In OLogy Series, a Wonderful World of Wasps

by AMNH on

Education posts

How does a girl who hates insects grow up to be an entomologist? The hero of a special new comic book series launched this year on OLogy, the Museum’s award-winning website for kids, finds her inspiration while drawing 17-year cicadas for a high school art class—a moment familiar to the comic’s creator, Carly Tribull.

Carly Tribull Image

A second-year graduate student in the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, Tribull is the artist behind Carly’s Adventures in Wasp Land!, an OLogy series that will feature four illustrated issues that introduce readers to wasps’ many fascinating features, from their unique anatomy to where they live and hunt. (In creating these educational comics, Tribull was also able to fulfill a teaching requirement for her Ph.D. program.) The third issue, Social Wasp Undercover, was just published on OLogy.

Click on image for a closer view. 

Carly Tribull How I Became an Entomologist OLogy Comic
How I Became an Entomologist is the first comic in Carly Tribull's OLogy series. As a young girl, she was afraid of insects, but later on...
© AMNH/C. Tribull

Growing up near Florida’s Everglades, Tribull, who is 25, spent a lot of time outdoors and was always interested in both art and science. “I have always loved to draw,” says Tribull. “But I drew a lot of dragons and dinosaurs!” Still, she adds, “I didn’t think I could do both. I’d thought I’d rather be a biologist, so I went off to go to UC-Berkeley to major in biology.”

But she also kept a hand in the art world by double majoring in fine art. It wasn’t until she accepted an internship in the entomology department of a small Texas university, however, that she had the chance to combine her scientific and drawing skills.

Click on image for a closer view. 

Issue 2 Carly Tribull Solitary Wasps
In one OLogy comic, Carly Tribull profiles the life of a solitary wasp from the species Bembix americana. 
© AMNH/C. Tribull

Even in this age of scanning electron microscopes and computed tomography (CT) scanners, the field of entomology retains a strong tradition of illustration. After all, many insects are very small, and rendering their bodies by hand allows researchers to magnify areas in drawings and to gain an almost tactile understanding of the subtle physical differences that often define a species.

Click on image for a closer view.

Issue 3 Social Wasps Carly Tribull
In this October 2013 comic featured on OLogy, Carly Tribull goes undercover in a nest of social wasps, which live together and are cared for by female worker wasps controlled by one, or a few, dominant queens. 
© AMNH/C. Tribull

Tribull’s work at the Museum, in fact, draws on her strong visual skills, as she examines hundreds of specimens of parasitic wasps—types that lay eggs in or on the bodies of beetles, caterpillars, or other insects. Using both physical characteristics and DNA evidence, Tribull is working to create a new evolutionary history of two families—the Dryinidae and Bethylidae—within the order Hymenoptera, which includes ants, bees, and wasps. (Parasitic wasps will be featured in Tribull's fourth comic.)

And in producing the comics with OLogy, Tribull is also sharing her knowledge with the website’s many science-minded fans. “Comics are a great way to teach science, even some of the more complicated concepts,” says Karen Taber, a senior project manager in the Museum’s National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology, which produces OLogy. “We’re really excited about the natural appeal for kids who are interested in art or science—or both.”

Read more about the work and life of Carly Tribull in an article on io9.

This post is adapted from an article in the Fall 2013 issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine. 

The initial development of OLogy was made possible by a generous grant from the Louis Calder Foundation.