"It's beautiful," cries our Guyana RAP team leader Olivier Missa. I rush over to see the fabulous butterfly or six inch long ant and am nonplussed to see a small, shiny dung beetle instead. "Where is your sense of wonder?" he reproaches me.
Olivier discovered his own sense of wonder as a sixteen year old in Belgium. "Once I got into reading the text and really understanding it, I realized there was more to biology than just memorizing names. There was magic there!"
Living in the city, it was hard to find more than a few birds and plants, let alone mammals. But insects abounded, and a chance meeting with an entomologist sealed Olivier's fate. He chose to study weevils, "because they look so funny and friendly." He "wanted to study what is most remarkable on earth" and wound up in the tropical island of Papua New Guinea for years where he met his wife, Nancy, who was researching bats. Weevils, however, "started out a dream and almost became a nightmare." It turns out that they are just too diverse and he is now studying ants as a more viable alternative.
SPECIES: Meet some of the insects found on this expedition.
"What's it like being a team leader?" I ask him. "Bloody scary!" he replied, laughing. When you are studying ants, you can immerse yourself in a dozen one meter square plots but planning a RAP is definitely a larger task. Leading an all-taxa survey and a bunch of strong-minded people in a remote environment takes the ability to both control and compromise. But so far, so good – the RAP team is off to the Kanukus!
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