TUCSON—Karen Saucier’s first glimpse of her new workplace—the insect molecular genetics laboratory at South Carolina’s Clemson University—came as a shocking disappointment. “I almost cried,” recalls Saucier, who had just left a high-powered postdoctoral fellowship at a human genetics laboratory at the University of Miami and was eager to apply those techniques to insects. What confronted her upon arriving at Clemson last year was a huge storage room filled with desks and dusty insect cages.

It took her a month to empty the room, and even longer to get some stratup money—$40,OOO from Clemson’s biotechnology program. As the only person on the 27-person entomology faculty who was trained in molecular biology, she was referred to as the biotechnology freak. “They didn’t think I had much purpose,” she recalls.

Slowly, she is proving them wrong. For years, Clemson taxonomist John Morse has struggled to develop the means to identify caddisfly larvae, but...

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