Catherine Craig

Howard L. McKee Ecology Residency

Catherine Craig, PhD is an adjunct Research Professor at Washington State University, Pullman, and a Senior Research Associate at Whitman College, Walla Walla. Previously she served as an Associate Professor on the biology faculty of Yale University for 9 years where she maintained a laboratory, conducted interdisciplinary research and taught a variety of courses in Ecology and Evolution. After receiving a Fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, she moved to Harvard University where she maintains an appointment as Museum Associate.  In 2003, she published an academic treatise (Spiderwebs and Silk: tracing evolution from molecules to genes to phenotypes. Oxford University Press) that summarized her previous research. She then collaborated with Leslie Brunetta to popularize those themes (“Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating”, Yale University Press).

Recognizing that existing conservation approaches were not working, because they lacked a focus on local communities. She established an endemic resource-farming program in Madagascar in 2003. The new approach strived to meet the needs of communities living around the Makira Protected Area by giving the people an opportunity to earn money while helping to maintain the forest.  Her program integrated sustainable collection and farming of an ecosystem product—wild silk—and its transformation into a non-spun textile.  She established and trained an all-Malagasy team to farm caterpillars, collect cocoons and make the textile that is not spun and woven but where cocoons are sewn into unique materials. The non-woven silk is currently being marketed in Canada, the US and Europe. Currently Craig is writing a book focused on this work and exploring ways to extend her enterprise approach by introducing cocoon-silk, a sustainably produced medium, to designers, textile artists, architects and makers of fine arts.