We spoke to Rowan earlier in our conversations (with her sister Molly) on the aspirations of Gen Z – a generation still in the formative years fueled by their passion, interests and ideas!
Rowan had a childhood passion for collecting bugs and storing them in her parents freezer at home – yes, beside the bread, ice cream and their food caches! Practically speaking, the visuals of frozen bugs beside frozen bread did not mix well. This resulted in Rowan getting her own freezer from her parents as a present for her birthday! Bugs after that were properly referred to as insects! Soon after at the age of 14, Rowan decided that she wanted to understand the how diversity and evolution plays a role in the world ecosystems – as she had the passion and ideal subject matter in insects (entomology).
In Episode 1, Rowan shares insights on how her passion led her to the field of entomology. Her decision to take research classes during her undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta helped to shape her interest in evolutionary biology and ecology. In her first year of her PhD studies at the University of Toronto, she had two supervisors – one in insect evolution and the other in macro evolution (evolution above the species level).
Now entering her second year of her PhD, one of her studies is on the role of beetles and their crucial role to reduce the amount of debris on our planet. In the public realm, people may relate to applications of diversity and entomology to the study of bees and the critical role that they play in food, and agriculture.
When COVID 19 hit, her lab classes at University of Toronto were cancelled – and so she decided to carry on her research back home in Alberta. So how is she doing it? Well, for the summer she has now set up “nature ecology labs” (in reality beetle collection traps) all over Alberta (including one on her parent’s acreage).
Weekly travel to collect the beetles she is studying has now turned into a family affair getaway into nature – with stops as far south as Medicine Hat, and intertwined with visits to relatives and grandparents in the province. And of course she stays connected with her colleagues remotely – which as a GenZer, and a digital native, is an easy gig to log findings and write papers remotely as a way to continue her lab work!
Sure, Rowan may miss the in person camaraderie of her students and professors, but with COVID 19 still hovering, both she, her family (and even the beetles she collects) are safe!
Rowan is studying for a career that will evolve earth’s ecosystem. From what we have learned from Rowan, the future looks bright for future entomologists whose role will be to help shape evolutionary biology on earth.
Take heed Robots and AI – you’re are not at any point close to trumping Nature!
Stay tuned for Episode 2 on why entomology will open new career horizons – the state of our planet’s health and evolutionary biology and ecosystems! Maybe future careers in entomology will be needed to evolve living in space or even colonies on Mars. Think BIG GenZ…Think BIG! It will happen!
About Rowan French
Rowan is a PhD student studying insect evolution in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. She is particularly interested in understanding the diversity of beetles, one of the most speciose groups in the natural world. Prior to beginning her PhD, Rowan studied insect and arachnid evolution and genomics at the University of Alberta and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Her current and previous work on insect diversity and adaptation has implications for pressing societal issues, such as conservation, pest management, and global food security.