Join us for a riveting lecture series with the scientists of the Powdermill Nature Reserve, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s environmental research center. Each month, we will have an expert in their field visit the library to tell us about their research.  

February’s lecture will be with Dr. Ainsley Seago. 

Lilies and other plants in the family Araceae have unusual flowers and even stranger insect associates. From mushroom mimics to rotting carcasses, arums go to extraordinary lengths to attract pollinators outside the usual lineup of bees and butterflies. The western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum ) is pollinated exclusively by beetles, but absolutely nothing is known about the beetles that visit eastern skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetida). This talk will explore the bizarre pollination biology of arums and describe how we hope to use the skunk cabbage patches at Powdermill to solve a botanical and entomological mystery. 


Speaker Bio: Ainsley Seago is the associate curator for the Section of Invertebrate Zoology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. She earned her BS in entomology from Cornell University in 2003 and her PhD in entomology from U.C. Berkeley in 2008. After six years of postdoctoral research in beetle systematics at the Australian National Insect Collection, she served as the insect collection manager for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Biosecurity Collection from 2015-2020. This work involved both collection management and insect diagnostics for biosecurity purposes. Since 2003, Dr. Seago has continued to research the taxonomy and systematics of truffle beetles (family Leiodidae), as well as phylogenetics of other beetle groups and the evolutionary origins of insect iridescence.   

Dr. Seago returned to the United States in 2020 to join the staff of the Section of Invertebrate Zoology. As a curator, her goals are to continue her research on Coleoptera while overseeing the ongoing effort to catalogue the insect collection and to curate CMNH’s historical Lepidoptera specimens. She is a member of the Coleopterists’ Society and the Entomological Society of America.