As a science teacher and children's book author, I continue to be fascinated by all the ways that nature can surprise. The 2009 discovery of Bagheera kiplingi--the world's first predominantly vegetarian spider--was no exception, and I have been searching for this amazing little creature since 2012. This journey has led me to Mexico, Costa Rica, and finally to Panama, where I served in the Peace Corps from 1999-2001. While continuing my research, I hope to find new surprises along the way!
On a personal note, sustainability has always been a major concern of mine, whether while I'm teaching soil conservation and iguana ranching practices in rural Panama or sharing the promise of entomophagy (insect eating) to students as an alternative protein source for our growing human population. Vegetarian spiders can provide excellent role models for our own species, forgoing excessive meat consumption and relying more on plant material to meet their food needs, while simultaneously becoming less aggressive and more tolerant towards one another as they settle into their new lifestyle. Always seeking to build technology skills, I also plan to use my experiences with arthropods to develop new insights into the algorithms that may drive spider behavior, as well as how nature's most successful animal phylum (Arthropoda) could be replicated in future generations of micromachines.