Earthwatch Scientist, Samuel Wells

Samuel Wells

Lecturer of Biology, Southern Utah University
Why are you interested in your research focus?

Answer: Many years ago, I made the decision to make a career out of studying the natural world. I started looking for wild birds and mammals and was thrilled by the things I was able to discover. Every effort I made, however, included many encounters with insects and I soon became captivated by their diversity as well. I have a passion for learning new things and making new discoveries in nature. And my study of insects has been the perfect way to further this passion. The closer you look the more surprising things you find. Over many decades I have never had a single season without discovering several fascinating new things. I don’t think I ever will.

A great moment in the field

Answer: Almost two decades ago I somehow managed to receive a decent tax return and travelled with my son Erik and my buddy Steve to Honduras looking for the largest beetle species (by weight) in the world: Megasoma elaphas. One evening we finally came across a stretch of an old rainforest that came near the road just south of La Ceiba (on the north coast). We set up our light traps and waited for quite some time and then it happened. There was a low droning sound of a large insect in flight coming our way. As it got closer, our heartrates increased substantially. Then when it seemed very close at hand the sound stopped and we heard a rustling in the leaves near the light. Then all was silent. Whatever had flown in was now completely hidden. We looked everywhere imaginable without success. Then after several minutes, I saw something moving between Erik’s feet. And there it was. A large male with large pronotal horns and moving its antennae back and forth. It was a beautiful animal, brownish gray with short reddish orange hair over its body. Certainly a terrific moment – never to be forgotten.

  • B.S. Brigham Young University, Zoology
  • M.S. Brigham Young University, Zoology
  • Ph.D. Colorado State University, Entomology
  • Postdoctoral Training: CDC in collaboration with Colorado State University, Vector Biology
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