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Janice Edgerly-Rooks Researching in Trinidad

Janice Edgerly-Rooks spent two weeks this summer exploring tropical habitats in Trinidad on a search for silk spinning insects in the order Embioptera. Rainfall was tropical and often torrential, temporarily halting all work. But despite heat, humidity, and periodic downpours, she located seven species to bring back to the laboratory. She and her students will harvest the fine silk fibers to share with her research colleagues in chemistry (Grace Stokes) and physics (Rich Barber), and at Arizona State University. One species, the main focus of the quest and named for Trinidad (Pararhagadochir trinitatis), produces beautiful blue-white silk with a sheen resembling plastic wrap. Dr. Edgerly-Rooks’ recent work on another Trinidadian species revealed silk that has unique water-proofing qualities; given the distinctive sheen, P. trinitatis may reveal alternative properties for allowing these small insects to survive in colonies on tree bark despite pounding tropical downpours (as shown in this photograph taken on the campus of the University of West Indies). A Summer Stipend from the research grants program at Santa Clara University supported the fieldwork.

Janice Edgerly-Rooks collecting insects on a palm tree on the campus of the University of West Indies and waiting for the rain to stop.