John F. Lawrence, ESA Fellow (2005)

Dr. John F. Lawrence, an Honorary Fellow of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Queensland Museum, was elected as a Fellow of the ESA in 2005. He is internationally recognized for his work on the higher evolution, identification, and classification of Coleoptera. Widely recognized for his work on “problem taxa,” he is responsible for the phylogenetic resolution of several clades of cryptic species. He is also well known for his work into the ecology of fungus-feeding arthropods and the use of beetles as a measure of biodiversity and as bioindicators for human activities on natural habitats.

Lawrence was born in Oakland, CA on 27 December 1934. He spent his early years in California and later studied at the University of California, Berkeley earning his B.A. in zoology in 1957 and his Ph.D. in entomology in 1965. He is married and became a naturalized Australian citizen in 1981.

Lawrence curated and coordinated the entomological collections at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University from 1964–1977. Following his work at Harvard, he moved to Australia to work as a principal research scientist in the CSIRO Division of Entomology. From 1977–1999, he worked for CSIRO in various roles, including as a chief research scientist in the Division of Entomology and as section head of taxonomy and general biology. From 1977–1999, he also served as the curator of Coleoptera for the Australian National Insect Collection.

With a diverse range of research interests, Lawrence has authored over 100 publications in his career. He has contributed on topics of current interest such as using beetles as bioindicators for disturbed habitats and biodiversity, and much older topics such as the description of a new beetle species, Omma rutherfordi, from the fossil record. In addition, Lawrence has been a significant contributor to the Beetle Tree of Life, leading the Taxonomic Working Group on Elateroidea/Byrrhoidea/Dryopoidea/Dascilloidea. As a charter member of The Society for the Study of Coleoptera, later shortened to The Coleopterists Society, John was elected as the fifth president in 1973, and has continued his service to the professional community through a variety of projects. Before retiring in 1999, he summarized his life’s work with a CD-ROM guide to beetle adults and larvae.

The John Lawrence Celebration Symposium was held by CSIRO in Canberra, Australia on 2 December 1999 to mark his retirement and to commemorate his career. A collection of manuscripts submitted by the symposium’s contributors was published by CSIRO in the journal Invertebrate Taxonomy in 2000. John and his wife, Rachel, have retired to the hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

(updated August, 2011)