If you saw the iconic film Alien, you may remember the alien parasite bursting out of the human host’s chest. That type of thing actually happens in nature with parasitoid wasps and their insect hosts. While they’re vital to our environment, the insect world is often a nearly incomprehensible realm of peculiar and even grotesque behaviors. We live with insects constantly all around us but are often oblivious to their ferocious ways. Hear from entomologist Matthew Buffington about the amazing behind-the-scenes habits of the smaller planetary species and gain a whole new appreciation for bugs.
Born and raised in Northern California, Matthew Buffington‘s interest in insects came late in life. While attending University of California, Riverside as an undergraduate, he took a job on campus with one of the largest departments there: Entomology. From then on, a life-long pursuit of new species, bizarre biology, amazing collecting trips and interacting with other entomologists has kept Matt very busy. He is a research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory, an affiliated agency of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. When not collecting and curating insect specimens, he enjoys collecting trips with his entomologist wife, collecting records and hi-fi gear, learning auto mechanics, and native gardening.
Carla Easter is the assistant director for Education, Outreach, and Visitor Experience at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Formerly, she served as chief of the Education and Community Involvement Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Before joining NHGRI, Carla directed the outreach office for Washington University School of Medicine’s Genome Sequencing Center and was a research associate in the Department of Education at Washington University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of California, Los Angeles and her doctoral degree in biology with an emphasis on molecular genetics from the University of California, San Diego.