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Insect researcher wants to build massive bug biodome in OKC

Aaron Dossey holds a Heteropteryx dilitata from Malaysia, one of the many bugs in his research lab in Oklahoma City. Dossey wants to build the world's biggest biodome here, which would include research labs and a zoo-like atmosphere for bug fans. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Aaron Dossey holds a Heteropteryx dilitata from Malaysia, one of the many bugs in his research lab in Oklahoma City. Dossey wants to build the world's biggest biodome here, which would include research labs and a zoo-like atmosphere for bug fans. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Aaron Dossey wants to build the world's largest biodome in Oklahoma City.

The bug researcher with a Ph.D. and big dreams is trying to gather support for an ambitious project to blend an insect zoo and biotech research facility in the metro area.

"I kind of describe it to some people as like Jurassic Park, but with invertebrates instead of dinosaurs," said Dossey, founder of the nonprofit Invertebrate Studies Institute.

To reach that goal, he needs several acres to build and $15 million to reach his fundraising goal of building a dome, exhibition areas and research labs to study bugs. To replicate ideal ecosystems, he said, the project would include botanical science because some of the insects would require specific kinds of plants and trees to thrive.

The Invertebrate Studies Institute doesn't yet have a location secured, but Dossey is working with Oklahoma City-based architecture and design firm Guernsey to put his ideas to paper. One idea is to convert an existing large commercial property with room for the enclosed dome and several research labs. He is looking at several sites near the Interstate 240 and Interstate 35 junction but if that doesn't work out, he has said the project could be moved down the interstate to Dallas.

Dossey is also the founder of the biotech company All Things Bugs, which received millions of dollars in federal funding to study genetically engineered insects as a protein-packed food source. In its online store, the company sells finely milled powder made from farm-raised crickets.

But it's his vision of a blended venture with research, education and entertainment spread over several acres that would be the first formal project for the Invertebrate Studies Institute. Dossey said he will be applying for applied research funding from OCAST, a state agency focused on science-based grants and support, along with other fundraising sources.

He wants to inspire appreciation and conservation of invertebrates, like insects, spiders, millipedes, marine invertebrates, worms and slugs. The biodome would bring several disciplines under one roof while being more than just a zoo or research lab.

"Where we're going to be unique is having the research focus because you've got these things happening (in) silos, but there's absolutely no synergy," Dossey said. "No one group is really contributing significantly to more than one mission."

Related Photos
<strong>A Heteropteryx dilitata is a species of large stick inscet from  Malaysia. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</strong>

A Heteropteryx dilitata is a species of large stick inscet from Malaysia. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-aa701de5a98c55202d53aadd65c6ba02.jpg" alt="Photo - A Heteropteryx dilitata is a species of large stick inscet from Malaysia. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" A Heteropteryx dilitata is a species of large stick inscet from Malaysia. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> A Heteropteryx dilitata is a species of large stick inscet from Malaysia. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7556a89e2a05a57ea7eba2ed1e468da8.jpg" alt="Photo - This sketch represents an idea for an insect research facility and biodome envisioned by Aaron Dossey. [ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED/GUERNSEY] " title=" This sketch represents an idea for an insect research facility and biodome envisioned by Aaron Dossey. [ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED/GUERNSEY] "><figcaption> This sketch represents an idea for an insect research facility and biodome envisioned by Aaron Dossey. [ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED/GUERNSEY] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2136aa6f04a7502a1248f76ecfc33a62.jpg" alt="Photo - Aaron Dossey holds a Heteropteryx dilitata from Malaysia, one of the many bugs in his research lab in Oklahoma City. Dossey wants to build the world's biggest biodome here, which would include research labs and a zoo-like atmosphere for bug fans. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Aaron Dossey holds a Heteropteryx dilitata from Malaysia, one of the many bugs in his research lab in Oklahoma City. Dossey wants to build the world's biggest biodome here, which would include research labs and a zoo-like atmosphere for bug fans. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Aaron Dossey holds a Heteropteryx dilitata from Malaysia, one of the many bugs in his research lab in Oklahoma City. Dossey wants to build the world's biggest biodome here, which would include research labs and a zoo-like atmosphere for bug fans. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Dale Denwalt

Dale Denwalt has closely followed state policy and politics since his first internship as an Oklahoma Capitol reporter in 2006. He graduated from Northeastern State University in his hometown of Tahlequah. Denwalt worked as a news reporter in... Read more ›

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