About Spider Joe
I live a dual life as an arachno-naturalist and a software architect. I'm studying spider taxonomy as part of a larger effort to help citizen scientists learn to identify spiders, and I'm creating software technologies that I hope will usher in a future in which everyone naturally contributes to our taxonomic understanding of the world. Meanwhile, I also teach people about spiders, research problems in crab spider taxonomy, write silly and contemplative stories about bugs, and design T-shirts for a forthcoming outlet for bug lovers.
Spiders used to be the only animal I didn't like—I would squish them on sight. A series of incidences over several years gradually turned my phobia into fascination. A biologist friend made me hold a jumping spider, a naturalist friend told me cool facts about the spiders we saw as we searched for butterflies, and I had an accidental spider immersion in the woods and came out unscathed. When I finally saw a beautiful Giant Lichen Orbweaver hanging impossibly in her web, like a moss-covered river stone, I was hooked.
It's been spiders ever since. Now I primarily study the taxonomy of crab spiders, including their color pattern variations while alive. I've discovered at least two new species of crab spiders and am in the process of describing them. I also recently had the tremendous opportunity to revise the key to North American crab spiders, in consultation with the preeminent Charles Dondale, for the forthcoming edition of Spiders of North America: An Identification Manual. Now my head is full of problems in crab spider taxonomy that require resolution, including a few genera to revise.
As time allows, I also curate spiders for the University of Texas at Austin Biodiversity Collections, formerly under John Abbott and now under Alex Wild. I'm usually also mentoring someone in spider identification and taxonomy.
My software development background is broad and includes embedded systems, network protocols, parser technologies, relational databases, and dynamic web sites. I'm best known for contributing to numerous XML standards and technologies, but I hope in the not-too-distant future to be better known for my contributions to technologies that popularize taxonomy. In the mean time, I'll be selling a patent-pending mobile application that I hope will transform how humans enter data into computers. For fun, I also teach an improvisational style of tai chi that I'm developing.
All of the work I do supports a future in which humans live in equilibrium with nature and solve any problem that might interfere with our ability to do so.