A Festschrift in honour of Professor Robert R Jackson

Professor Robert R. Jackson, a visiting scientist at icipe and a Professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, has been honoured in  a Festschrift (a collection of writings celebrating the accomplishments of a scholar) published recently by the New Zealand Journal of Zoology.

Robert Jackson

Prof. Jackson has a long association with the New Zealand Journal of Zoology and has published more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles as well as numerous book chapters throughout his career.

Written by some of his many colleagues and friends, the Festschrift celebrates Prof. Jackson’s productive and successful career in arachnology (the scientific study of spiders and related animals), inspired by his fascination with spiders from a very early age.

The articles in the Festschrift reflect the numerous ways in which Prof. Jackson’s insights have influenced the work of arachnologists around the world, featuring behavioural studies as well as descriptions of spiders from New Zealand and further afield. This includes species from the Australian salticid genus Jacksonoides, originally named in honour of Prof. Jackson and his outstanding work on Salticidae behaviour.

Prof. Jackson’s research at icipe, based at the Thomas Odhiambo Campus on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya, began in 1994, and it has largely been supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand and the National Geographic Society.

He has supervised many PhD, MSc and BSc Honours students since arriving at the University of Canterbury in 1978. Five of his former PhD students are among the authors of the Festschrift: Simon Pollard, Ximena Nelson, Phillip Taylor, and Mary Whitehouse, and Fiona Cross, who is also a visiting scientist at icipe and was a guest editor of the Festschrift.

“Prof. Jackson has helped to challenge the notion that complex, flexible behaviour can only be found in big-brained animals.  Who would have thought that a salticid (Portia fimbriata) from rainforests in Queensland, Australia, deceives its prey and makes plans for capturing its prey, or that a small salticid (Evarcha culicivora) from East Africa prefers eating blood-carrying mosquitoes? Thanks to the work of Robert and his colleagues, we now understand that these spiders are wonderfully complex creatures, not mindless automatons,” says Dr Cross.

“We thank Robert for his infectious enthusiasm and we hope that the papers in this issue will help to continue interest and research in the biology and behaviour of spiders,” says Dr Cross.