It’s a symbol of whimsy and beauty to many, but for Thomas C. Emmel the butterfly is an intense passion in a lifelong journey of discovery
Professor of Zoology and Entomology
Florida Museum of Natural History
It’s a symbol of whimsy and beauty to many, but for Thomas Emmel the butterfly is an intense passion in a lifelong journey of discovery.
Emmel is a professor of zoology and entomology at the University of Florida, director of the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory and doubles as curator of Natural Sciences and director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Emmel’s cumulative expertise is reflected in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, which is scheduled to open Aug. 14 and holds the world’s second largest collection of Lepidoptera — moths and butterflies — with 4 million specimens. His educated guidance helped to create the center’s new 6,400-square-foot Butterfly Rainforest, a vivarium filled with tropical and subtropical plants and trees, waterfalls, a walking trail and hundreds of exotic, vibrant butterflies.
The author of more than 395 publications, including 35 books, Emmel has discussed topics such as the biology, evolution, genetics, behavior, and ecology of butterflies and tree snails. He has worked since 1984 with the endangered Schaus Swallowtail butterfly in the Florida Keys, and currently directs an extensive reintroduction effort to help this endangered species recover and be removed from the endangered species list. He also has conducted research on the effects of mosquito control pesticides on non-target wildlife and humans living in South Florida. His findings have led to better control measures for the use of pesticides and enhanced survival of wildlife as well as human health in the Keys. Since April 2002, he also has directed an extensive ecological survey and restoration effort for the endangered Miami Blue butterfly in the Florida Keys. As if that wasn’t enough, Emmel has led Lepidoptera expeditions to more than 40 countries around the globe.