Metz, Mark (Active)
United States Department of Agriculture
Lepidoptera Systematics/Diversity
Mark is a native of southern California. Being a first generation Californian, his values reflect a combination of Pennsylvanian parentage and West Coast enculturation. Mark had frequented California and Arizona deserts while camping, fishing, and hiking, but after his father accepted a principal position at Indio High School, Mark quickly self-identified as a “desert rat.” Mark grew up a scholar athlete with broad interests in the natural world and human performance. After graduating, he was accepted at the University of California, Berkeley, but only spent a year with the northerners when he returned to southern California and completed a BS in kinesiology at UCLA. Mark funded much of his own education by working as a personal trainer in Los Angeles, hobnobbing with the Hollywood types. After a brief interlude considering medical school, Mark found his passion was research obtaining a BS in biology from the California State University, Northridge. His thesis was a study of mimetic patterns in Syrphidae (Diptera). After finishing his MS, he left the glamour of L.A. behind to work with Dr. F. Christian Thompson (Systematic Entomology Laboratory emeritus) at the Smithsonian Institution helping to database the syrphid flies of Plummers Island while “shopping” for a PhD position. In 1996, he started a PhD program on the systematics of Therevidae (Diptera) under Dr. Michael E. Irwin (University of Illinois emeritus) under the NSF Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy program. It was at Illinois where Mark met his wife, J. Marie, a scientific illustrator of exceptional talent. After graduating from UI in 2002 and completing a short post-doc there, Mark went to the Pennsylvania State University for a one-year post doc doing more research on Diptera and helping to manage the Frost Entomological Museum. Marie stayed behind in Illinois teaching art, graphic design, and art history at Lincoln Land Community College, so after a year mostly apart Mark reunited full-time with his wife becoming essentially an unemployed PhD in Springfield, Illinois. Mark kept himself busy with odd jobs and fulfilled contracted work writing test preparation books in Illinois until Marie applied for and received the position of scientific illustrator for the Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) back in DC. Upon arrival, Mark was hired temporarily and then permanently as the support scientist (2004-2014) for the research leader of SEL. He contributed to publications in three additional orders of insects (Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, and Homoptera) in support of the research leaders Drs. Michael E. Schauff, M. Alma Solis, and Gary L. Miller. In 2014, SEL chose Mark to be the next research entomologist studying microlepidoptera, a position formerly held by Dr. John W. Brown. Mark’s role in SEL is the systematics of Gelechioidea, particularly the Gelechiidae; curation of the microlepidoptera in the National Insect collection; and the identification of microlepidoptera intercepted at US ports of entry. Mark is also a techno-geek and avid Linux and open-source software user, and digitization guru. Mark was elected to the Washington Biologist’s Field Club in October 2016 and attends many club activities. He was added to the House and Grounds Committee and currently serves on the Club’s board (2017-2019). Mark lives on 11 acres in rural Virginia with his wife, Marie; three cats (Edna, Poe, and Usher); and two birds (a yellow-crowned Amazon parrot named Goblin and a Bourke parakeet named Piff).