Have You Met…Danny Shpeley?

Have you met Danny, Assistant Curator of the E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum?

Danny Shpeley

Have you met Danny, Assistant Curator of the E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum? Spend the next few minutes getting to know him a little better…before his retirement on January 17, 2020!

What roles have you had at U of A?
I started as an assistant curator with the Department of Entomology in 1974. In 1994 there was a merger of departments to form the Department of Biological Sciences, where I’m still an assistant curator of the entomology museum. I also was a TA for labs, and a large part of my role has been logistical support for undergraduate courses that have a field component.

In what ways has the U of A changed during your time here?
There have been many changes in student culture. I notice that students are on their phones a lot, and everyone is electronically connected. When I first came here computing was done using punch cards and there was a mainframe computer in the General Services Building that took up a whole room.

How has the museum changed since you’ve been working in it?
In October 1974 the collection wasn’t very large; we occupied several rooms on the second floor of the Earth Sciences building. The collection has more than doubled in size and is really quite large now. Not only do we continue to collect specimens, we also accept donations and have enlarged our collection a lot that way. We moved into this new space in the Biological Sciences building in May 2015.

What is your favourite item in the museum?
There are some beetles that are my favourite, there’s a bess beetle (genus Proculus) and a violin beetle (genus Mormolyce) which is very unusual in its body form. I’ve worked on beetles all my career, mostly on ground beetles in the family Carabidae.

Images of two different beetle species

Where is your favourite place on campus?
I like the new CCIS building. The flooring is unique, and the dinosaur skeleton in the atrium is really quite impressive. I really like that space. Outside, I like the area next to the arts building and HUB. It’s a nice old building, and there are beautiful trees and a pond.

What is something your coworkers don’t know about you?
I like woodworking and woodturning, especially laminated bowls.

Laminate bowl

What is your proudest achievement at U of A?
The 32 papers I’ve authored or co-authored and published. I’m working on my thirty-third paper, to be published later this year. I’ve been involved in papers that described more than 100 new species. The one published in 2017 on the West Indian Selenophori was one of the larger papers I worked on — and the most time consuming. It was a project that George Ball and I had started more than 35 years ago and it just sat on the back burner and I did some work every so often, and about five years ago I did a push to get it done.

What’s next for you after retirement?
More fishing and woodworking, probably some projects around the house. I’m considering to volunteer within the department to help with the transition of my role. There are all sorts of ongoing projects here, and it would be nice to see some of them finished.

Danny Shpeley

About Danny

Danny grew up on a farm north of Mannville, Alberta and moved to Edmonton with his family when he was 16. After completing technical school and university, in October 1974 he started his lifelong career as an assistant curator in the Department of Entomology at the U of A. During the past 45 years, he has authored and co-authored more than 30 scientific papers and participated in many field trips to collect ground beetles for the Strickland Museum. As hobbies he enjoys reading, woodworking, fishing, camping, and spending time with his wife of 47 years, his two children, and his three grandchildren.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.