by Wojciech Pulawski

 

 

My big travels started with a revision of the world species of the wasp genus Gastrosericus, for which I received a National Science Foundation grant.  To collect specimens, I visited Thailand, India, and Pakistan in 1989.  One spectacular stroke of luck awaited me at the  Krishnaghiri Upawan National Park near Bombay, where I found a good series of Gastrosericus wroughtoni, known at that time from a single specimen described exactly one hundred years before, in 1889, and kept at The Natural History Museum, London. There were some dramatic moments as well: one night, in the center of Kirthar National Park, armed men started banging on the doors of our guesthouse, and my Pakistani companions shake like leaves and kept asking me “What can we do?” Fortunately, the supposed kidnappers turned out to be the park guards who were not prevented about our arrival and came to inquire who we were. In 1990, I visited the Ivory Coast, Togo, and Ghana, and in subsequent years many other African countries, Cape to Cairo. Collecting was quite successful, and the revision of the genus, finally published in 1995, includes a total of 61 species (27of which discovered for the first time).

 

In parallel with Gastrosericus, I started a revision of the African Tachysphex , a large and difficult genus of solitary wasps. The project was supported by another NSF grant,  and it brought me to little known places, such as the Somalian border of Ethiopia or toward the lake Chad in eastern Niger. I suppose I was the first entomologist to visit these areas, and certainly the first hymenopterologist.  Like Gastrosericus, the Tachysphex are active during the hot hours of the day, and collecting required many hours of exposure to the tropical sun. A list of the countries visited for this project is long: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. As a result, California Academy of Sciences has the best representation of African Tachysphex, as well as or the world Gastrosericus. A full scale monograph of African Tachysphex, a book of 698 pages, was published in 2007.  It includes a total of 203 species (nearly a half of the world species), of which 64 were previously unknown.

 

In 2006, my interest switched to Australia, where I started collecting materials for revisions of the endemic genera Larrisson and Sericophorus, as well as the Australian representatives of the cosmopolitan genus Pison.  So far, I visited Queensland, Northern Territory, and Western Australia (two months each).  My revisions of the first two genera were submitted for publication in August 2009 and September 3009, respectively, but a revision of Pison is in an early stage. It will require a lot of work: 57 species have been described from Australia, whereas I already know some 130. Another exciting project, full of discoveries.

Contact

  • Wojciech J. Pulawski
  • Curator Emeritus
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5313 (direct)