My name is Joel D Hernandez and I’m an insect enthusiast/entomologist. I graduated from UC Davis with my BS in Entomology. It was a long and adventurous road to get to where I am now, so here is my story.
Like most entomologists, I had a very strong curiosity in insects. This new found interest in insects began at the age of six. Once I had learned what insects were I couldn’t stop wanting to learn more about these fantastic creatures. My journey began in the Loma Vista 4-H program, where I was given the opportunity to join a multitude of different projects that related to my interests. Luckily for me, they had and entomology project as part of their program. I signed up, and from then on I was hooked on insects. The project started with making your own insect collection. My project leader taught us how to catch insects using a net and then how to put them in a jar that would later be placed in the freezer. Once the specimens were ready to pin and spread, my project leader showed everyone where and how to pin each insect order. Every order was different from the next, so I had to learn where each order needed to be pinned.
After about a few months of collecting and pinning within the program I was able to create a full case of insects on my own, with twelve orders and about 100 specimens. I found so much joy in creating this collection that I presented it to my second grade class as a science project, in order to share how cool I thought insects were. I had caught the attention of my peers so much that they dubbed my the “bug guy” for the remainder of my elementary school career. As my interest in entomology grew, so did my collection, and with every passing year my thirst for knowledge about insects continued to increase significantly.
As I continued to grow, I collected more and more insects. I improved my ability to identify insects and properly curate them to the point where I had filled my parents’ freezer full of random Tupperware containers with insects in them. This continued to about the age of eleven until one day I thought to myself, “what do insects do and why are they so different from one another?” My main objective as an insect enthusiast then switched from just collecting insects as a hobby to actually understanding their ecology and how they interact with the environment around me. So in order for my eleven year old self to further expand on this newly evolved interest I took to books, magazines, and field guides for more knowledge. I looked at many colored photos of insects, learned new common names, figured out where each one was found, what their diet was, and what their preferred habitats were. This new found knowledge aided me as I continued to present my collections to other classrooms within my school and other schools in the district.
After participating in the 4-H program for almost twelve years, I soon found myself wanting to teach the little knowledge of entomology I had to others. So in high school, I was able to form my own entomology project within the 4-H group. Not many students signed up but I was fine with even just one person who I could teach this wonderful subject to. Out of the few who signed up for my project, only one stayed. But even that was enough for me to present this plethora of amazing knowledge and hope that they would continue down the same path as me and become an entomologist. Throughout my high school career I was able to present my collections to as many as ten different classrooms, both at my high school and at the elementary school my mother taught at. Being able to show and teach other students about entomology gave me great joy, because I knew that maybe, just maybe, they would pursue this as a potential study someday in the future.
My college career and life after graduation was and is so densely packed with adventures and new knowledge that I won’t be able to fit it here, but instead, I will share what I have seen and learned in the blogs posts to come. Entomology is a very immersive subject and I promise a wonderful array of interesting facts, images, and stories that will hopefully encourage you to see insects in a new, more positive way.