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It stings when you stick your hand in a nest of fire ants.
This nugget of wisdom—and other lessons for aspiring naturalists—were on display at last night’s showing of a documentary about two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson.
Wilson, who has been at Harvard for 56 years, is most famous for his work as an entomologist and his advocacy for the environment.
The film featured reenactments of Wilson’s boyhood, including the incident with a pinfish that left him permanently blind in one eye.
The accident left him unable to study larger creatures like birds, and pushed him to study insects.
“I can’t understand why most people don’t study ants,” said Wilson, whose book “The Ants” won him his second Pulitzer in 1991.
At a discussion following the film, entitled “The Naturalist,” panelists spoke about their experiences in their respective fields.
The event was organized by the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) to raise awareness about the fields available in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB).
“There’s so much out there that we really don’t know about until we immerse ourselves in the situation,” said Anna Marie Chen ’09, referring to scientific field trips for college courses.
Chen, the president of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Undergraduate Group (OEBug) and one of the panelists, discovered her passion for OEB on a freshman year field trip in Puerto Rico where she studied lizards.
Approximately 350 students, professors, and Wilson fanatics attended the event, according to HMNH Director of Communications and Marketing Blue Magruder.
The film was briefly interrupted by a “technical difficulty.”
“I just want to remind you you’re at one of the leading universities in the world,” Executive Director of the HMNH Elisabeth Werby said in reference to the glitch.
With the onset of new technologies, Mollecular and Cellular Biology has moved to the forefront of science, leaving current scientists with the problem of how to inspire the next generation of naturalists.
“MCB and other departments are relatively new and exciting, but OEB has always been there. We need to go back in time for future generations so kids will have them [the OEB department] to study and explore,” said Katherine A. O’Leary ’11, who attended the event.
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