I love biological diversity - particularly arachnids. From the moment I learned about how little we know about the living organisms that share our world, and I realized I could contribute to understanding it, I’ve been hooked! Issues of biodiversity are infused into all courses I teach, the public outreach I do, and are the central focus of my research program at Lewis & Clark College.
Spiders are a great vehicle for studying biodiversity. They are among the most conspicuous and abundant terrestrial arthropods yet much about them remains to be discovered. They spend time eating insects, decorate our world with gorgeous webs, and males dance to court females (seriously!). As if that’s not enough, they make silk fibers with remarkable material properties, and venoms rich in peptides and proteins that are not found anywhere else. Very few spiders have venoms that can hurt people, and even fewer are aggressive to humans. The work my students and I do helps us better understand these animals and their venoms. We also help people understand the many unseen ways these animals contribute to our world.