Friday, May 31, 2019

The First Annual Bean Museum Bio-blitz

The Bean Museum's director, Dr. Duke Rogers wanted to get museum team members out in the field to get hands-on experience collecting specimens for the Museum's research collections. We had a good group of full-time, part-time, and student employees attend all or part of this field trip. We spent 4 days collecting in Huntington Canyon and the San Rafael Swell in Emery County, Utah.

Below are the written experiences of the student educators who were able to participate:

Dr. Michael Whiting (Curator of Entomology), Joseph?, Dr. Duke Rogers (Curator of Mammalogy), Dr. Shawn Clark (Entomology Collections Manager), Jennica Baldridge (educator), Holly Gibson (educator), Lindsey Rees (educator),
Dr. Robert Johnson (Herbarium Collections Manager)

Educators Emily Stowers and Brie Hardy with Dr. Duke Rogers

Brie Hardy:
Our trip to Huntington Reservoir was a blast and an amazing learning experience! Dr. Rogers taught us about the value of museum collections. Specimens from the field can provide invaluable data about the organisms in nature, and have even helped scientists to discover new species. I loved participating in collection of a wide variety of species—bats, rodents, insects, and plants. The collection managers and curators from the Bean Museum know so much about the wildlife in Utah. It was great to see them in action and to gain a little more knowledge for myself!

Emily Stowers (educator), Lindsey Rees (educator), Dr. Janene Auger, Brie Hardy (educator)

Dr. Robert Johnson with Joseph DeTemple

Lindsey Rees: First of all, HUGE thank you to all the museum staff that put this together for us. Having the opportunity to be a part of collecting with the museum's curators and experts was a one-of-a-kind experience that I don't think I'll ever forget. Being out in nature surrounded by experts was like having a library of knowledge surrounding me, so that whenever I had any question about wildlife, there was an expert with a beautiful response. It's how I'd imagine it would be like to hang out with David Attenborough. I loved learning how specimens are collected and studied, from small mammals to bugs to plants to birds.

Dr. Shawn Clark with Lindsey Rees, Jennica Baldridge, and Holly Gibson
The bug collecting part still occasionally gave me the "heebeejeebees," which is ironic because I'm okay holding a tarantula for work every day but little beetles can still on occasion make me nervous, which I eventually got over until the Entomologist with us asked me if I touched one of the beetles we found, after which I replied no, and he then said "Good. It would've given you a bad blister." I don't know much, but now I know which beetles to avoid. Easily one of my favorite parts of collecting bats. SO COOL. The Mammalogist on site had this little machine that allows you to detect sonar from bats and even tell which direction it's coming from- if it was an app I could download, I would've downloaded it yesterday. Seriously so much fun.

On a more random note, we stopped by a Canyon Wall that has preserved Native American paintings from before-Christ times, and while I have no idea what any of the paintings meant, it was spiritual in its own way, and even brought tears to my eyes. All surrounded by incredible wildflowers and complete silence, as it's so isolated from everything.

Anyway, all in all, I learned a lot and loved the hands-on experience. As a college student, I spend a lot of time in classrooms and at the museum I spend a lot of time surrounded by mounts. I love both of these things immensely, but nothing really compares to getting to learn outside. Real passion for nature comes from spending time quality time in it, and I look forward to more experiences like this in the future.

Dr. Leigh Johnson (Curator of the Herbarium)
Emily Stowers: The bio-blitz campout was a super cool, eye-opening experience for me. I've been camping a lot in my lifetime but never with a botanist, entomologist, and mammalogist. On the bioblitz I was able to see lots of super cool animals up close like bats, chipmunks, beetles, and even a lizard! It was way fun to find these things, but what was even more fascinating to me was learning how the animals we caught would contribute to science and the research done at the museum. Working alongside our museum's curators we collected many different species of insects, rodents, and plants! I was able to learn a lot about the things we collected such as how the role they play in their habitat, how they came to be in Utah, and how they would be used for research. I am very grateful that the museum allowed me to attend this super cool trip!

Lindsey Rees & Holly Gibson (educators) with Dr. Duke Rogers
Jennica Baldridge: As an educator at the Bean Museum, we don't typically have a lot of contact with the curators of the collections and are not super familiar with their methods or research. The first beneficial aspect of this trip was that I felt like I got to know many of the other employees of the museum. Even in the few days since we've gotten back, I have seen several of them throughout the museum and have been able to stop and talk with them instead of having no idea who they are. Also, it was very educational as previously I had only a vague idea how collecting specimens for research was actually done. By going on this camping trip, I got to see first hand how this process works and actually participate myself. It was amazing to have so many educated people together. I felt like no matter what question I had, whether it be about plants, birds, mammals, insects, or just nature in general, there was always someone right there I could ask who would know the answer. Overall, it was an amazing experience that I feel like has better prepared me to educate patrons on how the museum and it's collections work together.

Jake Burgoyne, Dr. Leigh Johnson, Dr. Duke Rogers, and Jennica Baldridge (educator)
Holly Gibson: The bio blitz was an awesome opportunity to have some hands on experience in the field. I really enjoyed learning how specimens are collected and prepared for study and other uses. We caught live mammals, studied different species of birds, used a net to capture bugs, etc. One of my favorite parts was catching bats. We set up a net over some water once it was dusk and several bats flew in. We got to have a close look at them as Dr. Rogers took them out of the net and taught us about them. All in all it was a great experience getting to be out in nature where it all happens, and I know experiences in the wild help us to be better museum educators. Can't wait for next time!

Jennica Baldridge, Holly Gibson, Dr. Robert Johnson, Dr. Michael Whiting, and Lindsey Rees

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