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January 11, 2021

Entomologist Discovered Her Interest in Insects at AHA

Sabrina Celis has an insatiable interest in insects that she uncovered in her honors biology course at the Academy of the Holy Angels.


While growing up in Paramus, New Jersey, Celis visited Van Saun Park’s butterfly house, where various species followed her, attempting to get a closer look at the flower print dress she was wearing. She was still considering her career options when current AHA Science Department Chair


Patricia Prucnel prompted Celis to produce a brochure about the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly. Celis’ research helped her understand the impact of habitat loss and poaching, and became a portal to the exciting field of entomology with encouragement from her teacher.


Celis recently spoke with current AHA students from Ms. Prucnel’s environmental science and honors biology classes. The budding entomologist presented “Beneficial Bugs,” an informative webinar that provided a look at the world’s most diverse group of animals.


She explained that she currently works in the spider behavior lab, where she researches why some spiders are solitary and others are social and work and hunt together.



Celis noted that insects are the world’s most important pollinators. Most food plants depend on insects for pollination, and many foods would not exist without insects. Insects also directly create numerous products that are valued by humans, including honey, silk, dyes, and venom that can be used for medications. Scientists also use insects to research issues related to behavior, neurobiology, physiology, and genetics.


She raised a few eyebrows when she commented that insects are nutritious food for humans. Celis discussed edible insects and products such as cricket flour, and acknowledged that she has sampled a few types of insects.


Insects also aid forensic entomologists. Celis pointed out that insects are the first to arrive on any crime scene, and help investigators determine the site of a wound and when tissue began to decompose. Celis said insects are key to the decomposition process, which returns nutrients to the environment.


Insects are also a critical element in pest control. According to Celis, ladybugs are aphid predators and spiders defend against flying pests such as mosquitoes. She also spoke briefly about Integrated Pest Management, a holistic method of pest prevention that reduces the use of chemical pesticides.


As she concluded her presentation, Celis advised her audience to stay connected to their friends from Holy Angels and explore their interests while in college. Celis is president of Cornell’s Entomology Club and enjoys the University’s Insectapalooza festivals.


This spring, Celis will graduate from Cornell University with a degree in entomology. She plans to continue her education by pursuing a master’s in agriculture.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.