Lynn Kimsey at the Bohart Museum

Call of the Insects

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Environment, Office Hours

At 5 years old, Lynn Kimsey ’76, Ph.D. ’79, was given a butterfly net at a local park. Her childhood affinity for butterflies and other specimens led to years of researching entomology — the study of insects. On top of teaching at UC Davis, she is the director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which boasts the seventh largest insect collection in North America with over 7 million specimens.

For a while, Kimsey said she was interested in marine invertebrates, but ultimately circled back to her childhood interest in insects and entomology. “I really liked isopods, rollie pollies and things like that, but I’ve found that insects are the most fun.”

Lynn Kimsey at age 5

Lynn Kimsey at age 5 (Courtesy photo)

As an undergraduate student at UC Davis, Kimsey took a class taught by the museum’s namesake, Richard M. Bohart, and she went on to collaborate with him while working toward her Ph.D.

After graduating, she spent around 10 summers in the Panama tropics doing research. She moved on to teach at Harvard University for two years but ultimately returned to UC Davis to teach in the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “There’s this huge bungee cord between me and Davis,” Kimsey joked. “I can’t seem to get away from here!”

Since taking over as the head of the museum in 1989, Kimsey has been working on making it more accessible to the public. It has been open to visitors since in-person classes resumed in fall 2021.

“We’re pretty invisible since we’re tucked away on the south side of campus, but I’ve been doing a lot more outreach,” Kimsey noted. “We’ve been offering video tours on our website as well as summer camps.”

Currently, Kimsey studies the behaviors of stinging wasps as well as taxonomy. “I went from sitting on that post at my local park, and everything kind of just escalated from there,” Kimsey explained. “The call of the insects, you know?”