George McGavin, author and tv presenter, talks to Rachel McLeod
Published short version
Dr George McGavin and Rachel McLeod
interview was 5000 words long but I only had 2000 words to write it in.
I selected out of the full interview what I thought most people would
find interesting. I wanted people
reading to engage fully in entomology, then make it their career.
you take out all of the short sentences that donít really have much in them,
to make things shorter, it changes the way people speak and it doesnít sound
like them if you read it to yourself. Even if in your mind you say it in their
voice, it still doesnít sound like them. Look
at my website, www.rachelmcleod.com/interviews and look at the full transcript
of this interview. You can also
listen to it.
chose to interview George McGavin because he was the Head Curator of the
you were to keep only one insect, which would it be and why?
do like eating them of course, as you may know, so I do rear them and I do fry
them up sometimes which is very nice. the Black African Cricket, which sings,
and are very good fried in a wok.
itís got to be a rainforest - most animal species in the world live in
rainforest. Youíve got around 6%
of the land surface area is rainforest and thatís where probably 60% of
again, it has to be wild, it has to be unspoilt. it would have to be forest, an
ancient forest, and one of my
favourite woodlands is actually
Tree in Windsor Great Park
was your favourite trip?
letís go through them. Himalayas,
Belize, Venezuela, Guyana, three times to Africa, Papua New Guinea twice,
Borneo, Indonesia. I think the
think the best way to get them involved is to show them. And to start young.
Lots of kids find insects and things really interesting and they lose this as
they get older.
written books and Iíve travelled and Iíve done lots of interesting things,
and itís still my passion, And it is quite amazing, sometimes I have to pinch
myself because somebody is actually paying me to go around the world and look at
you need to do, what we all need to do is to conserve habitats. That is
the key. When I was born in 1954, there were 2.6 billion of us and there are now
over six billion, so thatís more than a factor of two in 55 years. Rainforest.
Less than 6% of the total land surface area. If we just conserve that, if the
world says, ĎThis is important. Letís conserve just 6% of the land surface
areaí, by doing that we save the majority of species on Earth.
skills do people need if they are going to become an entomologist?
Observation. Look and learn. Thatís the key. And in fact if people looked and learned about spiders and insects more, they would eventually come to enjoy them. So look, learn and love.What is the most expensive piece of equipment you have bought for a trip and why?
had to buy a very good camera.Thatís actually one of the ways that you can
interest people in insects, is by taking really fantastically good shots of
them, and because some of the most interesting ones are quite small, you need a
good bit of kit. And the other piece of equipment that everybody should have, is
a microscope, and the best one that you can buy, because thatís an instrument
that you will use every day, or every other day.
On expeditions, and this is absolutely true, the biggest cause of accidents and
death are cars and driving. And the only animal Iím scared of abroad isÖ
Have a guess? Humans. Human beings are the only really dangerous, nasty bit of
work. Having said that, of course, on all my trips, I meet lots of people who
are absolutely wonderful, very helpful, very kind, very generous. But as a
general rule the only time Iíve been scared is when human beings have other
ideas about what youíre doing there and why youíre there. Poachers, for
I can tell you this. We were in East Africa, in
is your favourite thing to do about your job?
places. Travel in the field. The fact that I now get to go on these expeditions
and they pay me to go. They say, ĎGeorge, where are we going to go? Somewhere
really hot and nice, with loads of bugs. Letís go there. Hereís some cash.
Donít worry about anything. Hereís your flight, hereís your accommodation.
New boots you want? Fine, there you are, have new boots.í Itís great.
briefly, how it happened was that at school I loved biology. I was always
interested in animals and plants, so after having come top in biology for ever
at school, it was the obvious thing to do a degree in zoology at
your age, itís not difficult to become anything. What you have to have is
passion. Ok, it may change, it may change into something else, but when
theyíve got the passion youíve got to feed it. Itís like a small flame,
youíve got to put fuel on it and youíve got to blow it and fan it, otherwise
itíll eventually go out.
they would go Ďwheeeeeí. Insects would do great. As we all know, the world
would do very, very well without humans. It would be fantastic. It would be a
riotous hotbed of biology and insects and animals all doing fantastic things. So
when we become extinct or leave for elsewhere, one thing you can be sure of is
that insects will still be around. Insects have been around for 400 million
years on land, and we have only been around for less than a million. So
basically, they will see us off without any trouble at all, whatever we do.
Which is a nice thought, isnít it?
found a few species here and there, and Iíve done some articles in the press
and Iíve written some text books, and books for kids. Basically, what I think
is the most valuable thing Iíve done is to make other people interested.
Iíve taught here for 25 years, and lots of people Iíve taught are now
entomologists and ecologists, and doing behaviour and genetics of insects and
other things, and thatís exciting. So if I in any way opened their eyes to the
wonderful world of bugs, then I think that is what I leave behind.
are the biggest challenges facing entomology today?
the same challenges facing us all. The fact that there is a general habitat
loss. Animals and plants are going, habitats are going. Because we have to find
out about [insects], because a sixth of our crops are eaten by bugs, and one
person in six is affected by an insect-borne disease. So we still have to find
out lots and lots about them.
is the most important question I could have asked you?
no stone which has been unturned here, Youíve been through just about
everything, I think. But I think the key point about all this is the bit I said
earlier: if you have a passion, follow it. Youíre very young. This isnít a
rehearsal, though. We donít come back again. Iím afraid youíre only on
this Earth once. So enjoy it while you can. Have fun. And whatever you want to
do, if you have a passion for it, youíre going to do it.
thanks to George McGavin for allowing me to interview him.
You can look at Georgeís website on http://www.georgemcgavin.co.uk
to look at what heís done as an entomologist.
For more information on the