Dr. Jessica L. Ware and Bugs (A Day in the Life)

Jessica Ware

Dr. Jessica L. Ware is an insect expert who works at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. She is the current president of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association and serves as Vice President of the Entomological Society of America. Dr. Ware has been awarded a presidential award from the U.S. government for her work on insect evolution. Here she discusses with Shelf Awareness her academic passions and her upcoming book, Bugs (A Day in the Life).

You are the Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. What does this job include? What does a day in your life look like?

My job is really fun! I am responsible for the collections of insects that have incomplete metamorphosis, including dragonflies, termites and cockroaches. Each day is different, but I mainly work on research projects, mentor students, collaborate with folks on exhibitions and care for the entomological collections at the AMNH--we have more than 23 million insect specimens! Sometimes I am in the lab extracting insect DNA, other days I am at the microscope looking at insects up close and, if I'm lucky, I get to head to the field to collect samples for our collections. 

What was it like turning your passion into a career? How did you make the decision to make bugs your livelihood?

I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child, so I've been fascinated by insects for a long time. However, I didn't know any insect experts until I went to university, so I didn't realize entomology was a potential career option for me until then. I had intended to study marine biology, but after working with insects I realized there is so much yet to be discovered! We've found over a million different species of insect, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I wasn't sure whether I would end up working at a university or a museum--I have been fortunate to have been able to do both!

Why did you decide you wanted to write a book? Why, specifically, a children's book?

I think most children are inherently fascinated with insects and the natural world. We need to harness this appreciation for insects early on and a children's book is a great way to do that. I spent hours upon hours reading with my kids when they were little, and it was hard to find books about insects that met them at their level and kept them interested. I hope this book is an exciting read that will advocate for the insects and inspire the next generation of entomologists.

The concept of Bugs (A Day in the Life) is fun: following the "journeys of insects throughout a full day and observe what they're up to." What was it like to frame a nonfiction book this way?

More often than not, we think of insects only in the few seconds that we see them, and we don't spend time wondering what else they are up to over the rest of the hours of their days. Insects lead lives full of danger: hunting, searching and hiding. They are up to many more things than most would imagine in a 24-hour period.

How did you feel after seeing the illustrations for the first time?

I absolutely love the illustrations in the book. Chaaya Prabhat has done a wonderful job--it was a joy to work with her. When I first saw her artwork, it made me want to read the book again from start to finish!

Do you have a favorite bug in the book? What makes it your favorite?

By far my favorites are always dragonflies. They are an ancient group (250 million years old!) and among the first insects to fly. They are voracious predators and eat the things we dislike, like mosquitoes.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf readers?

Insects need you! We need insect ambassadors to help protect the future of this diverse group of animals. Hopefully this book can kickstart a new appreciation for these amazing critters.

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