Sadly, evolutionary biologist Michael Majerus died this week. I didn’t know Mike very well, we had chatted from time to time at conferences, and we talked when he came to give us a seminar a few months back, but he was a nice guy, good scientist and an amazingly energetic force for communicating evolutionary biology.
The Departmental seminar that he gave at Hull was one of the most entertaining and enthusiastic of any speaker I have seen. A very accessible discussion of his recent experiments with peppered moths, evolutionary biology in general, and its importance to the general public. I know Mike was especially looking forward to the activities of Darwin year, and had promised to come back to Hull and speak at our own Darwin celebrations.
I first came across him by reading his early work on melanic ladybirds when I was an undergraduate. Since then he has worked on a range of different topics, often related to melanism, lepidoptera and ladybirds. His Cambridge Genetics Dept website describes many of his interests.
Mike was also quite often seen on TV and radio talking about natural history aspects of lepidoptera and especially ladybirds. As I said, he was a great communicator. He was also I believe the first person in the UK to identify the highly invasive harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) that in just the last few years has become amazingly common in the UK. He coordinated the Harlequin Survey and you can see the spread of Harlequins through the UK since 2004 mapped here. The photo is actually of the first Harlequin individual recorded in Hull (2006) which at that point was I think the second most northerly record in the UK.
Anyway, its sad, and I thought a comment on his work and enthusiasm was needed.
Announcement, Dept Genetics Cambridge
Mike’s photo taken from his Cambridge lab website.
Harlequin photo by Africa Gomez