During her internship in Naturalis, the natural history museum in Leiden, 18-year-old VET student Noortje Looijenga discovered a new butterfly species. Noortje, a second-grade student in applied biology, has a long-standing interest in butterflies.

Noortje contacted Naturalis to apply for an internship, knowing the museum owns an impressive collection of over four million copies.  She was added to the collection manager’s staff, which was compiling an inventory of the entire collection. She specialised in the Cyme reticulata butterfly species, whose habitat is in New Guinea. The collection manager, during his many visits in this area, noticed that the Cyme reticulata appears in many variations, which might indicate that there are more than one species. It was Noortje’s task to find out whether this is true.

Happy and colourful

Her research confirmed the collection manager’s hypothesis. To make sure, Noortje contacted Anton Volynkin, a Russian specialist in Cyme butterflies, who confirmed her conclusion. She suggested Cyme laeta as the new name for the new species (full name Cyme laeta Looijenga 2021). According to Noortje, ‘Laeta is Latin for happy, surprised, colourful and rich in contrast. This refers to my joy in finding this new species. The Cyme laeta is also slightly more colourful than its sister species Cyme reticulate’. Her scientific publication was included in the entomology journal Suara Serangga Papua (the voice of Papua Insects), published by the Dutch Papua Insects Foundation.


Noortje’s mentor and internship supervisor at the Aeres VET school, Mrs Marlies Beukenkamp, saw the quiet and somewhat insecure Noortje gradually becoming an excellent student: ‘Noortje knows what she wants and won't let anything and anyone get in the way.’ According to Beukenkamp, ​​it is not often that a VET learner writes a scientific publication in English. ‘She owes this result entirely to her own decisiveness and perseverance. She arranged everything herself. I have learned a lot from her, and I am proud to see where she is now’, she added.

The future

In autumn 2021, Noortje will continue her studies in applied biology at the Aeres University of Applied Sciences in Almere, where she will start bachelor studies to specialise in ecology. In the future, she would love to work as a collection manager at Naturalis, or any other institute for ecological research. ‘I really want to do this work in the future. Insects are my passion and my life’.

Read more

Nieuwe vlindersoort als afstudeerstage [Nieuwe vlindersoort als afstudeerstage [New butterfly species as a graduation internship] 

Mbo-studente Toegepaste Biologie vindt nieuwe vlindersoort tijdens droomstage Naturalis [VET student of applied biology finds new butterfly species during dream internship] 

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