What Must the Neighbors Think? (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Sometimes I wonder about my neighbors.  There’s one that wanders up and down the street at odd times and another that has some pretty intense conversations with his dog as they walk.  Wondering about my neighbors makes me wonder what they think of me.  I mean, I had this going in my yard every night for a month last summer and spent at least 2-3 hours every night staring at the sheet:

backyard blacklight

My neighbors probably think I’m much stranger than they are – and they’re probably right.  :)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: On Bug Bloggers

I really enjoyed getting to hang out with some of my fellow bug bloggers at Science Online at the beginning of the month!  I feel like we’ve got a great community online, a very supportive group of writers who are incredibly passionate about spreading the word about how great insects are to the world.  Sometimes there are costumes:

Bug Girl

Bug Girl

That’s Bug Girl, conquering the world in a stylish bug costume that she wore the whole last day of Scio13.  Maybe I associate with an odd crowd, but this seemed completely normal to me.  :)

Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Things I’ve Learned at Science Online 2013

Science Online started Wednesday and hundreds of incredibly talented science writers descended on my city for it. This is my first year at Science Online and I’m having a blast! I’ve gotten to meet a few of my science writing heroes, talked about citizen science with a lot of people, and have learned all sorts of new things in the sessions. There are several bug bloggers here (more about that shortly) and all five of my photo submissions made it into the SciArt show. Super fun! Then there is the swag… Oh, the swag! I wish all conferences gave you science books! That’s a whole lot better, at least to me, than all the water bottles I never use and bags that I end up giving away because I have too many. Free science books are always welcome!

But let’s go back to the things I’ve learned. I’ve been live tweeting as much as possible while trying to check Twitter and write notes and send an occasional e mail (Scio13’ers seem to be masters of online multitasking!), so if you’ve been following me on Twitter the last few days you know that I’ve had some revelations. I’ll try not to repeat too many of those here, but let’s start with this one:

1. Science raps done by a white guy with a degree in medieval literature are darned funny!

Baba Brinkman, performing one of his raps at the Scio13 open mike night

Baba Brinkman, performing one of his raps at the Scio13 open mike night

Baba Brinkman performed some of his science raps today during the morning session as well as last night during the open mike. I absolutely loved them! They were witty, had an excellent beat, and were shockingly educational. I will be the first to admit that I am not a lover of rap. At all. But I think I’m going to buy one – possibly all – of Baba’s albums because his songs are awesome. We had a room of 450 mostly white people yelling “I a African!” That’s really something to see – and it even made sense based on the lesson about evolution conveyed in the song. :)

2. Using personal narrative in science writing can be a great way to bring people into the story and make them appreciate science.

Personal narrative illustration

The doodle from the personal narrative session highlighting some of the stories and points made – click to expand!

I went to a session on the role of personal narrative in science writing and I loved it! Partly I was excited because I was sitting two seat back from Carl Zimmer, only a few seats away from Ed Yong, and Alex Wild was directly in my line of sight, but it was great to hear so many well-respected, amazingly skilled science writers talk about how they have used personal stories to draw people into the science and see the relevance of the science to their own lives. I think I enjoyed this session partly because I like to tell these kinds of stories already, though I have a new idea about how to write them that I’m going to try. Having so many very well-respected science writers validate a writing style that I love to use, however, made it seem so much more legitimate.

3. The ethics surrounding citizen science are Much more complicated than I would have expected – and it is something that all citizen science project leaders should think about.


This has nothing to do with ethics, but this little guy is the official mascot of Scio13 – SciOctopus!

I am very aware of privacy issues related to my Dragonfly Swarm Project and all personal data that I collect is seen by me and no one else, and never will be shared with others. That said, we discussed several things that I hadn’t ever even thought about in the session about ethics in citizen science. For example, if you have people sign consent forms, they often don’t read them, yet sign them. (Guilty!) There are tricks you can employ to force people to read the forms, such as giving a test based on what they read, but I hadn’t ever really considered that you might need to do that. A lot of what we talked about in the session  were related to studies that involve human subjects (such as the face mite project I participated in on Wednesday – had my face scraped with a little metal spatula to try to find mites in my pores for the newest and upcoming Your Wild Life project), but I came away with a lot of new things to think about.

4. People who have been blogging a long time have great ideas for how to keep your blog going strong

Blogging for the long haul moderators

Blogging for the long haul, moderated by Dr. Zen (in kilt/feather mask) and SciCurious (in black mask)

I love blogging and hope I will be able to do it for a long time. But, every now and then you just don’t feel like writing, life gets in the way, or you can’t find the time. I attended a session on blogging for the long haul yesterday that offered a lot of great tips. These included carving out special time for blogging, blogging according to a schedule (I do this!), keeping lists of ideas when they come to you and writing about your favorite, and making the most of super productive times when you write a ton of posts by spreading them out over several weeks or months so that they give you a buffer against writer’s block. I thought this session was incredibly helpful, and the Scio13 organizers recorded it. I don’t know if/when/where it will go up online, but I’ll post the link if it goes online. A lot of people could benefit from it.  I took copious notes too, so let me know if you want to hear any more of the tips shared!

5. Bug bloggers are an incredibly fun group of people!

Alex and Matt laughing

Alex Wild and Matt Bertone – this is what most of us looked like during our outing

There are a lot of familiar faces at Scio13, especially bug bloggers that I have either met in person (largely via Bug Shot) or have been following online. We got together for dinner tonight and it might be the highlight of the conference for me. There’s something about sitting down with a group of people who all have the same eclectic interest as you, who get all the seriously nerdy jokes you tell, and who understand why you do the kinds of things that you do, that is just indescribable. We had to scream across the table to be heard at the noisy bar, but we laughed so hard my stomach muscles still ache. Cheers especially to Alex Wild, Bug Girl, Morgan Jackson, Maryanne Alleyne, Matt Bertone, and Holly Menninger for the great evening!

It’s hard to summarize all the things I’ve learned and discovered at this conference in five bullet points, but this is a taste of what I’ve been doing for the last few days. I’m having a great time, but I’m learning so much at the same time. What a great experience! I’m so happy I am a part of it this year.


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth


Friday 5: Why I Love Outreach

Last weekend I participated in the Arizona Insect Festival, the first celebration of insects of its kind hosted by the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona.  It was a really great event (look for a whole post about it soon!), and I really enjoyed it.  After the Festival, I pretty much collapsed in a heap on my couch and got absolutely nothing accomplished for the rest of the day, but it did get me thinking about all the outreach events I’ve done.  I realized two things.  First, I’ve done a lot of outreach events!  Between a whole semester of visiting schools for Insect Discovery (I worked with kids from 18 different schools!), Meet the Beetles last fall, the Tucson Festival of Books in the spring, Big Bugs earlier this month, and the Festival, I have rocked the entomological outreach events the last year!  Second, there are five things that I really love about doing insect outreach events.  And you all know what I do any time I come up with a list of 5 insect-related things…  Friday 5!  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

1. talking to the Public


Crowd at Meet the Beetles last fall. There were so many people there!

I am an entomologist.  It definitely doesn’t apply to all of us, but we tend to be an introverted lot and we can be socially awkward at times.  (What, you don’t regularly talk about parasitic maggots that infest sheep during dinner?)  We are often much more comfortable talking to other entomologists than the average Joe because other entomologists “get” us in a way non-entomologists never will.  However, when you see us at outreach events, we’re absolutely in our element!  Outreach events are super fun because non-entomologists enter our world for a brief period of time and we suddenly become social superstars!  When the event is over, many of us return to our dark offices/labs and return to our quiet lives, but just for those few hours we have a chance to talk about the things we love with a rapt audience.  It’s fantastic!  As an extra bonus, my blog’s been online long enough now that I meet readers at nearly every event I do.  I might not get to spend more than a few seconds talking to you if things are busy, but I do appreciate it when you introduce yourselves.  And I’ll remember you too!

2.  Socializing with Colleagues


Some of the fabulous colleagues I worked with in the Insect Zoo at the Arizona Insect Festival.

This only happens at the bigger events, but it’s really nice to have a chance to interact with a lot of entomologists all at once.  Big events tend to draw people out of the woodwork, so you get to see colleagues you might rarely see otherwise.  Doing outreach gives me an opportunity to talk to people and catch up on new developments in their lives.  I enjoy getting to socialize with other entomologists – and outreach events are a great place to do it!

3.  Playing with Bugs


Who wouldn't want to play with this gorgeous animal? It's a hickory horned devil, or the caterpillar for the regal moth, and totally harmless.

Okay, so I know I do this practically all day every day, but I still really love getting to play with bugs at outreach events.  It’s such a thrill to pull one of the big Lethocerus giant water bugs out of a jar of water and watch it spread its forelegs menacingly or to poke a dragonfly nymph and see it jet around its container.  Visitors also love it when you grab something and pull it out of the water so that they can get a closer look – or hold the insect themselves if they’re brave enough.

4. Getting People Excited About Bugs


This kid was SO excited about that queen caterpillar!

I think I most love doing outreach because I can help get people who’ve never really thought about insects or who have been scared of insects their whole lives excited about something having to do with bugs.  Of course there are some people who say something like, “Ewww!  Bugs!” and keep right on walking, but most people walk away a little bit better informed and a little more enthusiastic about bugs.  It’s a great feeling!

5.  Wardrobe Upgrades


Some of my recent volunteer shirts. The tarantula was actually from the Tucson Festival of Books and not an insect-centered event (though I was part of an insect outreach booth), but I still love it. The tarantula is made up of letters!

There is usually some incentive provided if you volunteer for outreach events.  I love getting tickets to go on tours at places like the Biosphere II or getting to see the Big Bugs sculptures for free.  A lot of the events I’ve done recently have provided t-shirts, so I get a wardrobe upgrade!  It’s always nice to get free t-shirts, especially when they’re covered in bugs.  :)

Does anyone else out there do science outreach events?  If so, I’d love to hear what you love about them!  Fill up the comments section below!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright ©TheDragonflyWoman.com

Friday 5: 5 signs your neighbor is an entomologist

One of the topics that comes up over and over again in conversations with my entomologist friends are the personality traits, behaviors, and wardrobes that distinguish entomologists (amateur and pro) from the rest of society.  As you might imagine, your average entomologist tends to stand out from other people, though some stand out to a greater extent than others.  Over the years, we’ve come up with a pretty comprehensive list of characteristics that identify the stereotypical passionate field entomologist.  I thought it would be fun to post some of these characteristics for this week’s Friday 5!

Let’s begin with a scenario to set the mood.  You have a suspicion that your new next door neighbor might be an entomologist, but she tends to keep to herself and you haven’t had a chance to ask her.  Never fear!  Just look for the signs.  Your neighbor is probably an entomologist if:

porch light

A green lacewing near the porch light in my backyard.

1.  She stares at porch lights, street lights, or parking lot lights for long periods of time. Lights at night are an amazing source of insects!  Many entomologists will leave porch lights on simply to see what comes to the lights.  We also spend hours and hours out in the middle of nowhere staring at generator-powered UV lights that we shine onto white sheets.  If your neighbor spends a lot of time staring at her porch light, she is probably an entomologist looking for bugs.  I lived in an apartment complex with about 40 units when I first moved to Arizona.  I was constantly wandering around the complex staring at lights at night.  Based on the looks, comments, and questions I got from my neighbors, it was clear that everyone there thought I was completely nuts for staring at the lights for 30+ minutes at a stretch.  Several people even went out of their way to avoid me when they saw me!  But I was just looking for bugs.  This is perfectly normal behavior for an entomologist.  We really aren’t crazy…  :)

looking at ground

Looking at bugs on the ground!

2.  Similar to #1, she spends long periods of time staring at tree bark, off into space, at the ground, into ponds/streams/swimming pools, into bushes, etc. There are lots of great insects at porch lights, but there are things out during the day too!  Your average entomologist will watch bugs when he or she sees them, even if they’re very small.  It might not look like your neighbor is looking at anything if she’s in a pose similar to that of the entomologist in the photo to the right, but if she’s an entomologist, she is probably looking at insects.

mantid at night

Mantid at night

3.  She occasionally crawls around on her hands and knees or lies on her belly with a camera, sometimes in the middle of the night. You never know when you might find an interesting insect!  These situations warrant running into the house, grabbing the camera and macro lens, and snapping some shots before the insect flies away.  The mantid in the photo was one I took at 1:30 AM a few years ago.  I saw it on the ground outside my apartment when a friend dropped me off after a night out.  I bolted into the house for the camera and ended up lying on my stomach outside my front door in the middle of the night while I took my photos.  And of course, because it couldn’t happen any other way, my next door neighbor’s new boyfriend just HAD to be walking through the parking lot to his girlfriend’s door at the exact same moment.  I got a nervous look as he asked, “Ummm…  What are you doing?”  I cheerfully explained that I was an entomologist and there was this gorgeous mantid on my porch.  I’m not sure that my explanation convinced him that I wasn’t crazy, but I couldn’t have been happier with my up close and personal encounter with the mantid!

me at Los Fresnos

Me at Los Fresnos, Mexico

4.  She wears clothes with a lot of pockets on them (maybe adding a backpack, fishing vest, or fanny pack for even more pockets), sport sandals (sometimes with socks!) or hiking boots, and very wide-brimmed hats. Your neighbor could be going on an urban safari, but chances are she’s an entomologist if she’s wearing something along the lines of the outfit I’ve got on in the photo, especially if she’s wearing this to work.   Notice the cargo pants and the broad-brimmed hat.  The hiking boots are there even though you can’t see them.  If your neighbor is wearing a bug shirt as part of this ensemble (there’s a hellgrammite on the back of my shirt!) or carrying a bug net (I’ve got an aquatic net with me), you can be sure that she’s an entomologist!  Ted MacRae has a photo of his beetle hunting ensemble on his Beetles in the Bush blog, so I shall direct you there to get another visual of the sort of outfit I’m talking about.  Not all entomologists will wear similar outfits, but if they spend any time in the field they will eventually end up in something rather like these.

Me sampling in Sabino Canyon

Me sampling in Sabino Canyon.

5.  She wears entomological tools (a hand lens, forceps, etc) on a lanyard or cord around her neck. I know of several people who carry entomological tools with them all the time!  I personally only wear my forceps when I’m out in the field working (I carry them hidden in my purse the rest of the time!) , but I know people who ALWAYS wear their tools.  When one of the profs in my department was married, his students reported that both bride and groom were married wearing their hand lenses!  What can I say?  We’re dedicated to our work.  It’s a little hard to see the lanyard around my neck in the photo, but it’s a super fancy one with multiple clips and a quick release connector at the neck.  I actually PAID something like 10 bucks for this lanyard rather than getting it free as part of some conference swag bag.  I love it!

There are several other signs you can look for, but I’ll stick with these five for now.  Any other entomologists care to add some characteristics to the list?  If so, I’d love to read your comments!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011 DragonflyWoman.wordpress.com