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"We send a lot of them back, identified, to put in their museums so that they know what their fauna is," Sites says. "It's unfortunate that a lot of scientists from the United States and Europe go to these countries and do their sampling and then keep all the specimens so the host country gets nothing back. We don't do that."

This commitment to giving back is something Dr. Richard Zack, an associate professor in the department of entomology at Washington State University and another of the few entomologists in the world who specialize in aquatic bugs, admires in Sites.

"To me the biggest benefit is he works with people in the country," Zack says. "There are a lot of us who go and collect insects and describe some new species from Mongolia or wherever. With Bob, it's not him and three or four of his Missouri colleagues who are going and coming back. He has grad students from Thailand, and when they get done with their education, they're not going to be working for the New York State Department or something. They're going to be working in Thailand. Any information his students generate, it becomes more than a publication in a journal. It is imparted to the people there so they have ownership. They know what's going on; they know how to do collections; they know how to evaluate habitat. That is a value that a lot of studies don't have."

One Thai scientist who has worked extensively with Sites is Dr. Surakrai Permkam from Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai. Permkam has worked with Sites for 14 years, and while he praises Sites' extensive knowledge of insects, he seems even more impressed with Sites' understanding of Thai culture.

"Every time I took him out of the campus for fieldwork, he always showed a sign of 'easy living' or 'being as Thai,' " Permkam says, adding Sites quickly learned enough Thai to communicate well with both academics and other locals.

For Sites, the interaction represents a great perk. "This is one of the most enriching aspects of my job," he says. "Scientists and students in other countries have been the ultimate hosts, always eager to collaborate and interact with me professionally and personally."

Sites now has more than two decades invested into his bug career. Yet he still brings to the work the same joy and fascination he once found chasing butterflies.

"I love the areas I get to work in, both geographically and physically," he says. "And I find these insects challenging. They're interesting. The more I learn, the more I want to know about them. The more questions I answer, even more questions are generated."

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