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John Longino

Title: Professor
College: Science
School / Department: Biological Science
Mentoring Philosophy:

Collected insects since middle school. What can I say? Turned on to the tropics by Cal Dodson at Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida, during high school. Turned on to Evolution and Ecology in college (Duke University, mentored by Henry Wilbur, Janis Antonovics, Fred Nijhout, and others). Graduate school at The University of Texas with Larry Gilbert, 1979-1984. Thesis research on evolutionary ecology of Heliconius butterflies in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica. Turned on to ants and taxonomy by Phil Ward, then a Post-doc at Texas. Began collecting Corcovado ants big-time (to detriment of my thesis research). Mentored and encouraged by G. C. and Jeanette Wheeler, Roy Snelling, Dan Janzen, Bill Brown. Met Nalini Nadkarni in Costa Rica, married her. Spent several years at U.C. Santa Barbara where Nalini got a professor job. Developed an undergraduate field course in Tropical Biology through U. C. Education Abroad Program, and taught it annually until 1991. During this time developed close ties with Roy Snelling and Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, working on collection improvement grants. Research to this time mainly involved alpha taxonomy of arboreal ants associated with ant-plants and general natural history of ant-plants. Short move to Sarasota, Florida, as free-lance biologist, where Nalini was Director of Research at Selby Gardens (weird return home). In 1991 joined the faculty of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, splitting a position with Nalini (which allowed us both to do half-time research in an institution largely dedicated to teaching). I continued teaching a tropical biology field course for Evergreen (my pal Frank Joyce took over the California program). At the same time, colleagues and I got a grant from the new Biotic Surveys and Inventories program at NSF to carry out arthropod biodiversity inventory at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. I became Scientific Director of the ALAS project (Arthropods of La Selva), working closely with lead PI Rob Colwell, the crew at the nascent INBio (Costa Rica's Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad), and many taxonomic collaborators. ALAS was highly successful and continued through a series of four consecutive grants, until 2005. In the mid 1990's I started incrementally building the Ants of Costa Rica website, which turned out to be remarkably popular and useful. By 2005, reviewers were getting "ALAS fatigue." They finally said no and ALAS (sadly) had to end. By this time I was getting interested in 1) leaf litter ants, which lent themselves to quantitative sampling through Winkler sifting, and 2) quantifying and understanding elevational distributions of ants on tropical mountains. I also became heavily involved in digitization of specimen data and imaging. I began working closely with Brian Fisher and AntWeb, databasing my entire collection and uploading data to AntWeb. I love seeing live distribution maps that zoom to any scale and update whenever a new record is uploaded. I teamed up with Bob Anderson, a taxonomist specializing on Central American litter weevils, and got a grant to survey litter ants and weevils from Nicaragua to southern Mexico, to complement the work in Costa Rica. The LLAMA project (Leaf Litter Arthropods of MesoAmerica) began in 2007 and relied on undergraduate field crews to sample the litter fauna at 34 wet forest sites distributed throughout Central America north of Costa Rica. Nalini and I worked at Evergreen for 19 years, and during that time raised two kids. By 2011 the kids had both fledged and the University of Utah offered us both professor jobs in the Department of Biology. We gulped and made a giant mid-life career move. I arrived in Utah and began setting up my lab in September, 2011. The Longino Utah Ant Lab has begun.