Public education and outreach is really important to us. We have partnered with universities, local botanical gardens, and horticulture clubs to provide K-Adult education related to carnivorous plant and arthropod biodiversity and evolutionary biology. Below are just a few examples of past activities that have helped meet our outreach goals.
Penn State Great Insect Fair
Since 2017, our lab has participated in the Great Insect Fair, hosted by the Department of Entomology at Penn State. The fair celebrates insect (and some arthropod!) biodiversity and showcases pollinators, morphological and physiological adaptations, parasite manipulation of host behavior (Zombie ants!), vector-born disease, among other areas (see faculty pages and interests here). We developed the ‘Centre County Carnivores!’, which introduces the public to carnivorous plants (and their relatives) that grow natively in bog ecosystems surrounding State College, PA. Participants learned about these amazing plants’ unique morphologies for trapping prey (concepts: adaption, convergent evolution, homology, are traps leaves or flowers – why or why not?) and how these amazing plants digest their insect prey (concepts: pH, enzymes, microbial communities). We’ve also demonstrated the activity of cysteine protease, an enzyme used by independent lineages of carnivorous plants to digest prey, as well as the electrical signal generated by the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) when their trigger hairs are touched. Our booth was even featured in a PennLive article!
Penn State Office of Science Research
We have developed novel outreach programs, which serve as a platform for presenting results of our research and communicating topics related to chemical ecology, evolutionary biology, and genomics. Broader impacts activities at Penn State campus have included development of after-school programs for Eberly College of Sciences Office of Science Outreach, such as their Think Outside the Beaker and Haunted-U programs.
Arizona Insect Festival
In 2013 and 2014, Tanya helped to design and develop the ‘Arthropod Zoo: Hall of Biodiversity’ portion of the University of Arizona’s Insect Festival held on the UA campus. The zoo included seven education stations highlighting key arthropod adaptions and included hands-on activities, specimen displays, and an Arthropod Affection area where the public could interact with various arthropods. The entire festival was estimated to reach 4000 guests and was visited by congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2013. Media was made available by Arizona Public Media in 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEWa-uyilb4#t=217) and the UA Daily Wildcat in 2014 (http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2014/09/insects-invade-student-union-for-annual-festival), and the following UA website (www.arizonainsectfestival.com/arthropod-zoo.html).