Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nature Experienceship - Insects with Dr. Shawn Clark

It’s a bug eat bug world out there! Did you know that there are over 900,000 different species of insects in the world?  It is estimated that there are still 2 million to 30 million species that still have not been discovered! That is a lot of creepy crawlies! Museum patrons were able to dive into this vast world of insects by attending the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum’s annual Insect Nature Experienceship.  Patrons were able to learn the basics of entomology (the study of insects), through the help of the museum’s very own Arthropod Collection manager, Shawn Clark.  Dr. Shawn Clark has dedicated much of his life to observing, researching, and collecting various species of insects found throughout our world. His superior ability to teach and inspire others made him the perfect person to lead the patrons through in-depth discussions about insects.
The Experienceship began with a backstage tour of the Arthropod Collection, where patrons were able to see why Dr. Clark collects insects for research, and how to properly document and display them as specimens. Though insects may be small, it still takes a large team of researchers to be able to maintain the vast collection of insects the museum has. Through the tour of the collections, patrons were able to see how collecting specimens allows researchers to learn more about insects, so that they may be able to understand each species and how they relate to the circle of life.
Once the patrons learned about insects and collections, they had the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to the test. As the collections tour came to an end, it was time for the patrons to pack up the van with supplies, and head to South Fork Canyon to capture their own insect specimens. With nets in hand, and with some guidance from Dr. Clark, the patrons began to search and capture their very own insects. Dr. Clark explained the best methods of capturing insects, and how to store them properly for later use in their collections. The patrons did not have to wander through the wilderness far before they had some exciting catches. Museum educators and Dr. Clark were on hand to help patrons extract many kinds of insects from their nets and assist in identifying each species. Some of the insects discovered included crab spiders, blister beetles, stinkbugs, wasps, caterpillars, and many more!
As the patrons collected their insects, Dr. Clark explained to them what insects were good to keep as specimens, and how to properly document them. This would not only help them remember the great experience they were having, but it would also help in properly documenting their research efforts for the future.  With every new species caught, the patrons would share their finds to one another as Dr. Clark gave background information on each species. In the end, every patron went home with a full jar of specimens to use for their own collections.

Throughout the Insect Nature Experienceship, the patrons had incredible opportunities to explore and discover the insect world that is always around them. Not only were they able to tour a real museum insect collection, but they also had the opportunity to head out into the field and have hands-on experience capturing their own insects. Each patron had a wonderful time on the trip and learned on a personal level, that it really is a bug’s life! We encourage anyone who would like to have this once in a lifetime experience to join us in the coming years to the Insect Nature Experienceship.  After all, it is the bee’s knees!

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