The main message I would like to convey is that we must preserve biodiversity of even the strangest and most disgusting animals because they can lead to major discoveries about how animals, including humans, work (particularly with muscles and skeletons in my case) as well as lead to totally unanticipated discoveries that can have direct relevance to humans and how we interact with our environment. We believe that Diversity Enables Discovery.
How did it get to be that way? How can we explain its origin? Here we must know something about history. We will always seek answers to questions of origin. Complete understanding of a structure, its function or an animal’s response to its environment is really impossible without knowledge of its history. In fact, it is the history that in many cases gives us the best clues to present response to the environment.
For example, we have discovered a gecko that runs around in the cold in China. Standard physiology suggested it couldn’t not happen. We brought it into the lab and found it is twice as economical as any other lizard. This helped us to discover the origins of nocturnality.
How does it work? How does it respond? What are the rules or general principles that are operating? These are the types of questions that we work on most.
How can information help humans, other animals and our environment?
Relevance refers to Applied Research. By its very definition the answer to this question depends on the application of basic information, Basic Research. Roots and rules make up the Basic research and are essential for relevant application.
Without basic research, we have no applied research. New discoveries come from answering basic questions. Every major business knows this, which is why they put money into research and development. Otherwise they have no hope to be competitive in the future.
The important question is where should the business or the government puts its money. The problem is you can’t know ahead of time what you’ll discover. Its unknown!!! Really revolutionary discoveries often come in the most unexpected or improbable areas. We are an example.
This implies that answering questions that seem trivial, now, could actually be essential later.
Our research on muscles and skeletons with insects and crabs has lead to application in the field of robotics that could not be easily anticipated.