Buffington, Matthew (active)
Matt Buffington was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. Nestled squarely between the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he learned at and early age to explore and enjoy the outdoors. While aircraft, cars, and locomotives were his main interest growing up, his father made sure he understood the concept of evolution and the importance of studying the natural world. His father, quite frankly, wanted him to pursue a career in medicine. Upon graduating from high school, Matt attended UC Riverside for undergraduate work. It was here, failing at general chemistry and calculus that it was clear medicine was not in his future. After taking time off school, and waiting tables, Matt returned to school and was committed to finding an on-campus job to offset the costs of living. Here is where fate stepped in, as Riverside is one of the world’s entomological centers of excellence, and he found a job immediately. In fact, the only qualification for the job was to be able to drive a manual transmission! Once hired, he started sorting insect specimens taken from a biodiversity survey of coastal sage scrub. While sorting, he was simply amazed by the shapes and forms of insects under the microscope…but what really caught his attention was the concept of undescribed species of wasps. During a visit to the UC Riverside research museum, Matt was attempting to ‘put names’ on spider wasps (Pompilidae); he was informed by the collection manager, Doug Yanega, what it was likely these pompilids were ‘undescribed’. To put it bluntly, Matt was stunned that there as of yet to be described species left on planet Earth! Further, he was, with the right training, capable of describing new species! With a new focus on both scholastics and a career, Matt altered focus away from medicine and more towards natural history. He went on his first insect collecting trips with John Heraty (future major professor) and Mike Gates (current colleague) and starting hanging out with grad students to learn what was possible after graduating. This rather sudden change resulted not only in vastly improved GPA, but also he laid plans for a Master’s degree at Texas A&M (where he became a colleague and friend of Bob and Abby Kula), and eventually back to Riverside for a Phd. While working on the Master’s degree, under the funding of NSF’s PEET program, Matt got the chance to visit the USNM for the first time. Blown away by the facilities and collection, he aimed to return someday, hopefully as an employed scientist. Five years later he was interviewed for a hymenopterist positing at the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory, but lost out to Mike Gates! One year later, he as honored to be interviewed again, and this time, was competing with his colleague and friend, Bob Kula! The world of parasitic Hymenoptera systematics seemed to be very small indeed. In an incredible stroke of luck and diplomacy, Bob Kula and Matt Buffington were both hired at SEL, and along with Mike Gates, began a new chapter in parasitic Hymenoptera research at the USNM Today Matt lives in Potomac with his wife and colleague Lourdes Chamorro, their daughter, and their native garden (a major ongoing project). When not conducting research at the USNM, or abroad, Matt enjoys cars, car repair, hi-fi and record collecting, Aloha shirt collecting, reading, tinkering, and barbecuing.