Andrew Harper is bugging about his senior thesis


Cristian Orellana

A cheerful Andrew Harper, environmental science senior, smiles as he describes his upcoming talk. Harper's thesis was driven by his interest in the interactions between dragonflies and an urban environment. Photo credit: Cristian Orellana

Tess Rowland

From the New Orleans Museum of Art to amusement rides, there is an array of attractions for an avid fan of City Park. But for one Loyola senior, it’s not the paddle boats or the train ride that draws his interest; it’s long, winged insects.

Andrew Harper, environmental science senior, will host a talk about the natural history of the damselfly and dragonfly, two insects that he currently conducts specie diversity research on for his senior thesis.

Held in the New Orleans Botanical Gardens on Sept. 22, the event is geared to get kids and their families excited about nature and the lives of both the damselfly and dragonfly.

For his thesis, Harper captures the creatures by chasing them down with his net to test the population of the insects in the area.

His efforts led to his advisor putting him in contact the New Orleans Botanical Gardens in hopes they would put his research and collections to good use.

The newly-formed relationship spawned the creation of his event at City Park allowing patrons the opportunity to see the creatures up close in their natural habitat, as well as learn how to catch and handle the creatures.

What prompted Harper to choose the two creatures as the subject of his thesis is his fascination with dragonflies and damselflies interacting in an urban environment like New Orleans.

“What most people don’t know is that dragonflies in their larval stage live in the water for up to two years before they fly around. So a lot of the water pollutants in the water system and the stuff we put into our water can greatly affect how they survive and if they are going to survive,” Harper said.

Harper hopes that families and children attending the event will begin to think of their roles in the preservation of these creatures.