30 minutes to an hour on our drawings. My eyes followed the little beetle around the vial, wishing it would hold still, and I examined each part closely before trying to replicate it on paper. After I finished my drawing, Dr. Chaboo brought in a vial of specimens she had caught by sweeping the grass with a net. There were all kinds of insects in the vial. As I examined them, I started to recognize several even though they looked different from each other. I asked if some were chrysomelid beetles. She said some were. I realized I could recognize the chrysomelids from drawing the ones I had caught. I told Dr. Chaboo. "Good! The class worked then," she said.


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Learning to see

Drawing to see is a dependable way to give your subject attention. Thank you for reminding us all of this fact.

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The Biodiversity Institute is home to about 60 graduate students and 30 research scientists and curators. They participate in field expeditions to all seven continents and represent areas such as entomology, ornithology, paleontology, parasitology and herpetology. As the authors of this blog, they share their experiences and adventures in collections-based biological research all over the world.

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