Paul and Evi Buckner-Opler


At the tender age of nine, Paul and his childhood friend Peter were so mesmerized by two beautiful blue butterflies, shellacked to the top of his mother's jewelry box, they decided to go catch the real thing. Armed with nets made from coat hangers and nylon stockings, they set out on their mission, and so began Paul's life-long passion for studying butterflies, moths and other species of insects. With a B.A. in entomology from Berkley, to his Post Doctorate research in Costa Rica studying topical plant ecology, his interest in nature has always been at the forefront, both personally and professionally.

After returning from Costa Rica, Paul worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington D.C. before transferring to Fort Collins in 1983. He then became connected to Colorado State University, first as a faculty affiliate with the Entomology Department, then a full time professor with the Department of Biology and Agricultural Sciences. Although somewhat retired, Paul still advises graduate students, performs class lectures and special speaking engagements, and continues his writings and research, but mostly focuses his efforts on helping build the Insect Museum.

Fortunately for Paul, his wife Evi—a native of Germany and a retired flight attendee—shares his passion for nature, particularly moths and butterflies. Paul says, "We get to travel a lot. I write books and do the research. Evi does photography, reads the GPS and takes field notes. We make a great team." Next to his own research and writings, near and dear to the Paul and Evi's hearts is Colorado State University's C.P. Gillette Museum of Arthropod Diversity—the seventh largest University collection in North America.

Located in the basement of Laurel Hall, the museum houses more than 4 million species of insects, some specimens dating back to the 1890's. Recently, the museum was visited by four students from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The students, with the help of Dr. Opler, removed legs from approximately 400 cataloged species as part of an international research project. Their goal is to assemble a reference collection of DNA bar codes that can be used to identify the species of all living organisms. Paul says, "The DNA bar-coding is cutting-edge and we're happy to be a part of it."

The Opler's passion for preserving the Insect Museum is not only represented in their work, but also in their planned gift to CSU which designates a portion of their estate to the endowment fund for the C.P. Gillette Insect Museum. Future plans include housing the Insect Museum with CSU's Natural History Museum, comprised of a botany, fish, anthropology, nematode and Antarctic soil core collection. Evi says, "We really want to see the museum moved to a different location because it's already been flooded once during the Spring Creek Flood of 1997. We don't want to take the chance of that happening again."

In addition, Paul says, "It's important to put a bit of yourself towards things that are important in your life, and that you want to see perpetuated in future generations. Certainly museums are entities that need to be kept alive in order to have understanding and a record of diversity in the world."