Non-NU Email
A few years ago, I donated the naming rights of a new moth species, endemic in the white gypsum dunes of White Sands, to the Western National Parks Association as a fund raiser. They auctioned the name on eBay. The auction was picked by the wire services and received worldwide, e.g. China, Israel,  and numerous other places, publicity. After the auction was reported in the Wall Street Journal, a long-lost high school friend tracked me down and congratulated me for my public service. I was interviewed live on-air, on a radio station in England. I was never allowed to know the amount raised because of NPS ethics rules, however the Western National Parks Association said they could never purchase that kind of publicity, and they were very grateful.

A friend of mine, in North Carolina, won the auction, and he named the moth , Givira delindae (Cossidae) in honor of his mother, Delinda. Of course, the moth is white - go figure. When Doug Yanega visited me during White Sands National Monument's (now National Park) annual Mothapalooza, a celebration of moths in the Park, the audience was able to observe live individuals of G. delindae at the sheets and blacklights.

Cheers from southern NM where Spring is nearly gone.

Eric H. Metzler

From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Brett Ratcliffe <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, March 20, 2021 11:11 AM
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: public outreach for taxonomy

External Email - Exercise Caution

Max and Colleagues:


I have used humorous names on several occasions: longichomperus, nodanotherwon, boondocksius, tetraspermexitus, botox, unamas. I believe it is fine to have some fun with our science as long as is not insulting or vulgar. It may also help to dissuade the general public from believing scientists are all serious, unimaginative,  and dull as often portrayed in the entertainment industry . . . which is where much of the public gets their view of the world.


When I named new Gymnetis species after the 3 dragons (drogoni, rhaeagalli, and viserioni) in Game of Thrones, it created a worldwide, cascading, media frenzy (newspapers, magazines, TV news, internet postings), all of which brought positive notoriety to our museum, university, and science. It also increased public awareness that new species were still being discovered . . . where there are intact habitats. The downstream message of this is the importance of habitat conservation coupled with concerns about climate change. Were those 3 names merely descriptive, then none of this would have happened. Names that are humorous or otherwise unusual can be entertaining and educational.


We need the public on our side as much as possible since, bottom line, their taxes support our mission of exploration and discovery. Nomenclaturally engaging the public in our new discoveries is somewhat analogous to having public exhibits in our natural history museums. Exhibits entertain and educate. The Rules recommend no humor in scientific names, but I think this reflects antiquated thinking where science was supposed to be “serious.”  Au contraire. This is not the same as responsible.


If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

                            — Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.

If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.                      

                                —— Henry Poincaré



Brett C. Ratcliffe

Curator & Professor

Systematics Research Collections

W436 Nebraska Hall

University of Nebraska

Lincoln, NE 68588-0514  USA


TEL: (402) 472-2614

FAX: (402) 472-8949

EMAIL: [log in to unmask]


Visit SCARAB CENTRAL & the Division of Entomology at


SCARAB WORKERS World Directory

From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Max Barclay <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Max Barclay <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Saturday, March 20, 2021 at 8:20 AM
To: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Opinion sought on public outreach for taxonomy


Non-NU Email

Dear Colleagues


Asking this in a contained friendly group, rather than splurging it on Twitter or Facebook- to see what people think.


What is your opinion/ experience of public/media reaction to scientific names given in honour of e.g. comedians, cartoon characters, politicians, rock stars? Or names that are supposed to be humourous like some of Terry Erwin's (Agra vation, Agra phobia etc.). 


I am torn between:


a) all publicity is good publicity- getting taxonomy in the news is always good


b) "this sounds trivial, are they having a laugh - why do taxpayers have to pay for such frivolity"


I would really like to hear some views/ anecdotes about whether or not this is a good idea...



Maxwell V. L. Barclay
Senior Curator in Charge
Insects: Coleoptera 
Department of Life Sciences
Natural History Museum
London SW7 5BD
T: 0207 942 5911
M: 07766331806
[log in to unmask]