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  • I think one of the most common reactions that I get when I tell people that I've discovered new species

  • is utter surprise that there are new species left to be discovered.

  • - That's a male of a new species, that's the first male we got!

  • - No way! - Yeah!

  • What we're doing is looking under every rock, every log, every debris on the ground...

  • you really have to put yourself into the shoes of an arachnid and imagine,

  • 'if I was an arachnid, where would I be hiding?'

  • I'm definitely not in the lab all the time.

  • That's really a stereotype that's inaccurate.

  • I think the stereotype that I'd like to imagine myself in a little bit more is like

  • Indiana Jones sort of situation, exploring the unknown and trying to discover something new.

  • Why did it have to be snakes?

  • I am scared of snakes - legit.

  • I don't even want to admit that right now!

  • I'm really scared of mosquitoes, and I'm scared of birds flying out of the bushes at night.

  • (sighs) Yeah...

  • There's moments when I'm in the field that I don't feel like it's the most glamorous job,

  • when I haven't showered and I've run out of water

  • and I just want to go home and watch some Netflix...

  • - Hello! It's the end of my first day out in the field.

  • But I'm already pretty tired, hot and sweaty...

  • - Hello, it's Lauren!

  • I just got back from my morning of collecting

  • and it was hot and sweaty as you can probably see...

  • ...but at the end of the day it's something that I really love doing, and that's everything.

  • Arachnids are both diurnal and nocturnal,

  • and arachnids are often what we call cryptic species, which means that they're trying to blend in,

  • and so that makes them really hard to see.

  • So we do have a number of tools that we also bring along with us when we go out

  • into the field, and one of those is a leaf litter sifter.

  • You shake all the leaves around, and at the bottom is a funnel that collects all of the little leaf particles,

  • and lots of insects and arachnids, and even some other weird things like amphipods,

  • which are a kind of crustacean.

  • We also bring a vegetation beater or a beat sheet, which is like a white kite

  • that you hold under vegetation as you knock a stick or something against the vegetation

  • and spiders and insects rain down,

  • sometimes ants rain down into your shirt too, which is not the most fun.

  • Then you use a pooter, which is like a mouth vacuum,

  • to suck all the insects and arachnids up and collect them into a vial.

  • I want to get a logo screen printed on my fanny pack

  • that says, "Just poot it."

  • That'd be good, right?

  • As soon as you get back to the base camp and start looking at what you've collected,

  • you may notice that you've collected all the same few species, which is a sign of a disturbed forest,

  • or you've collected a lot of different species, which is a sign of a healthy forest.

  • - This is some of the stuff we collected over the last two weeks.

  • It might not look like a ton, but in each of those little baggies

  • there's anywhere from two to a few hundred to maybe even a thousand specimens.

  • Then once night completely falls, we'll take out our ultraviolet lamps and start looking

  • for scorpions. We'll work until 1:00 in the morning or so and then try to get some sleep.

  • - I don't know exactly for sure what it is, but I'm going to find out!

  • Ah-HAAAA!

  • I think that my research stems from a need that I have as an individual to understand

  • the biodiversity of the world.

  • Somewhere between 30 and 50% of the arachnid species on Earth are only known to science.

  • What I've made my personal life's mission is to try to document the remaining 50%, and

  • what that requires is a lot of on-the-ground, hard work, and also back in the lab working

  • the microscope and in the genetics lab.

  • - This one is a new species.


  • We're pretty excited.

  • It's like the whipped cream on top of the ice cream sundae.

  • We found it the first day, and this one is an adult female, which means it's a really valuable specimen:

  • we can actually use it for describing the species formally.

  • and, I don't know, I couldn't be more happy.

  • We're losing species at a rate that's higher than the rate we're discovering species,

  • and unless we understand what's out there, it's impossible to understand how to protect it

  • and how to conserve it.

  • So for me, I feel a fundamental duty to the Earth really to document and improve our knowledge

  • of species on the planet.

  • In this next episode, see firsthand the deadly risks a volcanologist takes

  • when examining an erupting volcano.

  • Thanks for watching, and be sure to subscribe to Seeker.

I think one of the most common reactions that I get when I tell people that I've discovered new species

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B1 US collected vegetation lab stereotype scared sweaty

This Scientist Is Racing Extinction To Discover New Species of Arachnids

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/16
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