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Student Feature Friday with Abbey Hayes

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 Abbey (Abigail) Hayes to get to know her a little bit better!

Abbey Hayes showing her current research on field crickets
Abbey Hayes showing a field cricket

Q: Masters or Ph.D., and how far into your program are you?
A: PhD., (2.25 years in)

Q: What is your research project? 
A: I work on a species of field crickets that can develop long wings, and the ability to fly, or short non-functional wings, depending on what type of environment they experience during development. I am working to understand what environmental signals the crickets “listen to” while developing, and how those signals are translated into growth of the long wing or short wing adult.

Q: How did you become an entomologist?
A: I have always had an interest in insects. In elementary school I favored playing outside rather than playing dress up or house with the other girls. I didn’t like playing make believe when there were so many interesting [and very real] things outside! In high school I enjoyed Biology, so it was an easy choice for me to decide to major in Biology in college. I decided to go to Saint Mary’s College of California, a tiny school in the East San Francisco Bay Area. At first, I planned to become an orthodontist, but as I took more lab science courses I realized I would not be happy if I wasn’t doing science.

In my junior year I was able to do research on sea turtles in Mexico and I really bonded with one of the instructors on the trip (Dr Michael Marchetti). Upon our return to campus, I did a year and a half long research project with him on food webs of a local newt species Taricha torosa. I had to identify the insects that were living in their aquatic environment, which was basically one of my first introductions into the Entomology world.

Then one day when I was leaving the lab late I noticed a large moth on the outside of the building, which I recognized as a sphinx moth! I decided this was the perfect opportunity to get over my fear of large hairless caterpillars (that’s right, even entomologists have insects they don’t love!) so I caught the moth and raised her 300 babies! Watching the caterpillars amazing ability to blend in with the willow leaves in their enclosure a) made me unafraid of big caterpillars and b) got me very interested with how insect appearance interacts with environment. Upon looking at graduate schools I came across Dr. Laura Lavine’s work on Rhinoceros beetle horn formation that is dependent on nutrition, and I was excited with the molecular techniques they were able to use to understand how that developmental relationship works! So really Dr. Lavine’s work is what is responsible for getting me here to Pullman and Washington State University!

Abbey Hayes doing research in her lab
Abbey Hayes doing research in her lab

Q: Why would you recommend entomology as a career? 
A: It’s a stable career because humans and insects will always interact. Since the dawn of time, humans have interacted with insects and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

We also have this ability to see a whole world out that most people aren’t aware of, we can see a whole hidden universe essentially.

Q: What are your future career plans after graduation?
A: I hope to work somewhere very similar to where I went to undergrad. I want to continue to do research while teaching others about science.

Q: What is your favorite insect?
A: Bee Flies, they are really fuzzy and fly with all their legs sticking out like superman! They also flick their eggs into other insects’ nests and the developing larva feeds on whatever insect the nest belongs to.[/textblock][/column][/row][/section]