Fall 2009

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W R C People

John E. Rawlins, Ph. D.
Wild Resource Conservation Program
Advisory Committe

Jessica Sprajcar visiting wind farm site
Dr. John Rawlins, above, says: "This is where I spend most of my time. Being in a natural history collection can be somewhat ‘outdoors indoors,’ if you understand what I mean." Photo by James Hill III

Raised on a sheep ranch in eastern Oregon, I studied vertebrate zoology, cell biology and statistics as an undergraduate at Oregon State University, and then insect systematics at Cornell University, as the last doctoral student of the late Professor John G. Franclemont.

After receiving a doctorate at Cornell, I was an Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of Texas - Austin for several years, before moving to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh as the curator in charge of the Section of Invertebrate Zoology (

My research interests emphasize the morphology and phylogeny of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), with special emphasis on the immature stages of moths. I have a strong interest in biotic inventory and the use of insects (especially moths) as indicator systems for habitat conservation and resource management.

I am interested in topics integrating technology with insects and their kin (e.g., using zoological structures and functions as biomodels in robotics). Some of my recent projects include a National Science Foundation-sponsored biotic inventory of invertebrates and plants on Hispaniola; assisting a National Science Foundation-sponsored inventory of butterflies in Ghana; Army Research Office work on snake robots; studies on phylogeny of world cutworm moths and their relatives; a federally funded State Wildlife Project for Invertebrate Species of Special Concern in Pennsylvania; and collaborative work on Neotropical ghost moths.

At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I administer the Section of Invertebrate Zoology and curate its rapidly growing Lepidoptera collection, with global strength in every lineage of moths and butterflies, especially Afrotropical, Caribbean and Neotropical. I conceived and founded the museum’s Biodiversity Services Facility. This facility provides services to research programs addressing issues related to biodiversity, as well as providing large-volume identification work for federal and state agencies concerned with discovering and managing invasive species.

I’ve been an active volunteer advisor to biodiversity-related efforts in Pennsylvania for many years: Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Program Advisory Committee (2004 to present); Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program Advisory Committee (2002-2005); Pennsylvania Biological Survey in diverse roles (1988 to present); and Three Rivers Ecological Research Center Advisory Committee, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (2009).

I live in Greene County in a log cabin I named "Moth Ridge," but I spend most of my time in Pittsburgh, working in the vast insect collection of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I enjoy outdoor activities if "bugs" are involved, as well as photography, reading and exploring. I’m a news junkie who actively follows political and social issues in the media.

Having the good fortune to be born and raised near wilderness areas in the mountains of eastern Oregon, I have a strong appreciation for and understanding of natural ecosystems worldwide. As an enthusiastic nature lover and a professional insect specialist, I’m acutely aware of the details of biodiversity, its importance, and the critical necessity for protecting natural systems for our future. I’ve interacted with the WRCP staff over many years, and my colleagues and I at Carnegie Museum have received funding from WRCP for research on several projects.

It was entirely natural for the WRCP staff to invite me to join the WRCP Advisory Committee in fall 2004, and I’m now near the end of my second term with that advisory group. For the entire life of the program, the WRCP has been a remarkable asset for Pennsylvania; it has accomplished a great deal for the sake of our native fauna and flora, and we must all work hard to be sure it keeps on doing just that.



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