JANUARY
2006

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

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Check out these books by Tom Turpin:

Flies in the face of fashion

What's Buggin You Now?

 

 

 

1-12-06

Download the audio of On Six Legs: MP3, WMV.

Who Wants To Be an Entomologist?


"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" premiered in 1999 on the ABC television network with Regis Philbin as host. Contestants had to answer a series of multiple-choice questions, with the possibility of enlisting help, called "lifelines," to determine the correct response. With correct answers, contestants could win a million dollars.

Giving away money has always been a sure-fire way to attract viewers to television. And, apparently, listeners to radio. Groucho Marx became the host of "You Bet Your Life," which began on radio in 1947. The gist of the show was that couples were given $20 to use for bets on whether or not they could answer a question correctly. Saying the secret word was worth an additional $100. The couple with the most money moved to the final round at the end of the show.

In 1955, CBS began "The $64,000 Question" and a spin-off, "The $64,000 Challenge," with both shows hosted by Hal March. The show was syndicated in 1976 as "The $128,000 Question." If nothing else, the amount of money given away on such shows is an indication of the decreasing value of a dollar from 1947 until 1999.

Cold, hard cash is an important ingredient for a lot of TV programs. "Jeopardy," "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" wouldn't be nearly as exciting without the payoffs. Who would argue that the prospect of big bucks isn't a major incentive for participants in reality TV programs, such as " Survivor" and "Fear Factor"?

Money isn't the direct reward in all reality programs. But a new look, a rebuilt kitchen or landscaping can be quite valuable. So could a new job. A job is the goal of those who participate in "The Apprentice" and endure grilling by Donald Trump and, now, Martha Stewart.

It might not be the next big venture in the media industry, but "Who Wants to be an Entomologist?" would seem to be a mixture between a reality show and a job interview. Too many people, the thought of making a living by working with insects is a bit repulsive. After all, most of us know insects as those creatures that we love to hate.

Entomology is more than that branch of scientific study that deals with insects. For many people, entomology is a profession and a job. The Entomological Society of America is a scientific organization dedicated to the field of entomology and currently has nearly 6,000 members. The National Pest Control Association represents people and companies interested in control of pest insects, and it has about 5,000 members.

Most of the members of these two organizations would consider themselves entomologists. So, how did they become entomologists and not dentists, farmers, steel workers or bankers? Entomologists generally classify their route to this profession in either of two broad categories. Some entomologists have been fascinated by insects since early childhood and pursued that interest through college study. One such entomologist claims that, as a young child, his grandparents had given him a magnifying glass as a Christmas gift. He proceeded to use that glass to concentrate the rays of the sun onto caterpillars. That process burned holes in the caterpillars, and the young man developed an interest in insects as a result. Folks like these were born to be entomologists.

Other entomologists entered the profession because they encountered an individual, a teacher or a youth leader who kindled their interest in the subject. Some say that they got a job in that area and discovered the potential of the field. These individuals may or may not have been interested in insects prior to the job. They could be considered "entomological converts."

Even hobbyist entomologists fall into one of the above categories -- either born to be in the field or a convert to it. "Who Wants to be an Entomologist?" is not a TV show. But it could be a great hobby or profession.

 

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox