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Murray State Prof Discovers New Insect Species With Help From Five-Year-Old Daughter

Posted at 12:33 PM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 12:36:49-04

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE/WTPR) – A Murray State University biology professor made an entomological discovery in her back yard thanks to a special research assistant ….her 5-year-old daughter.

Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers said her daughter, Sylvie, found the new species of treehoppers while they were planting flowers in their garden back in 2016. According to WAVE 3 News, the discovery was the result of serendipity when her daughter overwatered their garden. 

“I still can’t believe that these undiscovered treehoppers were essentially in my own backyard. What’s even crazier is that I never would have found them had it not been for the wasps delivering them to my flower bed and my daughter over watering it,” Sullivan-Beckers said.

Because the treehoppers were underground in the dirt, Sullivan-Beckers realized they might be different.  Over the summer, the mother and daughter collected thousands of treehoppers, including about 72 belonging to the new species, while taking notes along the way. She sent the samples to a lab that confirmed her discovery.

Sullivan-Becker is working to research the insect. It will be named the Hebetica sylviae.