Posted by Janet on April 27, 2008
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.
Posted in interviews, pen and ink/line | Tagged: Edward S. Ross, embia, embiid, Embiidina, pen and ink/line | 1 Comment »
Posted by Janet on April 22, 2008
Edward S. Ross, curator emeritus of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, is the leading entomologist studying insects of the order Embiidina, web-spinning insects related to stoneflies, termites, and earwigs. Now ninety-three years old, Edward Ross continues to publish his lifelong study in comparative anatomy of embiids.
As a young boy, Edward Ross collected numerous insects–over 50,000 by the time he graduated high school. However, due to the influence of his father, an artist specializing in pen and ink illustration, Ross initially planned to become an illustrator. When he realized that illustrators spend most of their times indoors, he took a quick turn to entomology and eventually earned a Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley for the study of Embiidina in 1941.
During World War II, while serving as a 1st Lt-Major, Ross worked on mosquito identification and malaria surveys in New Guinea and Philippines. It was during this time that he met and took interest in tribal cultures. This interest continues and over the next few decades he would photograph people of all ethnicities on his travels.
After the war, Ross returned to the California Academy of Sciences where he previous worked for a brief period. For his studies, he traveled to Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia while publishing numerous works. Upon his return from the Andes in the early 1950s, he took up insect photography and wrote the book “Insects Close Up” based on his photographs. The majority of the 50s and 60s were spent outdoors. From 1970 to 1975, Ross taught insect biology at U.C. Berkeley.
Ross now has approximately 350,000 embiids in his collection and works in the home that he began to build following World War II. He continues to build additions to the house (with some help from others) to house his works. Until the past few years, the majority of embiid drawings were made by Ross himself. With the help of many illustrators in recent years, new illustrations of unpublished species are being made and his illustrations are being archived into digital format.
Ross is in the process of writing a book on insect-flower relationship. He also plans to write a book on people of the world. He still publishes journal papers and holds exhibits for his photography works.
The next post will cover my recent visit with Edward Ross, including images of his illustrations and a recent publication. Here is a list of links on Dr. Ross:
Interview by Bay Nature, 2005:
Entomologist David Rentz’s blog entry:
Some insect photography work:
An Article by Ross in California Wild:
Posted in interviews, photography/imaging, zoological | Tagged: California Academy of Sciences, Edward S. Ross, embia, embiid, Embiidina | 4 Comments »