Ways of Looking

Robert V. Duncan

Dr. Robert Duncan,
Vice Chancellor for Research

According to estimates compiled by entomologists working with the Smithsonian Institution, at any given time there are literally trillions of individual insects creeping, crawling, flying or hopping their way about the world.

For much of human history, all but a select few of these amazingly diverse creatures have been regarded as vermin — deemed dangerous, annoying and, following the advent of powerful chemical pesticides, candidates for systematic extermination. Only in recent decades has a new paradigm taken hold, one that acknowledges that, while some insects do indeed cause humans harm, the vast majority serve beneficial roles in maintaining our global ecosystem.

Entomologists such as Professor Bob Sites and Museum Manager Kristin Simpson of MU's Enns Entomology Museum have long championed an appreciation for arthropods, helping both University students and the public learn to value bugs' crucial role in pollination, decomposition, and biological control of other insects. Along the way they've also helped visitors experience the unexpected beauty of these underappreciated animals.

Moving beyond the "received wisdom" is, of course, at the heart of scientific and scholarly enquiry, and in this issue of Illumination you will encounter many other MU faculty members and students who are doing just that. Among them is Lori Eggert, an assistant professor of biology, whose innovative use of genotyping is helping wildlife managers recalibrate previous assumptions about animal populations. You'll also learn more about Patrick Market, an associate professor of atmospheric science, who is helping historians and students understand the once-mysterious natural forces behind catastrophic weather events. And you'll meet Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor whose recent work has raised more questions about the safety of the plastic additive bisphenol-A, a substance that powerful business interests have for years steadfastly defended.

These researchers, along with the many other faculty scientists and scholars featured in this edition of Illumination, take pride in moving beyond convention and embracing a more complex view of the world we live in. It's a way of looking that can take wing, like the butterflies on our cover, toward some beautiful insights.

Robert V. Duncan

Vice Chancellor for Research

Back to Top

Post a Comment

Reader comments are reviewed by Illumination staff before they are posted, so please keep your message civil and appropriate. All fields are required.

– Will not be published

Back to Top

University of Missouri

Published by the Office of Research

© 2017 The Curators of the University of Missouri