Analyn Cabras is a biologist. She studies living things. She’s also a taxonomist. She puts living things into categories. Cabras is a conservationist. She works to protect living things. And she’s a coleopterist. The living things she studies are beetles.
Cabras does her research in mountainous regions on the Philippine island Mindanao.
This beetle is about the size of Cabras' thumbnail.
Studying beetles is a pretty big field. Earth is home to more than 400,000 species of beetles. They are the largest group of animals on the planet. Beetles can be found on every continent but Antarctica. They can live where it’s hot or where it’s cold, where it’s dry or where it’s wet. Some are barely visible. Others are almost too big to hold in one hand.
Cabras spends her days looking for beetles on Mindanao, an island in the Philippines. In the rainforests, she sneaks up on tiny, iridescent beetles from the weevil family.
“You have to be very, very careful,” Cabras says. Many beetles are sensitive to vibrations. “If they sense you coming, they fall to the ground.” Then, they’re almost impossible to see. This is just one lesson Cabras has learned from her fieldwork.
Cabras uses a magnifying glass to get a closer look at a beetle.
This island keeps her busy because so little is known about what lives there. “Here in Mindanao, we have so many mountains, which are still unexplored,” she says. Cabras sees her job as recording what is there and looking at how the beetles relate to each other and the world.
So far, her work has been full of surprises. “It feels like every time we go into the field, we discover at least one new species. It’s kind of mind-blowing. In one area of eastern Mindanao, we found four new species in a 1.5-kilometer (less-than-a-mile) stretch,” she says.
It sounds simple, but you have to know what to look for. And you have to be patient. “When you first start field research, you will not find [anything],” Cabras says. “But as you go more often into the field, you will find so much, you won’t know where to begin!”
Know Your Scientist
In her work studying beetles, Analyn Cabras plays many roles:
an expert on living organisms
a person who studies or collects beetles
a person who supports or acts for the protection of the environment and wildlife
an expert in the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings
a biologist that names and groups organisms into categories