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Honored for lifelong research on mayflies

John Brittain at the Natural History Museum receives award for over 50 years of mayfly research. 

Insect scientist John Brittain received Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring over 50 years of mayfly research. 
​​​​​​Photo: Private

In contrast to the short-lived mayflies he is studying, John Brittain keeps it going. His life long work on the insect group has now been honored with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the scientific community. 

–    It is a great honor being recognized internationally for excellent science and promoting studies of freshwater insects, Brittain says. 

Brittain received the award during an international insect conference in Aracruz in Brasil this June. 

Longlasting affair

Brittain began studying mayflies (Ephemeroptera) back in 1967 during his doctorate work at The University of Wales under the theme mayflies and stoneflies in Welsh lakes. 

Mayflies have a short adult lifespan and their flights are often synchronized in order to make sure a lot of individuals are on their wings simultaneously. 
Photo: Hallvard Elven/Natural museum

He continued digging into the insect groups' secrets when moving to the Natural History Museum back in 1971, where he has been ever since. 

Mayflies have a short adult lifespan, something Brittain emphasizes when asked what he finds fascinating about the group that has occupied up most of his research career. 

–    Their nymph stages in water may last months to years, whereas their adult stages are very short, lasting from hours to a few days.

–    They are also central to freshwater ecosystems and constitute important food for fish and birds. 

According to Artsdatabanken there are 48 registered mayfly species in Norway. 

Equivalent award for stoneflies

Where is the plaque going? 

–    I haven't decided yet. Maybe in my office at the museum next to the equivalent prize I got in Japan in 2012 for my stonefly research. 

This is the first time a scientist receives lifetime awards for both mayfly and stonefly work. 

Tags: mayfly, insects, insect diversity, award By Tore Oldeide Elgvin
Published July 2, 2018 3:18 PM - Last modified Dec. 23, 2019 3:54 PM