Opening Plenary Presenter
“Murder, Maggots and Mayhem”
Sunday, November 17 │ 5:45 PM
Join us Sunday evening to kick off Entomology 2019 with Erica McAlister’s opening plenary talk “Murder, Maggots and Mayhem” as she shares her joy working with these fluffy beasts. Yes they hang around faeces and dead bodies but a world without flies would be a smellier one. Not as valuable to us as the buzzing bees? Think again. And Who does not like a parasite? Arguably the most ecologically diverse of all animals, flies have dipped their tarsi in every pie.
Erica McAlister studied Applied Environmental Biology for her undergraduate at the University of Manchester in the early 90’s. Whilst there she was able to undertake two placements; the first at the then Institute of Terrestrial Biology, where she ran around catching heather beetles on the Dorset Heaths and worked on their Dipteran parasites, followed by a placement at the University of Adelaide where she worked on ant communities in the South Australian Outback. Her Doctorate was in wetland ecological entomology at the University of Roehampton. During her time researching this topic she turned to the taxonomic expertise that was housed in The Natural History Museum, London, and volunteered with them after she had completed her thesis.
After a period of lecturing in Ecology, Entomology and Biostatistics, mostly at Roehampton but also guest lecturing at various other Universities, she secured some contract work at the NHM. This turned into a maternity cover position, which in term led to a full time job in the Diptera Section in 2006, where she is now a Senior Curator. At the Museum, Erica is responsible for the Lower Brachycera, the Mycetophilidae, the Culicidae, and recently she has taken on the Siphonaptera (flea) collection.
Her research work is broad and varied and has included Mosquito projects both in the UK and abroad, Asilidae in South Australia and Bat flies (and other Diptera) from Dominica. AS well as working on flies she is an avid promoting of museum collections in research and the development of novel methods for utilising old specimens for new research. She is a guest lecturer on 2 different Masters Courses and hosts numerous students in the department.
Very much involved with public outreach, Erica has also appeared on TV, Radio (including presenting the series ‘Who’s the Pest’ on Radio 4), numerous podcasts, as well giving talks at Science Festivals, International Nature Fairs and Wildlife Organisations, promoting flies and the research undertaken at the Museum. She is President of the Amateur Entomology Society (UK), and sits on the committee for the Dipterists Forum (UK) and the International Congress of Dipterology. In 2016, her first book ‘The Secret Life of Flies’ was published, a popular science book introducing flies to a new age which has received international acclaim across the globe.