Awesome Entomology – USA Edition!

Between January – April 2017 I was lucky to couch surf in San Francisco, so I decided to volunteer in the Entomology Collections at the California Academy of Sciences !

I worked with Brian Fisher and Jenna Florio in the Entomology department, and I was predominantly working on two citizen science projects in collaboration with the Tsutsui Lab at UC Berkeley.

These new citizen science projects were looking at insect communities in California; including “Pools Project” and “Antvasion!”. The “Pools Project” surveyed the insects in pools of participants, specimens were sent to the museum where I identified the insects/invertebrates to order and the ants to species using a key to the ants of California and antweb“Antvasion” was a citizen science project which looked at the ants which are specifically found in peoples homes, with emphasis on the distribution and biology of the Argentine ants. We prepared and delivered “natural deterrents” including cinnamon, cayenne pepper and black pepper to participants to see if it would deter the pests.

I also helped to set up a stall for the weekly museum event called “nightlife” where I did talks to the public about entomology collections, ecology, ants and pest management, encouraging them to take part in the few practical activities we have set up at the table, including correctly handling and observing behaviour of argentine ants.  As well as this, I did a presentation on “Women in Science” about becoming an entomologist.

Dreams do Come True: Tropical Ecology Research in Borneo!

When I was leaving Maliau Basin in 2015 after completing the data collection for my masters project, I did not think I would have the opportunity to return to Borneo any time soon… I was wrong!

Between September – December 2016 I went back to the beautiful pristine rainforests surrounding Maliau Basin in Borneo, this time, as an ecological field research assistant with the Natural History Museum, I worked with the Termite Ant Research Team which includes Paul EggletonLouise Ashton, in collaboration with the University of Liverpool’s Kate Parr, Hannah Griffiths and Alice Walker.

I spent half my time in the rainforest collecting data from fieldwork including:

  1. Termite transects
  2. Leaf litter transects/Winkler Bag sampling
  3. Ant bait card monitoring
  4. Predation study on fake grublets
  5. Wood occupancy surveys
  6. Hand collecting 2,000 individual ants for molecular gut content analysis
  7. Ant resource removal experiment

The other half of my time was spent in the Laboratory in the Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC) at the University of Malaysia, Sabah (UMS) in Kota Kinabalu working in the Natural Products Chemistry laboratory where I extracted chemicals from soil and seedling samples. I also helped the UMS Friends of Borneensis Outreach Initiative to design a field course for Malaysian School Students in 2017.

Our resource removal experiment revealed that Ants are the major agents of resource removal from tropical rainforests and was published recently in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

The Extreme World of Japanese Snow Macaques (Nihonzaru 日本猿)

I remember being amazed when I saw these Japanese Snow Macaques on the telly on a wildlife documentary. It was a great privilege to have had the opportunity to sit and watch these remarkable primates living their lives in the freeezing cold Japanese Alps. They’re incredibly unique primates and so adorable!

Interesting papers I found about Biology and Ecology of Japanese Macaques, Macaca fuscata:

Enari et al (2016) discuss the importance of Japanese macaque and other mammals’ dung burial in snow. When the snow melts the dung frozen dung is exposed and allows a time lagged mammal-beetle interaction. This is important for maintaining plant regeneration. The researchers found 12 dung beetle species which I thought was incredible considering the harsh conditions up in the mountains.

If you’re interested in behaviour a new paper by Kawakami et al (2017) investigated the spontaneous first smiles of new born Japanese Macaques. These involuntary lip-corner raises are considered to be the origin of smile and laughter, as we see in humans and chimps. There is also some older research by Hanya et al (2007) comparing the behaviour of two populations of Japanese macaques and evaluating how this influenced their thermoregulation throughout the year. Basically, they love to huddle and stay still! And… Sometimes… Even make snowballs (Eaton, 1972).

Japanese snow macaques have a huge part to play in the culture of Japan. Interestingly, they are seen as sacred and associated with the gods at the beginning of the 8th century. As time goes on however, and as humans develop and domesticate further, there is a shift towards monkeys being disliked as they became massive pests to agriculture. There are some great links on the wiki page with some beautiful monkey art!


Eaton, G. Primates (1972) Snowball construction by a feral troop of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) living under seminatural conditions : 411. doi:10.1007/BF01793660

Enari, H., Koike, S. & Sakamaki-Enari, H. J For Res (2016) 21: 92. doi:10.1007/s10310-015-0516-z

Kawakami, F., Tomonaga, M. & Suzuki, J.(2017) The first smile: spontaneous smiles in newborn Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) 58: 93. doi:10.1007/s10329-016-0558-7

Hanya, G., Kiyono, M. and Hayaishi, S. (2007), Behavioral thermoregulation of wild Japanese macaques: comparisons between two subpopulations. Am. J. Primatol., 69: 802–815. doi:10.1002/ajp.20397


Sex, Bugs & Rock N Roll!

On a bright and sunny June weekend in 2016, I was lucky to volunteer with the infamous outreach initiative, Sex & Bugs & Rock N’ Roll run by the British Ecological Society!

Fun activities included a colouring competition, ecological snakes and ladders, guess the poo (always very popular) and much more hosted by Wychwood Festival.



In Sulawesi, as an Entomologist!

During the field seasons of 2012 and 2013 I was the entomology team leader at Operation Wallacea, Indonesia. The country of Indonesia is a huge country made up of around 18,000 islands across 5,000km. With a population of around 260 million people, and an incredible diversity of approximately 730 different languages. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the island biogeography provides a hot-house for speciation in this tropical island region with an incredible examples of adaptation and endemism. The Wallacea region, named after the famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace

I worked in the main base for the university students doing the jungle training course, and the starting point for school students in south Buton is the village of Labundo. I conducted lepidoptera pollard surveys, banana baited bottle canopy arthropod surveys and Dung beetle surveys in both natural habitats and disturbed agricultural ecosystems. As well as this, I conducted rapid biodiversity assessment of termites using the standard transect method.