In Costa Rica, 20 lucky and talented school children have gained new bragging rights at the lunch table – they each have a new species named after them. The children won the honor through a wonderfully creative and engaging drawing competition called Comparto mi nombre con una especie (I share my name with a species) hosted by the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG). JRS has proudly supported the ACG’s parataxonomist program (2011 and 2013), which has trained local naturalists to help discover and describe a host of new-to-science species from the Guanacaste tropical dry forest habitats. Dr. Daniel Janzen, ACG technical adviser, had the idea to name 20 new parasitoid wasps after Richard and Rita Ashley, donors who made a generous gift to the program. The Ashleys, in turn, suggested that the honor be shared with local children, and thus the competition was born.
The children at each participating school learned about the uniqueness and importance of the dry forest habitat and biodiversity, and then were invited to draw what they had learned. The 20 winners, representing 5 schools, and selected from 127 entries, were presented with a plaque of the species named after them at a ceremony on December 4th. They will also get to tour part of the ACG, guided by those who are most familiar with the local insect diversity, Dr. Janzen and his wife Dr. Winnie Hallwachs, along with 4 of the local parataxonomists.
As the saying goes, “Sharing is caring”. ACG and the Ashleys hope that, by sharing their names with these species, the children will be inspired to conserve “their” species and the dry forest habitat those species rely on. In this way, maybe the newly-named wasps are actually the lucky ones.
This partnership between ACG, donors, and the schools is an excellent example of how anchoring the discovery, description, and naming of biodiversity in the local community can instill a sense of ownership and responsibility for the local environment. Donor Richard Ashley told the honored children: “By having a species that bears your name, you have begun down the path to being curious about your species and now you have the responsibility to help it survive, and survive, and survive.”
Read a feature on this story from the Tico Times.