MOTH MORGUE was staffed with some of the top lepidopterists in the U.S. The experts and volunteers sorted through thousands of moths and butterflies to search for new and rare species. Image: REBECCA P. SCHIFLETT
Sweat trickles down my back as I traipse through a meadow of tall grass, ironweed, asters--and lots of poison ivy. I'm beginning to wish that I had joined the llama expedition up to one of the cool, bald peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rather than helping scientist David L. Wagner hunt for moths down here in the valley. Then I notice a little flutter of light.
I swing an open fist, clench, and feel the tickle of confirmation in my palm--my first catch. Like a spaniel, I trot proudly over to Wagner, who is whipping a fine white net through the ironweed. As I slowly uncurl my fingers, he bends to look at the pea-size moth paralyzed with fear in the center of my hand.
This article was originally published with the title A Search for All Species.