Daniel Proud: Moravian’s Own Spider-Man

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Dr. Proud is not actually the real-life Spider-Man, but he does work with spiders and other arachnids. 

An assistant professor of biology at Moravian, Proud has been interested in ecology and evolution for as long as he can remember. Not surprisingly, then, as an undergraduate at Virginia Wesleyan College, he majored in biology and went on to earn a Ph.D. in environmental and evolutionary biology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. 

Where do the spiders come in? 

Spiders and other arachnids were part of his research in graduate school. “They are important to biodiversity,” said Proud, “playing vital roles in the operation and preservation of ecosystems.” 

Proud’s favourite spider is the Wandering Spider, which is located mostly in the tropics. The spider fascinates him, in part, because rather than building webs to catch its food, it directly hunts prey at night. 

The Guinness World Records ranks the Wandering Spider as one of the most venomous spiders in the world. It is known to be very aggressive — but it may also prove helpful to humans: scientists are studying the arachnid to see if it can weave its web into a new kind of silk for the textile industry. 

For all of the people who are scared of spiders, Dr. Proud has some advice: Appreciate what they do for us.

Spiders eat other insects like mosquitoes that spread diseases (such as malaria) to people. Spiders have also been seen trapping and eating lantern flies, an invasive species from Southeast Asia that’s currently ravaging grape vines, maple trees and other plants in Pennsylvania, among other places.

So next time you see a spider, think twice about squashing it.

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