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!