Knights at the Museum

Jessica Ware, ’08
National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Invertebrate Zoology

For Jessica Ware, who earned her Ph.D. in entomology in 2008, it’s all about the bugs. See a new species of the termite genus Neotermes that she is studying at the American Museum of Natural History.

  • Jessica Ware works in invertebrate zoology.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    As a postdoc working with David Grimaldi, curator of Diptera, Lepidoptera, Isoptera, and fossil insects—that's mosquitoes, houseflies, termites, butterflies, and more—Jessica Ware is immersed in systematics. "This study of the evolutionary relationships of a group of organisms is like a family tree. We look at who is most closely related to whom, which helps us find evolutionary trends."

  • Jessica Ware in Namibia.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    For several years Ware worked on "the systematics of a group of dragonflies, the Libelluloidea. The project involved a lot of collecting and detailed study back in the lab of larval and adult morphology." Here, Ware collects dragonflies and damselflies at Popa Falls, near the Okavango River, in Namibia.

  • A blue skimmer dragonfly in Namibia.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    "There was a part of me that thought a tenure-track evolutionary biology position was a crazy, challenging career path," says Ware, "but I knew I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. Having a satisfying career involves doing what you're passionate about." In September, Ware starts as an assistant biology professor at Rutgers–Newark. Above, a blue skimmer dragonfly rests on a rock in Namibia.

  • The immature stage of the dragonfly Neopetalia punctata.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Above is a detailed image of the immature stage of the dragonfly Neopetalia punctata, a member of the Libelluloidea family. For several years, Ware studied this "beneficial group that eats mosquitoes and other insects, is not harmful, and does not bite. If you have ever observed a dragonfly hovering around a pond, lake, or stream, chances are good it was a member of this group."

  • Mandibles of a new species within the termite genus Neotermes.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Ware is now on to lower termites, a surprisingly social group that exhibits "altruistic behavior, such as caring for siblings. I love the project because it includes scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging, molecular tools, and phylogenetic methodology." Above are SEM images of the mandibles of a newly discovered species of the termite genus Neotermes, which infests mahogany plantations in Fiji.

  • Ware at Ag Field Day.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Back at Rutgers' George H. Cook Campus, Ware eats a bug cookie at Ag Field Day. Ware says "Rutgers entomology is a great place to learn about insects … My advisers, Mike May, Karl Kjer, and George Hamilton were excellent examples of success—their work ethic, publication record, and grantsmanship inspired me [as did their] excellent balance among work, family, and service."

  • Jessica Ware in the American Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Rotunda.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    "The Rutgers entomology department is a close, friendly group," says Ware. "Students really supported each other. Rather than feel overwhelmed by competition, we were allies, which bettered all of us." Photos 1 and 7 by John Emerson. Additional images courtesy Jessica Ware.

  • Jessica Ware works in invertebrate zoology.
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  • Jessica Ware in Namibia.
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  • A blue skimmer dragonfly in Namibia.
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  • The immature stage of the dragonfly Neopetalia punctata.
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  • Mandibles of a new species within the termite genus Neotermes.
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  • Ware at Ag Field Day.
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  • Jessica Ware in the American Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Rotunda.
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