2,171 pieces of chitin…

Specimen boxes ready to ship out.

There are many reasons to look forward to the Holiday Season—time with family and friends, a break from the normal routine, the chance to engage in favorite activities leisure and otherwise, or maybe just kick back and not do much of anything. Okay, that last one is so not me—I really have a hard time sitting around and doing nothing no matter how tired I am. It makes me antsy. What did I do on my Holiday Break (a nice generous chunk of time starting the day before Christmas Eve and ending the day after New Years)? I spent lots of time with my family immediate and extended. I had quality time with a few close friends (including a 10-mile hike on the Ozark Trail with my friend Rich). I rode my bike. Lots! (315 miles precisely.) And (here comes the best part), I identified beetles. Lots! When I wasn’t riding or hiking or making merry, I was in my man cave with football on Tivo, beetles under the scope, and primary taxonomic literature sprawled all over the place. Maybe not the average Joe’s idea of a relaxing break, but it works for me.

Truth be told, I actually depend on the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day to kick-start my winter curatorial season. As an entomologist with taxonomic leanings living in a temperate region, there is a seasonality to my activities. Summer is field season, and no matter what good intentions I may have for accomplishing other things, the constant siren call of the field makes this all but impossible. Reprints pile up. Boxes of specimens received for identification or exchange accumulate in the various nooks and crannies of the room. All the while I’m out collecting even more beetles! By the time fall arrives I’m well inundated and looking forward to the onset of winter so I can actually accomplish something other than growing the backlog.

It’s a new year, and with my plate now cleared of beetles needing identification, the specimens—all 2,171  of them—can be returned to their rightful owners. I’ve said it to each of them individually, but it bears repeating here that I truly appreciate the opportunity they give me to look at their material. Their specimens fuel my research with new data, allow me to gradually increase species representation in my collection, and occasionally even bring to light undescribed species. Without this network of collaborators, from full professors to citizen scientists, the Holidays for me would be just a bit too boring.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

12 thoughts on “2,171 pieces of chitin…

  1. Now, Ted, I really DID enjoy your post, and I’ve got nineteen vials of beetles on MY table, awaiting just a bit nastier weather before I start IDing them (should take me ALL winter). I, however, misread the title of your post, and was a bit disappointed.

    As an old Louisiana boy, I thought you said “2,171 pieces of CHITLINS”. Oh, never mind.


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