Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Insects with Shawn Clark

This past Saturday, a group of excited insect lovers gathered at the museum to learn from insect expert and Bean Museum collections manager, Shawn Clark. All week there had been thunderstorms predicted for that morning but luckily, we ended up with no rain, and instead had some cooler weather and a beautifully cloudy sky. 

After spending a little time getting to know each other and discussing why insects are important to ecosystems and the biodiversity of our planet, we all loaded into a van and headed down to Hobble Creek. Once we arrived, Dr. Clark brought out all his insect collecting equipment and taught us how to use various methods to collect insects both on land and in the water.

After the quick demonstration, participants were able to pick whichever method they preferred and went off to see what they could find! Luckily, Dr. Clark was always nearby to help identify species and provide various information about what we were collecting.

After a while, Dr. Clark gave us another demonstration on how to collect water insects. We even caught a fish! Although, unlike the insects we collected, we quickly photographed the fish and then put it back in the water.

Overall, we had a pretty successful day of collecting. Our group of primarily high school students and their parents were most excited to find a couple praying mantises and some dragonfly larvae.

Participants of this Nature Experienceship also had the unique opportunity to preserve the insects they found so that they can later be added to our research collections. These specimens gathered by our participants on this trip will be used by many scientists from around the country for years to come.

After we had all had our fill of collecting, we loaded back into the vans and made our way to the museum so that we could take a tour of the entomology collection of the museum that these specimens would be added to! Participants could ask to see any kind of insect they wanted and Dr. Clark immediately knew where to find it (even among the thousands of specimens housed in our collection). We looked at various beetles, horseflies, and tarantulas (even though tarantulas are arachnids and not insects). One of our high school participants even happened to be one of Dr. Clark’s volunteers who works in the collections, and she showed the rest of us her favorite butterflies in the collection.

Overall, we had a great day and want to thank Shawn Clark for taking the time to teach us all about insects and how they are collected and used for research!

Jennica Baldridge, museum educator

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