While her neighbors were in the comfort of their homes busy playing with dolls and robots, Professor and scientist Aimee Lynn Dupo spent her childhood like a mad scientist playing with insect nets and vials and collected spiders for derby.

Her first scientific observations, even with her innocent mind, were that of spiders wrestling, killing and eating each other. “It was both amusing and puzzling,” recounted Dr. Dupo.

But her enthusiasm on spider-fighting soon faded when she grew older and got to know more about other things.

“I got hooked on arts and crafts, and even decided to take Agriculture for my BS degree just because I wanted to drive a tractor,” she said.

But fate again took another course during her undergraduate days at UPLB when she was mentored by world-renowned experts Dr. Leonila Raros and Dr. Henry Facundo. “They encouraged me to study the behavior of Philippine spiders for my undergraduate thesis,” she recalled.

Luckily, her parents, both entomologists, have been working also on spiders so they became some sort of a team.

So she found herself again playing with spiders day after day, taking note of their gestures and fighting tactics, and completing an incredible thesis on taxonomy and ecology of spiders for which she received the Luisito S. Cuy Memorial Award for Systematics from the Philippine Association of Entomologists, Inc.

First love never dies

Although she temporarily shifted to studying moths for her masteral studies under the late Dr. Stephen Reyes, she came back to her first love.

“Spiders became a family affair. My father continues to study their taxonomy while I focus on their ecology; my late mother worked on their genetics,” Dupo said. It was their dream as a “family-turned-research-team” to make a pictorial guide of Philippine spiders using the results of their combined long years of spider research.

Spiders became a family affair.

Since 2007, she named 78 new species of spiders from the Philippines and the Hainan Island, China. She even named one of her discoveries, Neoscona albertoi, after her father.

Overwhelmed by her love for spiders, she is now inspiring young students to study the creepy crawlers. Recently, together with her father and a former student, she revealed their discovery of a cave-dwelling tarantula which they named as Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos—after its habitat (kweba or cave) and the locality of the cave (Burdeos Municipality).

Museum as training ground

“The Museum (of Natural History) is my first home and training ground,” Dupo said.

Back then, her position at the Museum was not a high-paying job but she enjoyed working in that “old, seemingly unnoticeable building” establishing “ties and relationships” with the staff and exchanging ideas with them.

She considers getting the courage to speak in front of a large crowd as her most memorable learning experience as a University Extension Associate at the MNH. Back then she facilitated seminars and entertained visitors and dignitaries from various agencies.

“I got to work with some of the best people in their respective fields and became close to the MNH staff, and these kinds of friendships are what I treasure most,” --- Aimee Dupo.

People usually have the impression that museums are limited to collecting and preserving plants and animals. Her life as a curator for moths and spiders says it otherwise. She highlights that doing fieldwork is necessary because “we obtain primary data from the field collection” and that the Museum’s collections serve as sources of basic information for taxonomic research.

Her experiences from the field have already honed her into one of the esteemed professors in the university. “What I share and teach to my students are mainly from what I have also learned from the field,” said Dupo.

‘It is never work; it’s my life’

Long before she became one of the very few experts in her field, she was strongly discouraged by her father to pursue taxonomy “because there is no money there.”

But the pull of her passion is so strong that anything she does leads her to what she loves most— studying spiders and moths.

On top of her research endeavors, she is also respected for her excellence in leadership and teaching. She is the current deputy director of the Institute of Biological Sciences at UPLB where she teaches Ecology. Recently, she was recognized as one of the finalists in the Gawad Pangulo Awards, a search for outstanding and innovative teachers in the UP System.

“As a colleague, Aimee is very hard-working and driven. She sets timetables and does her best to finish before the deadlines. She is very strict, but within reason,” said Prof. Ivy Amor Lambio, one of her closest co-teachers and a good friend.

Colleagues and students also admire Dr. Dupo’s generosity as she graciously shares even her personal equipment. She even devotes time to teach her colleagues and students how to bake pastries.

“She values family so much that she doesn’t let work eat up her family time,” Lambio said.

Students continue to admire her dedication to inspire the young generation to excel academically and at the same time grow into a total person.

“She has everything you would want in a teacher and more. Very intelligent, approachable, with the strictness of a mother you can never hate, but still youthful, strong-willed, and armed with the perfect amount of stubbornness,” her student Joseph Rasalan shared.

Very intelligent, approachable, with the strictness of a mother you can never hate

“[She] never gave me a chance to give up. [She] never gave me a reason to quit,” he added.

More than being a teacher, she is also a devoted parent to two sons who have become known to her friends, colleagues and even students.


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