Donald Martocello, 2018, Undeclared

The Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund (GDFCF) is a private organization dedicated to studying and cataloging the rich biodiversity of invertebrates in the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG) in Costa Rica, an area it works to conserve for research, so that the scientific community can come closer to filling in the missing pages of our biodiversity library. For this project, I became a parataxonmist and helped the GDFCF collect various biological specimens, especially the rich diversity of caterpillars and their associated parasites. I learned from experienced parataxonomists what the different habitats of the caterpillars looked like and, how to distinguish them, how to properly collect field specimens, how to maintain specimens, and how to prepare them for DNA testing and taxonomic display. Working in an organization dedicated to biodiversity allowed me to explore my passion for promoting global conservation. Every specimen we collect creates new opportunities for research in ecology, environmental science, biochemistry, and even pharmaceutical development. This itself helps the world realize the value of biodiversity and, therefore, why conserving it is important. This experience inspired me to seek out opportunities in academic programs and departments at Princeton that examine and promote conservation.