Mike was born in San Diego, California, on May 31, 1952. He grew up in the Denver, Colorado, area and became interested in biology and natural history when given a microscope for his eighth birthday. During his childhood he spent most weekends in the mountains of Colorado camping, fishing, skiing, and investigating natural history.
During his undergraduate work at the University of Colorado, he became interested in entomology after completing course work under Robert E. Gregg. Upon graduation with a BA degree in Organismic Biology (Zoology) in 1974, he began volunteering at the Denver Museum of Natural History. After several contract jobs, Mike began full-time work as a curatorial assistant in the Zoological Collections Department. He was responsible for the curation of the bird and insect collections. He participated in many birding field trips and began collecting Colorado butterflies for the museum. Mike led some of the first butterfly-watching field trips for members of the museum and developed an insect zoo as a temporary summer exhibit.
In June of 1979, Mike began a research assistantship at the University of Wyoming, studying the Tortricinae (Lepidoptera: Tortricinae) of Wyoming, in conjunction with a study on insects affecting shelterbelts in Wyoming. He traveled extensively over the entire state collecting Lepidoptera and studying robberfly behavior with Robert J. Lavigne. He graduated with an MS degree in 1981. He then began pursuing a PhD degree at the University of Minnesota, working on a generic revision of the Cochylini (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) under the supervision of William E. Miller. After passing his preliminary examinations, Mike had the opportunity to collect Lepidoptera in New Caledonia for three months with support from Donald R. Davis of the Department of Systematic Biology at the Smithsonian Institution. From 1984 to 1985, Mike was at the Smithsonian on a pre-doctoral fellowship. He remained there until finishing his PhD degree in February of 1986. In March, 1986, he went on another collecting trip to Paraguay funded by Dr. Davis.
In July, 1986, Mike began working for Terry Erwin, Department of Systematic Biology, Smithsonian Institution, in the BioLAT program. In January of 1990, he began work as a museum specialist for Dr. Erwin. During the next six years Mike spent one to two months each year assisting Dr. Erwin in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, collecting insects from the rainforest canopies. During this time Mike authored and co-authored several papers on insect biodiversity.
In August of 1996, Mike was hired as a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory as a Noctuidae (Lepidoptera) specialist. He has published numerous papers on Noctuidae systematics and has recently completed a world revision of the armyworm genus Spodoptera. He also has been instrumental in databasing the Smithsonian holdings of Noctuidae.
Mike belongs to the Lepidopterists’ Society, the Entomological Society of Washington, where he is treasurer, and the Entomological Society of America. He was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2000.