Global Seminar Spotlight: Blanca Huertas
This is a continuation of our "IANR is Global" series, which highlights the many ways internationalization is woven through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: through research collaboration, government and private industry partnerships, extension work, student educational experiences and the IANR community from around the world.
This edition is specifically focused on the many global voices we have or have invited to campus who will be sharing their expertise through seminars during fall semester 2020. Guest speaker Dr. Blanca Huertas, senior curator at the National History Museum of London will be presenting a talk entitled “The beauty of the dead: Challenges and opportunities for (butterfly) taxonomy in an era of changes” on October 2 as part of the Department of Entomology’s Fall Seminar Series. We appreciate the expertise we are fortunate to have from all over the world, as shown by their many and varied contributions to the work of the university and our continued mission to create a globally engaged institution. To this end, we want to help our campus community get to know each other (and the world) more, starting with these experts.
Where is your hometown? Where did you receive your education?
I was born in Bogota, one of largest cities and the capital of Colombia. I went there to school and university to complete a bachelor in Science and postgraduate in two public universities there (Pedagogica and Distrital). Shortly after completing my studies, I moved to the UK, in where I have spent half of my life (my other hometown). There I completed my Master in Sciences in Imperial College London and my Doctorate in Science in University College London.
Tell us a little about your path to where you are now.
My dad is from the mountains in Colombia and from childhood he instilled on us love and passion for nature and for science. During our holidays in the field, I was always interested in looking further for butterflies, plants and other insects. I had the opportunity to work with people from the UK when I was undergraduate and that experience opened my horizons to study abroad (although I started in Brazil!).I have always been interested in butterflies and focused my training, efforts, passion and work on them. After completing my studies in the UK, I was employed at the Natural History Museum, in where I am the Senior Curator of the Lepidoptera collections (Butterflies and moths).
What is something people don’t know (or that you wish they knew) about where you’re from?
Colombia is one of the megadiverse countries in the world, number one in number of species of birds and orchids (and butterflies unofficially!). Although there are social issues there, it is a paradise for any nature lover.
Are you engaged in any international partnerships or collaborations in your current role?
I have the pleasure of working in 'the mecca' of butterflies, so everyone studying them visit the Natural History Museum collections at some point, so you get to know almost everyone working in the group. We have partners and collaborators from all over the world, in different departments not just in Life Sciences but in Earth sciences and even in (Public) Engagement. Personally, at the moment I am working with colleagues from North America, Finland, India, Colombia, Brazil and many other countries in Europe, looking from microstructures to discover new species to digging in the DNA of extinct species across different regions of the world.
Why is it important for institutions like the University of Nebraska to prioritize inviting/hearing from people with experience from different parts of the world?
Putting in touch the university students with international speakers is an amazing opportunity to listen different voices across the globe and to network globally. Diversity is not just a biological thing that scientists study but an important aspect of our society. Diversity involves a whole wide spectrum of characters, ideas and concepts that in the long term, will enrich the students critical thinking.
What is one piece of advice you would share with students, especially those who are interested in an international career?
As a Latino-American student in England, I found useful showing some of the most valued things of my culture (for example working hard, always smile keep positive) but get quickly embedded in the culture you are going to; showing the best of both worlds will open doors.
We encourage the campus community to attend Dr. Huerta's seminar at 11:00 a.m. on October 2 via Zoom.
Are you giving a seminar in fall 2020 (or the future) and have an international element to your work, studies or experiences you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Brianne at firstname.lastname@example.org.