Dr. Aiello obtained her B.A. in Biology
from Brooklyn College, NYC,
and her M.A. and PhD in Biology from Harvard University.
Born in New York City in 1941 and raised in the rural town of Killingworth,
Connecticut, Annette Aiello attended elementary grades at a one-room school.
she showed an early interest in natural history, the nine years following high
school were devoted at first to music, and then to photography, meanwhile
supported by a variety of odd jobs, including at a mannequin factory, a shoe store, a
jewelry store, and the American Cancer Society. She took basic courses in music
in the extension division at the Juilliard School, and sang in the Interracial
Fellowship Chorus, which gave several Town Hall concerts each year. She then
moved to New Orleans, where she sang in the chorus of the New Orleans Symphony
Orchestra. Several years later, back in New York, after earning a certificate in
all aspects of black and white commercial photography from the Germain School of
Photography, it was the camera that guided her back to her roots. All available
moments were spent photographing New England wildflowers, preparing herbarium
specimens, identifying plants, and learning basic botany. It was not until the age of
27 that she decided it was time to go to college.
After college, she continued through graduate school with a PhD
thesis in taxonomic botany. She did her thesis
field work in Mexico and Jamaica.
In 1976, she accompanied Robert Silberglied, an Associate Professor at Harvard,
to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) field station on Barro
Colorado Island, Republic of Panama, to collaborate on the study of Anartia
butterflies, their natural history and the natural hybridization between two of its
five species. She was entranced by tropical caterpillars and soon began her own
studies of tropical moth and butterfly life histories, a project that continues to
this day. She has published 61 scientific papers; and co-edited a book (1992),
with Diomedes Quintero Arias, "Insects of Panama and Mesoamerica: Selected
Studies," Oxford University Press, xxii + 692 pp. She is the manager of the STRI Insect
Collections, which includes the STRI Synoptic Collection, begun with Robert
Silberglied on BCI, together with the vouchers pertaining to her work and that
of other researchers.