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Kids like bugs: entomology outreach in elementary schools (Part 1)

Written by Chris Buddle and Paul Manning.

Spending time talking to kids about Entomology is ALWAYS worth it. If ever invited to speak at an elementary school about insects, always say “yes”, and in this post, we’ll expand on why it’s worth your time. In a second post on this topic, we’ll provide some tips on how to talk to kids about bugs.  Although these posts are focused primarily at elementary school events, the ideas and tips could be expanded to community nature walks, events at an ‘earth day’ celebration, hosting a bug day in your backyard, etc.

Part 1: Why talk to kids about bugs?

Most kids aren’t afraid of nature. In our experience, elementary school kids (especially the younger grades) still have a fascination with entomology and are still curious and excited by ‘bugs’. Later in life, it seems that many kids will follow one of several paths: (a) disinterest, (b) disgust, or (c) delight. As entomologists, in a field that is so important, getting kids to be delighted is very important.

Kids like bugs.

Kids already know a lot but they like an expert to verify their findings and support their interests. In our experience, kids can get especially excited about insects because they see them all the time – they have played with them in their yards, tasted them (perhaps), and probably spend time trying to burn them with a magnifying glass. Bugs are accessible, small, curious, and catchable, and thus kids learn about them – an entomologist can keep facilitating this learning.

Kids are truly amazed that you can ‘get a job‘ studying insects. This is unfathomable to them, since they don’t typically get much exposure to biologists. They are exposed to limited career options (“I want to play in the NHL“, “I want to be a doctor“, “I want to be a firefighter“) in part because our school systems often exclude the cool jobs like “stream ecologist”, “geologist”, or “entomologist”. The idea that you can spend time (as an adult!) collecting and curating insects (i.e., FUN STUFF) can be quite extraordinary. In our experiences, it’s so painfully obvious that working outdoors with insects is simply not noticed as a real job by many people; entomologists must work to correct this. Giving kids exposure to wonderful careers (like entomology) can help encourage future scientists that there are truly enjoyable careers that involve getting ones hands dirty, and spending time outside.

Entomologists have a responsibility to dispel myths about arthropods, and this should start at an early age. Invariably, we get statements from kids such as “My Dad told me to stay away from spiders ’cause they will bite you“, or “My aunt told me that earwigs go into your ear, so I hate them“, or “I am allergic to bees because my cousin is allergic“, etc. We can bring clarity to these kinds of statements, and by offering an ‘expert opinion’ on these topics, can help kids understand the real facts about entomology.

Kids are sponges: it is satisfying to speak to an audience who is fully engaged and willing to soak up as much as you can provide. Bugs are a very exciting topic for kids, and they will remain interested, excited and enthused if you continue to provide good content.

Kids ask great questions.  As an example, one of us (PM) recently talked about insects to an elementary school class. The class was asked to guess what was living within a gall, and to make guesses as to what they thought the gall was, and how it was formed. After one student quickly suggested that an insect was living within the gall, a flurry of wonderful questions began. Students asked questions like:

  • How did the insect get inside the gall?
  • How does the insect survive the winter?
  • What does the insect eat when inside the plant?
  • Why doesn’t the insect kill the plant?

All of these questions prompt interesting, and relevant discussions that fit well within learning objectives in science curriculum. Providing a concrete example that is applicable to students, might also result in a better understanding of the concept.

Finally, it’s nice to talk to kids about bugs because they genuinely appreciate it. Being thanked for spending time doing this kind of outreach is really, really nice. And, sometimes you might receive some nice thank-you cards or posters to put up on your wall.  To us, these are as important as a diploma on your wall, or a favourite butterfly poster. Thank-you notes from kids are some of the most wonderful things to read, and they often include delightful, creative, and colourful drawings.

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Insect Monitoring and Twitter

By Scott Meers, Insect Management Specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

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My role as an entomologist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development consists largely of counting insects. We monitor the populations of seven different species on a provincial scale and several more on either an ad hoc or regional basis. We also carry out surveillance for potential new insect pests in crops. It is important to note that Alberta is a relatively large place, ranging 1066 km south to north and is 466 km at the widest. There are over 10,000,000 ha of land devoted to crop production. We do our monitoring work with two permanent staff and 2 to 3 summer students.

The first thing that becomes obvious is that we can’t do this work by travelling the entire expanse of the province. So we must communicate with those that are out in the fields and capture the results of their “footprints in the field”. Through various reporting systems we have had good success in developing a representative monitoring system. Check out our homepage at www.agriculture.alberta.ca/bugs-pest.

So where does Twitter fit in? In the two years that we have been using twitter we have collected nearly 800 farm related followers. Twitter is a great place to announce the results of our findings. If a set of traps or online reporting systems are reporting a concern we tweet it. The impact is instantaneous and widespread. Followers retweet (it is common for our in-season tweets to have 5 or more retweets), they ask questions, they check their fields and they let us know if their findings match ours. Talk about impact and talk about a reality check, it is awesome. We can then improve the quality and accuracy of the information we present.

We announce our new extension materials on Twitter. If we have a new You Tube video, radio broadcast (weekly during the growing season), new web page or even a chnage to our homepage, we tweet it. It is at least part of the reason we have over 2,000 hits on how to put together our Bertha Armyworm traps (we only put out 200 sets of traps across the province in 2012).

A big part of integrated pest management is the timing of insect activity. We have models for some insects and when they are supposed to be in their active scouting stage we tweet about it. Again instant feed-back! This helps us adjust and time our monitoring efforts to maximum efficiency. For those insects we don’t have models for we suggest timings based on experience. Agrologists and farmers tell us when they start seeing them. Again, awesome! Through Twitter we know when and where insects are showing up across the province. I am happy to retweet any credible source on insect activity and give credit where credit is due. A couple examples of this revolve around an outbreak of bertha armyworm (BAW) (Mamestra configurata) in central Alberta in 2012.

One case involves a comment about BAW in corn which is very unusual, partially because we have very little corn, and partially because BAW generally feeds on broadleaved plants. The conversation drew the attention of neighbors that were growing corn and they asked to see the field while we were inspecting it. The bottom line: the BAW laid their eggs on  lambsquarters which was uncontrolled under the canopy. The neighbors that had control of the lambsquarters had no BAW. Thanks to @landrashewski.

BAW in corn. Started on and ate all the lambsquarters then moved onto the corn cobs.

BAW in corn. Started on and ate all the lambsquarters then moved onto the corn cobs.

The second case was BAW in field peas, another relatively rare situation. The pictures tell the story though. There was substantial damage. If we have another BAW outbreak we will be sure to encourage producers to check their pea fields as well. Thanks to @Klams81.

Surveillance is where Twitter really shines. Last year I didn’t keep track of the requests for ID via Twitter but it was constant throughout the summer. There was a trend and repeats to the requests and there were questions about insects that we seldom see but were more common in 2012. Twitter gives us a chance to be in fields virtually. This a huge advantage because we can’t always be there in person.

We have also used Twitter to help us find fields to survey and to get permission from producers to access their fields. In addition we have recruited help from agrologists and farmers through Twitter. When we ask they are often happy to help us because they have been following us and the work we are doing. We also have several examples of people joining our monitoring network because of finding us on Twitter.

In short, Twitter is a valuable tool for monitoring insects in our program. We use it extensively. We welcome everything from the virtual coffee shop conversations to the private requests for identification. Twitter is, and will continue to be, an integral part of how we monitor insects in Alberta crops. It is good to be a part of the community and to give and receive in equal measure. We are looking forward to seeing what Twitter will bring in the new crop year!

What is this – a common Twitter question to @ABbugcounter last year. We reared it out and it turned out to be Pontia protodice or Checkered White Butterfly.

What is this – a common Twitter question to @ABbugcounter last year. We reared it out and it turned out to be Pontia protodice or Checkered White Butterfly.

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ESC Public Encouragement Grants

By Staffan Lindgren

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Given a stimulating, or even neutral environment, I firmly believe that the natural interest that most, if not all kids have for animals will be retained for life – once a bug nerd always a bug nerd. My parents’ photos of me as a kid almost always show me on all four turning rocks or peering down into some pond for any sign of life, and I’m not much different now (See photographs). I was fortunate to grow up close to nature with parents who pretty much put up with anything that I dragged home, usually alive (my mom drew the line at snakes, but spiders were OK as long as they were contained). Many kids are not as fortunate. They may grow up in a large city, or have one or two parents who at best believe that the only good bug is a dead bug and at worst go catatonic at the sight of even the tiniest spider.

The author (left) and a friend looking for moon jellies on the Baltic Sea coast, Arkösund, Sweden, 1958 (Photo R. Lindgren).

The author (left) and a friend looking for moon jellies on the Baltic Sea coast, Arkösund, Sweden, 1958 (Photo R. Lindgren).

Part of the mandate of the ESC and its affiliate regional societies is to stimulate an interest in entomology through education. One of the tools by which ESC tries to do this is by making available a small grant available annually to the regional societies. The ESC committee guidelines on these “Public Encouragement Grants” state:

(a) Each Affiliate shall be eligible to apply to the Committee for an annual grant of $200 for public education.

(b) Application for the Grant shall be made annually to the Chair and should indicate how the money is to be used.

(c) Funds may be accumulated for a maximum period of three years (i.e., up to $600).

(d) Applications in excess of $200 shall be considered.

(d) The difference between the amount made available annually by the Society for public encouragement, and the amount given to Affiliates, shall be called the Public Encouragement Discretionary Fund. This Fund may be used to augment grants to Affiliates or finance direct public encouragement activities of the Committee.

In 2012, two such grants were awarded, one to Société d’entomologie du Québec (SEQ), who reported:

The $200 granted to the SEQ by the ESC for public education and outreach were given to the AEAQ (Association des entomologistes amateurs du Quebec). …They used the funds to grant free access to their annual meeting (6-7 July 2012) to participants of less than 18 yrs old that could not afford registrations. The annual meeting of the AEAQ is primarily a field meeting with some presentations, and a number of interesting faunistic records were made this year. A recap of this meeting with pictures can be found in the bulletin of the AEAQ at the following url: http://aeaq.ca/nouvl/nouvailes222automne2012.pdf

The second grant was made to the Entomological Society of Manitoba (ESM), who reported:

As part of the Youth Encouragement and Public Education Committee activities, members of the ESM travel to visit schools and various special interest groups to talk about insects, and there are many groups that visit the facilities of the Department of Entomology as well to see the live insects and to learn about insects. The Program received $200 from the ESC this year, and this money was used in part for some minor renovations to the insectary (see photograph) in the Department of Entomology. There is now space for new colonies, and the rearing room can now accommodate small groups for tours. The grant was also used to print business cards, which are provided to the different youth groups visited, or to interested parties during festivals where the Youth Encouragement Committee is present.

University of Manitoba insectary after upgrade partially funded by ESC Public Encouragement Grant (Photo: Matt Yunik)

University of Manitoba insectary after upgrade partially funded by ESC Public Encouragement Grant (Photo: Matt Yunik)

It may not appear that activities like these have much impact, but sometimes it takes very little to stimulate the minds of young people. Providing access for youth to meetings allows them to interact with entomologists and learn that we are people too! I was profoundly influenced by the kind, patient, and carefully typed replies (on official Uppsala University letterhead) when I as a 13-year-old confined live spiders in matchboxes and sent these in regular letters by snail-mail to the arachnologist Dr. Åke Holm! (He did tell me that the spiders generally did not arrive in very good condition, incidentally). I have never forgotten that, and I try to treat budding bugologists with equal kindness. Who knows how it will affect them?

It is clear that you can’t necessarily convert entomophobic people to entomologists, but you may be able to provide some fuel for whatever pilot flame burns in youth that possess even a modicum of interest and curiosity regarding life on earth. Every now and again, you encounter some really exceptional students, and those are the individuals that can make the smallest gesture extremely important. I have been lucky to associate with a number of such exceptional undergraduate students here at UNBC. Some have continued in entomology while others have moved to other disciplines. Three former students who carried on to pursue doctoral degrees are noteworthy.  One is now a pollinator specialist with the Government of Alberta, one is a PhD student at York University, and one is a PhD student at Utah State. All have published in entomology journals, and are obviously successful. More importantly in the context of this blog, they have all kept in touch and expressed appreciation for the mentoring they received here at UNBC.

The author and his son looking at tidal pool life, Lighthouse Park, North Vancouver, BC, 1997 (Photo L.M. Friskie).

The author and his son looking at tidal pool life, Lighthouse Park, North Vancouver, BC, 1997 (Photo L.M. Friskie).

The ESC grants are relatively small, but they may make a huge difference in someone’s life and future career path. Therefore, as Chair of the Science Policy and Education Committee, I hope to be the recipient of several applications from regional affiliates this year.

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Insects: a tool to inspire

By Christopher Cloutier, Naturalist (Morgan Arboretum, McGill University) and Teacher (Vanier College)

As a kid, growing up in the big city, wildlife was a rarity to say the least. Gray squirrels, starlings and house sparrows made up the “wild” critters around my childhood stomping grounds, but one group of organisms that never seemed to disappoint were the arthropods. Insects and spiders could be found virtually anywhere and it seemed that back then there were too many to ever count or name. It was from these early beginnings that I began to appreciate nature for both the big and the small. Cementing my interest in this amazing world of creepy critters were my early excursions to provincial parks and tagging along with naturalists who taught me more about these amazing creatures. Today, as an interpretive naturalist and teacher with a love of insects, it has become a passion and a joy to pass on the wonderment which is the “world of the little things” to people of all ages.

Reaching for the next pre-caught monarch to tag, Monarch Melee, 2011, Morgan Arboretum.  Credit: Chris Cloutier

Reaching for the next pre-caught monarch to tag, Monarch Melee, 2011, Morgan Arboretum. Credit: Chris Cloutier

It is shown that insects generate a certain degree of interest from the layperson. Whether it be raising Painted Ladies in the classroom in elementary school, or counting the number of Plecoptera naiads during a stream survey; the fascinating life histories of insects have touched the lives of many people and have been used as a tool to emphasize the underlying principles of conservation, not only for the insects themselves but for the multitude of habitats which they occupy.

For years now I have led many insect-themed interpretive walks and have noticed a very strong showing from the general public. Children and parents alike seem to get the same level of enjoyment from spending an hour or two searching out and discovering something new about the world beneath their feet. With a fondness for Dragonflies, Butterflies and Spiders, these themed walks have become somewhat of a specialty and seem to attract more and more people every year.

Photo: Tom Kingsbury

Photo: Tom Kingsbury

One of the most enjoyable walks which has been held for three consecutive years now is entitled “Monarch Melee”. The activity is in association with the Monarch Watch program offered at the University of Kansas. The idea here, for those of you unfamiliar with the project, is similar to bird banding, except that the bands are stickers and the birds are, you guessed it, monarchs. I begin the workshop with a 30min presentation on the life history of the monarch butterfly, what it eats, metamorphosis, defense, and of course migration. It is amazing how a single insect, although quite charismatic for something other than a Panda or Beluga can make people so aware of the adaptability, perseverance and just general “wow factor” of insects as a whole. The presentation is followed by a tagging session for some pre-caught monarchs. Once the demo is over, we grab our nets and head out to several milkweed patches in search of more.

Photo: Tom Kingsbury

Photo: Tom Kingsbury

So, how does this sort of activity work to inspire people to do their part for conservation? Well, since those activities have been hosted, I know of several families that have since set up some very elaborate butterfly gardens at the homes, including puddling areas, butterfly shelters, hummingbird feeders, mason bee boxes, bat houses and more. People bring me photos of things that they are seeing around their homes, and not just Leptoglossus occidentalis photos anymore, but photos of butterflies and neat birds, spiders, and more. I have even seen kids walking around the Arboretum with binoculars and butterfly nets, yes, butterfly nets!

Photo: Tom Kingsbury

Photo: Tom Kingsbury

I feel that I have been able to open a door, or bridge a gap if you will, for some of these people to become enthralled in nature again, something which our current younger generation is having some difficulty doing. Although my personal role in this “nature revolution” is minor in the big picture, it is enormous in the lives of those inspired to learn more and to do more, just as it was for me when I was a kid. It never hurts to share your passion and of course a little knowledge. It might go a really long way (yes, Monarch migration pun intended!).

Photo: Reaching for the next pre-caught monarch to tag, Monarch Melee, 2011, Morgan Arboretum: credit: Chris Cloutier

Myrmica brevispinosa, the short-spined ant
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The trouble with common names

By Dr. Staffan Lindgren, University of Northern British Columbia

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When teaching Invertebrate zoology, entomology or forest entomology, I am regularly asked by students if they can use common names. Mostly this request is precipitated by the perceived difficulty of memorizing, let alone pronouncing, Latin names. I am fairly relaxed about these things, particularly with forestry students, who are quite unlikely to become entomologists no matter how you define that term.  It should be clarified that forest entomology is taught within a Disturbance Ecology and Forest Health course at my institution (UNBC), with diagnostics in half of a separate lab course. My stock answer is thus that they may use common names as long as the name clearly defines the species they are referring to.

Foresters are prone to colloquial terms, whether with respect to insects, trees or other organisms. For example, subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) is called balsam by many, if not most foresters in BC, even though it is a distinct species from balsam fir (Abies balsamea) of eastern North America. Similarly, Pissodes strobi, the white pine weevil, is called spruce weevil (a legacy of the days when this weevil was considered three separate species, two of which primarily infest different spruce species in the west) or simply leader weevil.  The reason, supposedly, is that it is the wood quality that matters in terms of trees, and the type of damage with respect to insects. The consequences of being a bit loose with the taxonomy of a particular species may therefore seem fairly inconsequential in forestry.

Incidentally, our forestry students have even more to worry about when it comes to pathology, which they have to learn at the same time, as the same biological organism often has two completely different Latin names (including genera) depending on whether it is the sexual or asexual form (why this remains an accepted practice is beyond me), and they often do not have common names. Add the fact that fungal species seem to change name more often than I change vehicles (I was going to write ‘shirt’, but didn’t want to gross anyone out making you think that I wear the same shirt for years), and it becomes rather a nightmarish proposition for the poor students.

When it comes to entomology in general, however, common names are most commonly used in casual conversation, particularly with members of the public. For entomologists this is usually not a problem, but for non-entomologists it can be very confusing.  For example, colloquial use of ‘bug’ is pretty much anything that is small and crawls or flies around. Taxonomically it is quite specific (Hemiptera: Heteroptera). Ladybugs (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) are perhaps the most recognizable insects to people in general, but they are clearly not bugs. Plant lice (Aphidoidea and Phylloxeroidea), bark lice (Psocoptera) and body lice (Phthiraptera) represent three vastly different taxonomic groups. In addition, if the non-louse groups above were to be correctly written to show that they are not Phthirapterans, there should be no space – however for these common names that principle is never applied as far as I can tell. It is to differentiate dragonflies, damselflies, stoneflies, mayflies, whiteflies etc. from the true flies. For example, a dragon fly, if there were such a thing (and probably there is somewhere – perhaps a decapitating fly (Phoridae) comes close enough to earn that epithet!) would be a dipteran, whereas a dragonfly is not. How is a non-entomologist supposed to know that (assuming that it is important to anyone except us entomophiles)? Then we can go on to more obvious misnomers such as ‘white ants’, which aren’t ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) at all, but termites (Isoptera).

Going back to forest entomology, one can have all kinds of fun with some common names, the origin of some could serve as fodder for endless speculation. For example, when discussing the problems with common names, I ask my students what they think a sequoia pitch moth (Synanthedon sequoiae)(Lepidoptera: Sesiidae) would attack. The correct answer is naturally “mostly lodgepole pine, but not sequoia”. Similarly, the Douglas-fir pitch moth (Synanthedon novaroensis) commonly breeds in lodgepole pine, but as far as I know not in Douglas-fir. I then go on to western spruce budworm, which as the name does not imply primarily attacks Douglas-fir.

Myrmica brevispinosa, the short-spined ant

Myrmica brevispinosa, the short-spined ant

Clearly one cannot expect members of the public to keep track of Latin names of insects, so common names are here to stay. I was interested to find in a book I recently purchased (Ellison et al. 2012) that the authors had invented common names for every species by essentially translating the Latin species epithet. That creates an interesting situation vis-à-vis the attempt of entomological societies to standardize common names (http://www.esc-sec.ca/ee/index.php/cndb; http://www.entsoc.org/common-names). Nevertheless, some ants simply retained their genus name, e.g., Harpagoxenus canadenis became “The Canadian Harpagoxenus” (not sure why, as they named the genus “The robber guest ants”), Formica hewitti became “Hewitt’s ant”,  Myrmica brevispinosa (the species in the photo accompanying this article) is called “The short-spined ant”, and perhaps my favourite Lasius subglaber was named “The somewhat hairy fuzzy ant”. Common names aren’t generally that innovative, but Latin names certainly can be.

Many years ago May Berenbaum (1993) wrote a column on this topic. If students would all read Dr. Berenbaum’s eminently humorous take on how insects get named, they would without a doubt get a new appreciation for both Latin names and their creators, and perhaps feel less trepidation about memorizing them. Then not only true blue entomologists would be tempted to buy a bumper sticker that read “Sona si Latine loqueris” (Honk if you speak Latin) (Unverified from http://www.latinsayings.info/).

Berenbaum, M. 1993. “Apis, Apis, Bobapis….”, American Entomologist 39: 133-134.

Ellison, A.M., N.J. Gotelli, E.J. Farnsworth, and G.D. Alpert. 2012. A field guide to the ants of New England. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 398 pp.

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ZAPPED: The Buzz About Mosquitoes

Tonight on CBC (8pm local time across Canada) The Nature of Things with David Suzuki is showing ZAPPED: The Buzz About Mosquitoes, a documentary all about mosquitoes in Canada, the rising potential for mosquito-vectored disease thanks to climate change, and the ways in which Canadian scientists are working hard to stay ahead of them.

Featuring great macrovideography (which you can learn more about with the behind the scences feature on the ZAPPED website), interviews with Canadian entomologists, and highlighting research being done here in Canada, ZAPPED has great potential to spread information and awareness about Canadian mosquitoes.

I’ll be live-tweeting the program tonight @ 8pm EST using the hashtag #CBCZapped (those of you on Twitter can do the same when it airs in your timezone) and I hope that if you live in Canada you’ll join me in learning more about the flies people love to hate!

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L’univers des insectes aquatiques

Vivez une expérience audio visuelle hors du commun en compagnie du conférencier Étienne Normandin. Musiques, sons et vidéos de la BBC et de « Bugs of the underworld » sont au menu dans le but d’émerveiller vos sens à la beauté et à la fantastique entomofaune aquatique.

Les insectes aquatiques ont été les premiers insectes à apparaître sur la Terre, mais aussi les premiers à utiliser la voie des airs. Dans cette conférence dédiée à un public de tous âges, vous en apprendrez plus sur les particularités des insectes aquatiques ainsi que leurs comportements. Ces insectes peuvent être de fameux architectes, des pêcheurs habiles et d’excellents chasseurs. Ils sont aussi très importants pour l’écologie des plans d’eau et sont de bons outils pour les biologistes.

2 novembre 2012, 19h00

Jardin Botanique, IRBV, Local 354

link: www.aeaq.ca
page facebook: Association des entomologistes amateurs du québec
groupe facebook: Association des entomologistes amateurs du québec

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Volunteers Needed!

As mentioned in a previous post, the Entomological Society of BC has been working hard to improve the Society’s impact by enhancing our online presence to reach more people in BC, as well as the rest of Canada and the world. We’ve undertaken a massive project to digitize our entire journal archive, and are in the process of moving all 108 volumes of the Journal of the ESBC online (plus occasional papers, supplementary reports, and the Quarterly Bulletins dating back to 1906!).

This project will provide unprecedented public access to the Society’s publications, and you can help! With scanning and OCR completed, we need to extract the metadata for each article, including the abstracts and references, so that we can import them into our new online journal system (link to http://journal.entsocbc.ca). We are recruiting volunteers to assist with this step, as well as creating cover images from the scanned volumes.

  • Flexible and easy;
  • Can be done from anywhere (you don’t have to live in BC!);
  • Opportunity to explore the history of entomology in BC;
  • Work closely with ESBC journal and web editors;
  • Contribute directly to the establishment of a permanent, online, open-access repository of entomological knowledge in BC;
  • Ideal for students or anyone with an interest in entomology and community service.

Contact Alex Chubaty (webmaster@entsocbc.ca) if you are interested in contributing time towards this project.

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Meet the ESC Blog Admins (Part 2)

Time to meet another ESC Blog Admin, but first an update.

The ESC Blog has been going strong all summer, and is quickly becoming established within the “Bug-o-Sphere”; sometime today we’ll hit a total of 5,000 visits from 85 different countries, just 2.5 months after launching! For comparison, that’s about half the number of athletes and the same number of nations that took home at least one medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics! None of this would be possible without the support of the entomologists and insect enthusiasts from across the country who have taken the time to share a story, advice, or a snapshot of their research with us.

As the insect season starts to wind down and the entomology conference season approaches, we encourage you to share your favourite photos, stories from the field, or even introduce yourself, your work or your lab to the world. Feel free to email us at entsoccanada@gmail.com with your ideas and stories because we can’t wait to hear from you!

As the ESC Blog Admins, we figured we’d break the ice and tell you a little bit about ourselves before we start bugging each of you to do the same. You met Crystal last month, so I guess it’s time you got to know me, Morgan.

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Morgan D. Jackson Self PortraitGrowing up in a semi-rural, mid-sized city with a strong interest in zoology, I went to the University of Guelph with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, which, other than farming, was the only career I was exposed to in which I’d get to work with animals. By my second year at university I realized there were way more options for an animal geek like myself, so I took as many zoology courses as I could fit into my schedule.

In my third year I signed up for an insect diversity & natural history course on a whim, and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course I had known about insects before this course, but I hadn’t taken the time to look at them closely, to realize the many ways in which they had evolved to survive, the morphological differences that revealed whether a species was the diner or the dinner, or even realized the shear number of species that had literally been around me my entire life! It was like I had stumbled into a secret world that hardly anyone else knew about, but which was filled with so much to discover that I knew I could never look away again.

This first entomology course also taught me how many insects were out there waiting to be discovered, named, and placed onto the tree of life. The prospect of travelling and exploring the world, catching flies, and then being the one to give them names captured my imagination, and when I realized I could actually get paid to do all this, I joined Dr. Stephen Marshall’s lab and started my career as an insect taxonomist.

Working with Steve at the University of Guelph Insect Collection, I completed my Masters of Science last year studying the taxonomy and phylogenetics of stilt-legged flies (family Micropezidae), and I’ll soon be starting my PhD to continue my work on this group.

When I’m not working with flies, I spend my time promoting entomology and trying to make the world’s insect fauna more accessible to the public. I’m the technical editor for the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, an ESC journal developed to publish illustrated keys for insects and other arthropods, and am a co-author on a soon-to-be-released field guide to Northeastern Jewel beetles (family Buprestidae). I developed an interest in macro photography in 2007 (working with Steve I suspect this was probably inevitable) so I could show my friends and family why I thought insects were so cool, and in 2010 I started my blog, Biodiversity in Focus, to share my passion for entomology even further afield. Like Crystal, I feel that social media has the potential to revolutionize not only the way in which scientists go about their day-to-day research, but also their interactions with each other and the public.

And this is why I think the ESC Blog is such a great resource for entomology in Canada. With the support of the Entomological Society of Canada and researchers from across the country, we can raise awareness about insect-related issues, share exciting research being done in Canadian labs, and expose students to the many opportunities and careers in entomology. The Entomological Society of Canada is breaking new ground with its ESC Blog, and I’m proud to be associated with it.

Who knows, if the ESC Blog was around while I was growing up, I may have gotten a head start on my fly collecting!

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If you’re interested in learning more about my work, you can follow along on a variety of social media websites: TwitterGoogle+MendeleyYouTubeFourSquarePinterestProject Noah, and iNaturalist.

ESC Caption C1 P2
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ESC Caption Contest – Cycle 1, Photo 2

We had a great response to last week’s photo, so thank you to everyone who played along. We’ve got an all new photo for you to caption today, but first we need you to vote for your favourite Photo 1 caption.

ESC Caption Contest C1 P1

[polldaddy poll=6409189]

We’ll post the results and award some points next week.

Now, onto this week’s photo (here are the rules if this is your first time):

ESC Caption C1 P2

ESC Caption Contest C1 P2 – Photo by Morgan Jackson

Have fun!