NMW Team Member Jacob Gorneau Turns Youthful Hobby Into College Degree, Graduating from Cornell University in Entomology

Jacob Gorneau was 15 when he came to a moth night in East Brunswick, NJ, in 2013. He and his dad traveled more than 150 miles from upstate New York to meet the NMW team, who’d started the observance just a year earlier. By then, however, Jacob already was a valuable contributor to NMW’s success.

“I had learned about National Moth Week through a citizen science site, Project Noah, (an NMW partner organization) and was able to work as a liaison between Project Noah and NMW for its first year in 2012,” he said.

Jacob’s fascination with moths and the natural world began early. He was hooked after seeing a Black Witch moth on a family trip to Florida. “I couldn’t believe the moth was as large as the geckos near it! I think that was the first time that I became thoroughly enamored with moths.”

To further his interest in insects, he’d challenge himself to stay outside until he found something he’d never seen before. (Sounds like a great way to interest kids in nature.)

“What became clear quickly was how easy it was to see a new moth, spider or any other kind of arthropod,” he said. “The more I learned about how diverse arthropods are, the more I got interested!”

Jacob helped spread the word about NMW to other groups and events. His valuable and growing knowledge about moths helped NMW become more widely known. In 2013, he was invited to become the youngest member of the NMW team.

“I think National Moth Week is an important cause, because looking for moths is an activity for everyone, and learning more about them invites people to have a more open mind when it comes to other organisms – like snakes and spiders – that might be surrounded by a cloud of misconceptions,” he said.

“Mothing is great because all it requires is leaving an outside light on or having an inexpensive mothing setup, and nature will come to you. A lot of common misunderstandings about moths and other arthropods come from a place of fear, and I think the best tool against this fear is education. The outdoors is a great classroom”

This spring, Jacob graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., with a degree in entomology. He will begin graduate studies this fall at San Francisco State University through the California Academy of Sciences. “I hope to pursue a career in academia that incorporates a lot of evolutionary biology and collections-based museum work.”

National Moth Week congratulates Jacob on his graduation and looks forward to many more years of collaboration. 

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