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Students visit the Smithsonian's entomology department

entomology trip

On February 1, 2013, the BJU entomology class was given a tour of the Smithsonian's entomology department housed at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The collections manager, Dr. Dave Furth, and one of the technical staff for collection management, Dr. Floyd Shockley, provided the class a behind-the-scenes tour.

One of the goals of the trip was for the students to be overwhelmed by the huge diversity of insects. With over 35 million specimens of over 300,000 different species of insects in hundreds of cabinets held at the museum, that goal was easily achieved. Why such a goal? When God created humans, He told them to wisely exercise stewardship over the creation, in what is often called the Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:26-30). With over 1 million insect species described and probably at least that many more yet to be described, insects make up an enormous part of what we as humans are to wisely steward. Once we get a glimpse of how many insects there are and how much of an impact they play in our daily lives, we can see why we must wisely exercise stewardship over insects.

entomology trip

Drs. Furth and Shockley showed us how the specimens are carefully labeled and preserved for easy retrieval and scientific study. One of our own students, Katie Zevallos, volunteers in the summer and over Christmas breaks at the entomology department in the Smithsonian, and she showed us several hundred insects she had curated. Our hosts also showed us their extensive library that housed books and manuscripts about insects and other arthropods.

Another benefit from the trip was the opportunity to spend time in the public part of the museum. While biological evolution dominates the National Museum of Natural History, the students were able to critically evaluate the claims of the museum and assess those claims in light of a biblical worldview. Each of the students that went is majoring in biology or biology education.

Following are testimonials from 5 of the 6 students who went on the trip.

Sarah Zuehlke

entomology trip

I greatly enjoyed the entomology field trip to the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the entomology unit in the Natural History Museum. It was a great experience to actually see what an entomologist does and to see where they work. There were so many interesting insects. I was amazed. And the way they preserve the insects and hold them in huge cabinets was fascinating. The two men that gave us the tour were very friendly and answered our questions eagerly. It was very beneficial to listen to our tour guides explain to us what they know about insects. It made me appreciate what entomologists do even more. The fellowship was also great. Our hosts were very gracious in having us for meals. I greatly enjoyed spending time with my classmates and Dr. Boyd and Dr. Ranieri. We even got to see some snow on this trip.

Alexandra Jerby

I thoroughly enjoyed the entomology class trip to the Smithsonian. The behind-the-scenes tour in the entomology department of the Smithsonian was eye-opening. I was astounded by the number of insects in their collection and overwhelmed by the diversity even in a single species. The tour helped me to understand the importance of entomologists and their work to agriculture, medicine, and even every day life. I enjoyed listening to our two guides and discussing various points in insect biology. I think I benefited from spending time with other scientists and listening to their wisdom. It was also a blast to spend time with my classmates, Dr. Ranieri and Dr. Boyd. This trip was very beneficial, and I look forward to further learning experiences here at BJU.

Nicole Ince

The entomology class trip to the Smithsonian was thoroughly enjoyable. The behind-the-scenes tour of the entomology department was really amazing. I could not believe how many insects they had preserved there. The tour was very helpful for me in regard to how we are supposed to be doing our insect collection for our class. It was great fun spending time with Dr. Ranieri, Dr. Boyd, and the rest of my classmates.

Michael Gorham

The tour of the entomology department revealed the vastness of opportunities in the field. Dr. Shockley and Dr. Furth showed us how a variety of entomologists with specialties such as taxonomy, ecology and biochemistry collaborate to make advancements in agriculture, forestry and conservation. I must have said "wow!" one hundred times when we toured through the 35 million specimens. It was exciting to talk about future job opportunities and how we could better fulfill our command to exercise stewardship of God's earth.

Katie Zevallos

I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian for a behind-the-scenes tour of the entomology department. Dr. David Furth and Dr. Floyd Shockley took us through the collections. As we toured the many floors dedicated to the collection of over 35 million specimens, Dr. Furth and Dr. Shockley emphasized how insects affect every part of our lives. I was impressed with the overwhelming diversity of insects representing many different countries of the world and many different periods in time. What was most interesting to me was how some insects are known for being picky eaters, and how this can be exploited to naturally control agricultural weeds and pests with great specificity. It was a reminder to me of the great responsibility scientists have of learning about the world that God has created so that we may be better stewards of it.

Published February 13, 2013