More than a mere interest in insects

By Wang Ru | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-19

A researcher's unique outlook has enabled him to explore the world of bugs from a new perspective and share their 'superpowers' with the rest of us, Wang Ru reports.

2.jpegAn undated photo shows Chen Rui, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology, helping kids examine insects in Beijing. CHINA DAILY

Nature was Chen Rui's "childhood home". The 37-year-old researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology was not able to talk until he was 4 years old because of the way his brain processes sensory information.

This made him "strange" in some people's minds. So, he didn't have friends who were around his age.

This led him to turn his attention to nonhuman things around him. He became enraptured by the world of insects.

"The happiest time of my childhood was in the farm fields," says Chen. "I squatted there, observing the activities of insects, including ants building their homes, grasshoppers nibbling grass and dragonflies flying low. I had so many questions about their activities and was full of curiosity about this world."

These experiences planted a seed in his heart. Decades later, he's a scholar who has engaged in life-science investigations in nearly 100 countries and regions on five continents.

He has found around 100 new species, living and extinct, many of which are named after him.

"I was a child who was 'cured' by nature," he says. "I wanted to grow up to share the power of nature with more young people and to popularize understanding of animals, including insects. I wanted to start classes to bring children to learn in the open air and experience the gifts nature endows."

These aspirations led him to recently publish the popular-science book, Du Chong Ji (Reading About Insects).

It's a continuation of a mission he began to act upon as a freshman in 2006, when he started an association for people interested in insects at Nanjing Agricultural University. He often arranged for members to visit the Zijin Mountain in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, to look for bugs. His organization eventually had nearly 600 members.

After graduating in 2010, Chen was admitted to the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences to complete his doctorate in zoology. In 2016, he was recruited by the Institute of Zoology of the CAS.

He now focuses on animal evolution.

"Evolution is the source of civilization. It gives all living beings the superpowers they need to live on Earth," says Chen.

He has visited the Amazon rainforest several times.

"Chinese scientists hadn't been there often, and we didn't really understand the place. So, we are traveling there to try to discover new species, and to collect more data and information," says Chen.

1 2 3 ... 6 >

1 2 3 4 5 6 7