Kenji Nishida was born in Matsubara-city, Osaka, Japan in 1972. He is the only child of his father Kazumichi Nishida and his mother Utae Takahashi. His love for nature began at an early age–taking care of animals and plants, and observing, collecting, and rearing insects became his passion.

Reflecting upon his youth Kenji once said, “From early spring to late fall I would venture out to my uncle’s backyard, an open field, or even sneak into neighbor’s yards looking for insects all day long, carrying my bamboo pole insect net in both hands with an insect cage hanging from my neck. I think this went on until the third or fourth grade of my school years”.

It is evident that Kenji’s childhood passions foretold his future as a biologist. At the age of fifteen, Kenji traveled to Searcy, Arkansas in the United States where he spent his high school life and pursued an undergraduate degree in General Biology at Harding University.

In 1998, Kenji moved south to San José, Costa Rica where he is currently based, participating in numerous biological projects and completing his Master’s degree in Biology at the University of Costa Rica. His area of emphasis is Entomology with a focus on the order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). Kenji’s work in the laboratory and field is impressive and has been enhanced recently by his acquisition of Nikon digital cameras enabling him to photograph marvels of nature. Kenji particularly enjoys his field work and digital photography in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. He also has traveled to South America, Australia, and Thailand to participate in field research.

I can’t tell you how he is able to do it, but Kenji has an amazing ability to spot and find insects from great distances. Is it his trained eyes or a sixth sense that has been developed through practice? You’ll have to ask Kenji for the answer – or better yet, join him on an outing in a Costa Rican cloud forest. His keen eyes and knowledge in the field have resulted in many interesting discoveries, which have garnered the attention of many scientists around the world, and which will be published in the near future.

Professionally, Kenji is a highly respected biologist. On a personal basis, he entertains people by improvisations on his violin; he is known and loved by many who call him their friend for his honesty, and his caring and generous spirit.

Written by Nicholas Quiring
Artist, University of Michigan