Gustav Paulay, invertebrate zoology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, describes his fascination with biodiversity. He explains the importance of learning about new groups of organisms while they still exist.

Interview and videos produced by Ricky Telg for Explore Research at the University of Florida.


Gustav Paulay: I study biodiversity and I am fascinated by it. It’s sort of – very often people say, well why do you want to look at all that stuff? There’s a passion and then there’s an intellectual reason. The passion part is, I just love it. To me diversity in anything is exciting. I mean I can sit there and look at lichens all day or look at insects or look at protists under microscopes and just understanding what they do because it’s fascinating. Ever since I’ve been a kid it’s been like that, so it’s – and with most of us who are this passionate about it this starts earlier. Once I realized that I could make a living on it then it got honed into a direction as to you know what I would do with my life.

The real focus that I see right now is to document biodiversity on the planet while we can. That’s sort of the one sentence description of what I’m about and very often people say, ‘Well why do you want to look at the group of organisms? What new thing are you going to learn from that?’ Well the new thing is learning about that group of organisms, that’s new. The problem – I mean you could put that off and say okay let’s not do that because it’s not so important, but it’s – you only have that much time left to do that because those group of organisms are dying out and the biodiversity crisis means, among other things, the incredible loss of biodiversity on the planet. So the last time that you can do what we do as ‘biodiversity people’, as taxonomists, is today, because tomorrow they are not going to be there.

Learn more about Invertebrate zoology at the Florida Museum.

Learn more about the Marine Biodiversity Survey of Guam and the Marianas.

Explore Research at the University of Florida

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