Hi everyone! In our previous podcast we talked a little bit about getting into outreach either as a scientist wanting to share your research or as a non-scientist wanting to learn about research. Recently we heard from one of our lovely viewer who gave us a great list of outreach opportunities that I’m sure anyone can get involved with. I thought I would post them here for you but remember there are so many other ways to get involved within your community.

1. One of the first resources is through Natures Notebook. Through this organization you simply report observations that you see in the world around you. This can range from timing of plant growth to bird behavior. This can help us track changes in the environment.

pollinator

2. The Great Sunflower Project helps you learn to count and protect pollinators. It’s a citizen science project that has great resources to help you learn to ID bees and other pollinators that may be making  a home in your yard. According to the organization, over a third of honeybee colonies collapsed during the winter of 2012-2013. By joining this group, you can help further understand how bees are affected by pesticides. This organization will also help you create a more pollinator friendly landscape if you are looking to maintain a garden that attracts these beneficial insects. From your garden you can also spend time counting bees and other pollinators to help increase what is known about these important creatures.

3. If you like exploring nature and want to learn to identify the different organisms within your environment iNaturalist might be something to think about downloading. It’s an app that allows you to connect with other naturalists so that you can figure out what happening in the world around you. This app also allows you to run a bioblitz which are events that allow people to go out and record as many species as they can in a certain amount of time. I think would be a great way to get the whole family out into the environment looking for different organisms!

4. eBird is a great place to go if you are interested in birding. If you already enjoy nature or you simply like looking out into your backyard for birds you should check out this site. They have a bunch of different apps. I will say that you do have to pay for most of them but there is a free version if you want to try your hand at IDing first. It may be worth it if you don’t want to carry a bird guide around and you never know. Maybe you will become an avid birder and make a life list.

5. The Great Backyard Bird Count is another birding website for all you bird enthusiasts! I’m a little late to the game on this one because the latests bird count just happened in February, but if you want to get involved next year you should! Every February worldwide, people join the great backyard bird count which lasts four days. You create a free online account and make your checklists of the birds you saw in your backyard that day. This gives us a snapshot into what the world population of birds is doing on those days of he year.

6. These next few outreach opportunities may mean a little more digging on your part but it will definitely be worth it. The first I’m going to mention are watersheds. Many watersheds appreciate volunteers coming in and helping them with research. I know that many rely on the public to count and identify stream invertebrates. These invertebrates can help us understand the conditions of the water. Some watersheds will also hire volunteers for a season to collect water samples which can be a great opportunity if you are a high school or college student thinking about a future in science. If you are in northern Michigan you should check out the Tip of the Mitt watershed council! They need volunteers for lake and stream monitoring. It’s a great way to get a little experience or simply get outside and see the beauty of our wetlands and waterways.

7. If you have younger kids, one outlet might be to look at the museums or universities in your area. Talk with the professors on the campus or see if there are any programs currently being run by scientists. Cari and I just volunteered at an event called Kids Tech here at Bowling Green State University. The event runs every weekend for a few weeks in February. It’s a great way to get children out an about when the weather might not be the greatest. We hosted a table where children drew up bug hotels. It was a great time and I think we learned just as much from the kids as they did from us!

8. Finally, if you are a scientist wanting to spread information about your research think about ways that you could get involved with outreach. This semester Cari and I are taking a science communication class where we have to develop a project, figure out our audience, and evaluate the process. We have decided to create a video for our viewers but maybe your goal is to create a table for a local Earth day event or perhaps you want to create a blog. Maybe you are great at drawing and want to make a children’s book or paintings! Get out their and try some outreach! You could find out, like us, that you love it!

Those are all of my tips for now. If I hear of anything else I will be sure to make another post! But we want you guys to get involved too! Do you have some cool way of reaching out to the world about science? What are some of your favorite ways that you have gotten involved! Please let us know in the comments! We would love to hear from you!

Update – Episode availability!

Currently we’re having issues with the availability of our 1st, 2ed, and bonus episodes of Bugs&Stuff. Turns out there is only so much room on Soundcloud to host our episodes, so after uploading our latest episode yesterday soundcloud hid our first three. These three are also missing from iTunes and our blog currently. We’re attempting to fix this, but it may take a little time. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s fixed.

We’re sorry about this mess, but we hope you still enjoy our newer episodes that are currently still available on all streaming platforms. Thank you!

Episode 7: Outreach

Here is our newest episode! This is going to be a short post because I got way to excited about our Girl Power event last week! If you want to read more about what we did at the girl power event, check out this post! Other than that, this podcast focuses on outreach and how you can get involved.

We strongly suggest that you get involved in outreach if you are a scientist, and if you are a student definitely seek out different resources to find an outreach event close to you. For both groups, it may be helpful to contact local universities and museums to find out more about events in your area. I’m sure you can find plenty of events that you can get involved with if you just do a little digging! Additionally, if you need a little help feel free to send us an email and we can try to give you ideas about people to contact!
Also, I want to say that we are slowly moving our blog over to WordPress! We will still be posting here for the time being to allow people the chance to move over. Check out that blog here!

Also one other thing, our Soundcloud subscription only allows us to have 3 hours of active uploads at a time. If you want to listen to some of our older clips you can check them out here or you can visit us on iTunes! Just search Bugs & Stuff and it will take you to our podcast page. If you have any trouble please feel free to send us an email. We want you all to have the best experience possible!

And as always we love you, we’ll see you, and goodbye!

Episode 5 – Self Care

Hold on to your pants because this is a long one! As promised we came back to self care on our topic list, and we made it even more special by including our labmates, Audrey and Eric! This is a topic we think about a lot and care about, so please take a listen. If you have any advice or want to discuss something we left out of this podcast you can find us on twitter @bugsandstuffpod, on our blog bugsandstuffpodcast.tumblr.com, or through email bugsandstuffpodcast@gmail.com.

Girl Power!

This past weekend Bugs&Stuff including many of our colleagues were fortunate enough to spend time at the Girl Power event at Imagination Station (a children’s museum) in
Toledo. The Girl Power event brings together girls from the area with women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. It’s basically an event to show that everyone has potential no matter who you are!

Throughout the museum there were many booths including our own rather large booth. These booths often have demonstrations of activities that the women in a variety of STEM careers do on a daily basis. Our booth consisted of activities from four different labs.

Of course, our section of the booth focused on bugs. We included a large tub of sand with fake bugs and an ID key for each of them. This gave the visitors to our station a look at what we do every day. Much of our field work involves sifting through soil and litter to find bugs. We then return to the lab and ID these bugs using a dichotomous key. This is a key that takes you down through two choices until you successfully ID the specimen. While it’s often more difficult to identify real bugs, it was incredibly fun to go through the key with the children. If you want to know more about our lab you can check out our website!

Another lab at our booth brought live crayfish to the event. The Moore lab studies behavior and many of them use crayfish to see how these animals fight with one another. Often they ask questions about how the environment of the crayfish affect fighting. They have experimented with the affects that predators have on crayfish behavior, because even the presence of a predator can change  crayfish behavior. They have also looked at how toxins and other chemicals affect crayfish behavior. Finally, they have asked questions relating to the behavior of other aquatic species. I know that my explanation is not complete, so if you want to learn more you can check out the Moore lab website!

Getting back to our theme of bugs, we also had a representative from the McCluney lab who works on urban ecology. Specifically, her research tries to better understand how bugs are using resources (food and water) in urban settings. At the event she had two mini-ecosystems set up beneath headlamps, which represented a natural and city environment. The visitors could put their hands inside the habitats and see that the city landscape was much warmer. Because cities are often covered with hard impervious surfaces (surfaces that are impenetrable like pavement) they suck up the heat from the sun and are much warmer. In natural areas there are fewer impervious surfaces and you will notice they are much cooler because of the presence of vegetation. Here is the McCluney lab website for more info!

Finally, we had the Root lab at our booth. Their work focuses on conservation of land and wildlife. They have projects on bats, roadkills, the emerald ash borer (a beetle that is currently killing off native ash trees), and many other projects. At the booth they had examples of different eye reflexions, because different animals have different colored eye reflexions at night. These reflexions are caused by a mirror like surface within the animal’s eye that allow them to see better in the dark. This mirror allows the light to bounce around the eye a second time if it doesn’t hit the photoreceptor, or the eye cells that allow us to see. This helps animals that are active at night see better. The visitors were also able to demo some of the equipment that the Root lab uses for their research! Check out the Root lab here to find out more!

The event was a great opportunity to get out into the public and talk about what we do. Events like these allow children to see that scientists are real people who do cool stuff everyday! If you’re a scientist I’d strongly recommend trying to get involved in something like Girl Power to promote your science to the public!

If you want to hear more about the event Cari and I plan on dedicating a whole podcast episode on this event and giving you all ideas about how they can get involved. Whether you are a scientist looking to show off your science or you’re a citizen looking for a way to learn more about science! Stay tuned!

A little bit about bugs

I originally posted this on my own blog but I thought I would also post it over here since we have yet to really talk about bugs. This is a little background literature on Cari and my research but put into a way that I hope is easy to read whether you have a science background or not. Let us know what you think!

Like us, ants also seek out salt in their diets. Salted roads can serve as an oasis of the nutrient in forests where salt is lacking in the soil. Scientists have found that ants further from salted roads gathered at salty baits rather than sugar baits compared to those ants that were closer to roads, which can tell us a lot about the how their ecosystem is working.

This is contrary to what we might expect. We often think of road salt as detrimental to the health of the environment. As it gets washed from roadways into streams and ditches, road salt can damage plant species along roadsides. However, road salt has been shown to be attractive to plant eating animals from moose to butterflies. These animals are seen gathering and licking up the salt available in the area presumably because the environment they live in is lacking in salt. This is similar to what was seen in ants.

The scientists, believe that there may be gradients of salt from the road into the forest. Next to the road there is a large amount of salt. The ants have all the salt they need in this area so they are more likely to be attracted to the sugar bait. In this case the sugar is the limiting nutrient. Moving further away from the road, though, there is less salt available on the soil so the ants are attracted to the salt baits over the sugar baits.

There are thought to be other gradients similar to this one near roads. For example, another study showed that areas that were further inland had more ants gathering at salt baits compared to sugar baits. This may happen because areas, such as forests, that are further inland do not have the addition of salt coming from the ocean. Thus, the soils in these forests are lacking in salt and the animals are more likely to seek it out. Why do these animals need salt, you may ask?

Ants and other insects and animals all need certain nutrients to stay alive and keep their bodies working properly. Salt is one of these nutrients. Salt is important for ants and other insects because it can affect neurological development and signaling. In other words, if they do not get enough salt from their diets, these insects may not have efficient signaling between their brains and body. Without the proper signaling and development these insects may not be able to behave as efficiently.

Ants and other soil insects are important decomposers, or organisms that eat dead and decaying matter. Without these insects, everything that dies including animals and plants would have a difficult time breaking down. Also, understanding how these organisms break down this material can help us solve issues related to other nutrients getting into the environment, such as carbon which leads to climate change. This study also highlights the impact of humans. We are rearranging the way that nutrients find their way into the environment, which could have big impacts on the way ecosystems work.

Episode 6 – Application Pressure

In this episode, we discuss how to decided where to go to graduate and undergraduate school. We give advice and share stories about how we made our decisions. We also ask you to reach out to us! We want to get a better idea of who we’re talking to so we can tailor our episodes to you. So, please comment on Soundcloud, review on iTunes, tweet @bugsandstuffpod, or message us on our blog www.bugsandstuffpodcast.tumblr.com! Thank you in advance! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!