How science happens -- firefly sex studies and serendipity


Among the many treats in Carl Zimmer's new Times piece on fireflies and sex -- go, and be enchanted -- I particularly liked this quick peek at how a life and a career can take a sharp turn for the most unplanned of reasons:

It was on a night much like this one in 1980 when Dr. Lewis first came under the spell of fireflies. She was in graduate school at Duke University, studying coral reef fish. Waiting for a grant to come through for a trip to Belize, she did not have much else to do but sit in her backyard in North Carolina.

"Every evening there was this incredible display of fireflies," Dr. Lewis said. She eventually started to explore the yard, inspecting the males and females. "What really struck me was that in this one-acre area there were hundreds of males and I could only find two or three females," she said. "I thought, "Man, this is so intense."

She's been doing fireflies ever since.

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