A lepidopterist studies moths and butterflies. They are biologists or zoologists who specialize in the behavior or evolutionary history of various moth and butterfly species. Another name for someone who studies insects is an entomologist. They are often employed by universities and spend most of their time in a laboratory or in the field. As with most research-based professions, the role involves submitting results to relevant journals for publication.
Lepidoptera is the name of the order to which butterflies and moths belong in terms of scientific classification. On a broader scale, Lepidoptera falls under the insect class, a group of organisms that is more diverse than any other class and more abundant. Insects include more than half of all living organism on the planet. Insects have considerable value in experimental biology.
Insect scientists are called entomologists. Not every entomologist will become a lepidopterist, but all lepidopterists are entomologists. Research is a big part of what a lepidopterist does. Conservation biologists, evolutionary biologists and many others study insects to learn about evolution and behavior. Thus, a lepidopterist also can be a conservation biologist or evolutionary biologist.
These scientists apply fundamental biological and zoological principals on a daily basis in their experiments. Statistics, mathematical modeling, and biology are just a few tools that a lepidopterist may use to conduct research. Lepidopterists study butterflies and moths because they are a keystone species with an important role in many conservation and environmental issues.
Insects are heavily studied in terms of environmental issues, primarily because they have short life spans and tons of offspring. The reproductive cycle and life expectancy of most insects is short; therefore, a lepidopterist can study multiple generations of butterflies in a short period of time. Insects that lepidopterists study provide an excellent model for testing theories involving genetics and climate change.
When a lepidopterist has completed a research project, there are several journals that may be interested in publishing the results. When the research gets published, it becomes part of the cumulative knowledge and data obtained from lepidopterists internationally. Most lepidopterists are members of The Lepidopterists’ Society or the Lepidoptera Research Foundation, which were founded in 1947 and 1962, respectively.
The Lepidopterists’ Society was established with the intention to distribute a periodic publication of research from all branches of study and to facilitate an exchange of specimens and data between lepidopterists. The Lepidoptera Research Foundation (LRF) was created to encourage ongoing research efforts in academia, along with the periodic publication of the Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera (JRL). Both of these organizations support ongoing research efforts of lepidopterists.