Brian Fisher, the California Academy of Science's renowned entomologist, reveals there are 22,000 species of ants populating the earth. “Our ability to dig deeper into their hidden world can shed light on important ecosystem functions that have been overlooked out of ignorance or disinterest,” says Fisher.
“Consider that the collective weight of all the ants in the world is equal to the weight of all the world's humans. It's a big subject with a big impact. That alone makes ants worthy of scientific study.”
Fisher has committed his life to exploring the world of ants. The fact that ants are industrious, tenacious workers who live in colonies and obey a hierarchy of rulers is well known. In fact, it mirrors qualities found in humankind. But Fisher's studies go well beyond these characteristics. For the last 23 years, he has traveled the globe finding, collecting, identifying and naming ants, describing their behaviors, and cataloguing their traits. There are an estimated 22,000 ant species known to science. Fisher has personally discovered 1000 species of these.
His love affair with ants was spontaneous. Born in Normal, Ill., the son of a college professor and a fifth grade teacher, Brian Fisher knew he wanted to work in the outdoors but not as a park forester in a park. Flying to Europe the day after his high school graduation, he spent two years bicycling the continent, learning French and carpentry before returning home.
Once back, he enrolled at the University of Iowa, majoring in biology. “But I was itching to get to Latin America, learn Spanish and live the dream of a tropical plant collector,” he remembers. It was during a year in Panama that he worked part-time for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He also worked as an aspiring botanist, collecting specimens of tropical flora. It was during his stay in Panama that the love bug bit.
“You go to the tropics and the sheer diversity of insects are literally raining down on you,” says Dr. Fisher. “At that point, I decided to switch from being a great botanical explorer to becoming an ant finder.”