Associate Professor of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology
The Ohio State University at Marion
Excepts published in the May/June 2011 issue of Ohio State Alumni Magazine
by Lawrence Houck, photo by Chris Crook
Entomologist Richard Bradley says spiders are “charismatically challenged.”
Their creepy reputation is unfair, he believes, but perhaps understandable.
“Most spiders are nocturnal, which I think is one of the reasons they’re scary to people,” said Bradley, an associate professor at Ohio State’s regional campus at Marion. “Things that come out at night tend to be scary.”
Much of Bradley’s work has gone toward showing that spiders are more fascinating than terrifying. Back in 1994, he launched an ambitious survey aimed at filling in the huge gaps in knowledge about the state’s spiders.
The Ohio Spider Survey relies in part on volunteers, and that involves getting the word out about the important role spiders play in nature. “It’s teaching people to appreciate spiders. I don’t expect people to like them, but I want them to understand their importance to the ecosystem,” Bradley said.
Most of what scientists previously knew about Ohio spiders came from a study and an addendum published in 1919 and 1924 by William M. Barrows, a professor of zoology and entomology at Ohio State.
His work was a great start but far from comprehensive, Bradley said. Barrows listed only 306 species of spiders living in Ohio. Some 630 species have been identified since then, including 220 found as a result of Bradley’s survey.
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