On the last Friday of each month we sit down with an Entomology graduate student to get to know more about them, how they became interested in Entomology, and what their role is in the department. This month, we sat down with Rachel Olsson!

Rachel conducting her research on pollination in the WSU Greenhouse
Rachel working in the WSU Greenhouse

Q: Masters or Ph.D., and how far into your program are you?
A: PhD, in my 5th year

Q: What is your research project? 
A: I am looking at how environmental factors influence floral traits and how those traits might be attractive and influential to bee populations.

Q: How did you become an entomologist?
A: It started as a summer job in college, and I fell in love. I was studying to be a science/art teacher and started doing scientific illustrations of insects. I got a job in an entomology lab and got to experience the fieldwork, museum curation, and digital collection curation. I loved it.

Q: Why would you recommend entomology as a career? 
A: Entomology is one of the broadest sciences I can think of. Whether you prefer lab work or field work, writing, teaching, research, policy work, medical work, or farm work. Insects intersect with every part of human existence from food production to pathogen spread. Insects can be a major cause of disease and death, a minor nuisance, or our favorite pets. One of my mentors told me that “entomologists are biologists with a job” and I have always appreciated that.

Rachel's pinned insect collection
Rachel’s pinned insect collection

Q: What are your future career plans after graduation?

A: I’d like to stay close to academia, ideally in an extension or education position. I am a first-generation college student, so the ivory tower isn’t my preference. I think the research we do is so important, but I love being part of the group that gets the information researchers discover to the people that can use it. My undergraduate degrees were focused on agriculture sciences and community food systems development, so working directly with growers is my passion.

Q: What is your favorite insect?
A: Ever since I started working on pollinators, I’ve always been partial to the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. (seen on my website here: http://www.whatsthebuzzresearch.com/about-me.html)

Link to my website: www.rachel-olsson.com or www.whatsthebuzzresearch.com