A month ago I paid a visit to Dr. Ross. I had done some illustrations for him over the past year for publications in Annual Review of Entomology and Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences (see No. 29) and was warmly welcomed by him and his wife Sandy. During this afternoon visit, we sat down with tea and bread in the Japanese style living room which he built. As always, he was very eager to share stories from the safari and spent much time showing me his illustration and photography works. To my surprise, he is building yet another annex to the main house to store the massive amount of work. I had brought a list of questions for the interview, but in the end I just decided to take lots of pictures and let the pictures speak for themselves.
Dr. Ross sitting in the Japanese style house. He is very fond of Asian cultures and knows a lot more than I do about my own culture.
After our afternoon snack, we went to his home office to see how he keeps the massive amount of information in order. File folders are the key. I’m not sure how I would’ve kept information about 350,000 species of insects. By coincidence, he pulled out an illustration I had done a year ago.
Next we took a walk outside. This is truly the work of someone who loves the outdoors. Everything you see here was his idea–either he built it himself when he was younger, or he built it more recently with the help of others. Either way this is pretty amazing. The cabin (left or top) was where I stayed for a year when helped illustrate new species. It was pretty relaxing to stay in such a beautiful place with a flexible work schedule. Of course, you have to be disciplined, but there was no strict 9am-5pm schedule and you can take a walk whenever you want. It’s very different from the overworked grad student life I’m living right now.
This is the lab that houses the entire collection of embiids. There is an estimated 350,000 specimens in there. The lab is much smaller than you would expect, but insects are tiny, aren’t they?
Here is the office where I did all my illustrations. It is not the inside of the lab, but rather a garage converted into a work space.
Dr. Ross showing his pen and ink illustrations of insect anatomy (shaded drawings beneath are the works of a different illustrator). The labels were all cut and pasted onto the illustrations by hand. Now illustrators are scanning these files to create a digital archive. As part of this process the hand-glued labels are removed in the computer and new labels inserted digitally. This is done not only for consistency with the new illustrations, which are entirely labeled in the computer, but to allow room for change if any of the old illustrations are to be republished. Not only the font can change from publication to publication, but sometimes classification methods change as well.
Picture of Dr. Ross and me as I’m about to head home.