Monday, December 14, 2009

Biographical Minute: Charles Valentine Riley

In advance of the upcoming Book of the Week by American entomologist Charles Valentine Riley (our 6th degree as generously provided by Robin Everly, Botany-Horticultural librarian at Smithsonian Libraries), here's a brief primer on his contributions to biodiversity. His resume is long and includes improvements to the French wine industry as well as the citrus crops of the US. Chief among his pursuits was biological pest control. Just before industrial pesticides created their own large scale sets of woes, he was one of the first to successfully practice the introduction of natural predators to pests compromising crops near the end of the 19th century. In 1889, California citrus groves were resuscitated when Charles V. Riley took advantage of Rodolia Cardinalis' appetite for Icerya Purchasi. The vedalia beetle ate the cottony cushion scale who was eating the crops. Riley also figures prominently in the development of the USDA'S Entomological Commission and was the first curator of insects at the Smithsonian Institution. And tragically, his death at an early age was a result of a bicyle accident resulting in a fractured skull.

Click here for some info on organic farming without the use of pesticides! and here for bicycle safety tips!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BHL Book of the Week: Six degrees of BHL

With well over 35,000 titles to choose from, the BHL book of the week selection can sometimes be a daunting task. (Each title more thrilling than the last!) So this week, I decided to play a game with you to arrive at the next selection. We'll dig deep into the repository and maybe find a path to something unexpected. According to our most recent poll, Invertebrate Zoology beats out Botany by a nose as the most popular area of biodiversity research. So, because we need a 1st degree and a 6th degree, and it's cheating to have the one making the connections do the picking, I humbly ask for your participation to test my librarian's mettle. Please suggest (in the comments) an IZ scientist--or even a title--for me to connect with a Botanist's work or otherwise significant figure. Will it work? Will it be neat? I don't know. But even if I find the connections too obscure (no way!) to piece together, we'll all, at the very least, have the excitement of the journey to enjoy.