The question above was asked by a friend. This friend (who will remain anonymous), is primarily a Odonatologist (dragonfly guy), but is also the preeminent Lepidopterist (butterfly guy) in his neck of the woods. I mention this because I too feel his pain – the world is simply too large and diverse to comprehend. I just hope he doesn’t look too closely at Diptera (flies) or Hymenoptera (bees, ants, wasps) or, heaven forbid, crawfish or spiders (best spider name ever = Neon nelli)!
Of course, lichens are pretty cool. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, plants, etc. are all worthy and interesting subjects to study. It seems a bunch of people study animals other than arthropods (like birds, snakes, or primates), but insects have a special hold on many good hearts.
It is rewarding to master a subject, but it is so difficult to choose that subject. Some people are brilliant and can master big subjects like: ‘insect fauna of North America’. I have to choose smaller subjects (but they are still challenging for me) like: ‘beetle fauna inside stems of an introduced plant’. Even this simple topic has much I don’t understand – for me that is the fun. I want the answers, I just don’t want them given to me. The sense of wonder is what makes it wonderful.
My advice to this person is to study what is fascinating. Learning new things, leads to new questions, which in turn leads to learning new things. In the science dance of: observation, hypothesis, testing, analysis, repeat we are all dancing beautifully. Embrace the idea that a human lifetime is not long enough to quench the thirst of inquisition – if you are living right! Wave your freak flag – HIGH!