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Comparing Humans to Ants as a Society is Topic of Lecture at UW April 11

April 5, 2013
Man looking at insect nest
Mark Moffett, a research associate at the National Museum of Natural History, observes ants during a recent research trip to Australia. Moffett will discuss “Empires of the Ants: Social Complexity Among the Ants” at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the UW College of Agriculture auditorium. (Mark Moffett Photo)

Mark Moffett, known as the “Indiana Jones of entomology,” will discuss at the University of Wyoming the ways that modern humans are more comparable to ants than they are to chimpanzees.

Moffett’s free public talk, “Empires of the Ants: Social Complexity Among the Ants,” is at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the UW College of Agriculture auditorium. The UW Department of Sociology and the President’s Office sponsor the presentation.

Moffett, a research associate at the National Museum of Natural History, is the author of the book “Adventures Among Ants.” He is a protege of Harvard University’s E.O. Wilson, whose biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants, on which he is considered to be the world's leading authority. Moffett will talk about humans’ similarities to ants.

“With our societies of millions, only certain social insects and humans need to deal with issues of roadways and traffic rules, public health and environmental safety, assembly lines and teamwork, market economics and voting, slavery, and mass warfare,” he says.

Moffett will illustrate his talk with a few of the hundreds of images from his National Geographic Magazine stories. The lecture will transport the audience around the world to experience the fierce driver ants of the Congo, bulldog ants of Australia, marauder ants of Asia, leafcutter ants of South America and slavery ants of the United States.

According to his website, Moffett is noted as an ecologist and explorer photojournalist, who from “the top of the world's tallest trees, to the deep in unexplored caves, has discovered new species and behavior while risking life and limb to find stories that make people fall in love with the unexpected in nature.”

He is an adventurer with awards for writing and photography, such as the Lowell Thomas Medal from the Explorers Club, and the Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award. During his career, Moffett has served as associate curator -- in charge of the world's largest ant collection -- and research associate at institutions including Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

He received his undergraduate degree (1979) in biology from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., and a doctoral degree (1989) in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University. Moffett was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship at Harvard and, for his dissertation, he studied ants for 20 months in countries from Nepal to New Guinea.

He is credited with more than 80 peer-reviewed publications and has written more than 25 articles for National Geographic Magazine, which has featured 500 of his images. Moffett has appeared on Conan O'Brien’s show, the “Colbert Report” and National Public Radio.

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