Tag Archive | outreach

Arthropod sampling with the Future Science leaders!


This past week has been pretty busy, so getting out and shooting has not really been on my list of accomplishments (my “Ta Da!” list). On Tuesday, I did manage to get interviewed by Global News about invasive ants, and then schlepped across town to assist my friend Tanya Stemberger with a field exercise for high school students in the Future Science Leaders program.

Due to high tides, the planned transect based survey of intertidal organisms had to be scrubbed, so instead, we attempted a transect-based survey of a forest near Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

I planned to show the students a simple technique for sampling called beating, wherein you strike foliage forcefully and collect any falling arthropods in a sheet placed below. We used small photographic shoot-through umbrellas to do our collection, and then used a simple aspirator to collect the catch. We had planned on sampling 5 sites along a 50 m transect, beating 4 small bushes at each site. Due to time constraints, we only managed to get a single site done.

Nonetheless, with only beating 4 bushes (2 salal, 2 salmonberry) we secured 25 spiders, 1 isopod and 1 harvestman. Many of these spiders were tiny juveniles, but some were just tiny adults. Identifying them in the field was definitely not going to happen in the limited time frame, but there may be hope of at least getting some identifications. Here are some of the spiders that were large enough to photograph well:











It seems the spider diversity seems pretty high, and interestingly, of these spiders I photographed, 4 of the 5 are males.

The most striking thing about this sample (to me anyhow) was the lack of insects. Usually, at this time of year, I expect to see barklice (Psocoptera), springtails (Collembolla) and perhaps a stinkbug (Pentatomidae) or plant bug (Miridae). Nonetheless, it is tough to draw conclusions about the diversity of taxa we found, with only one sample being taken.

Of course, finding such a predator-biased range of taxa seems a little strange, until you consider that every sampling method has its biases. In the fall, when plant growth is limited, finding phytophagous insects out and about is much more difficult, but at a sites such as this, adjacent to a large freshwater source (Lost Lagoon) there is ample prey for web building spiders. These freshwater bodies are still producing abundant chironomid midges, and a few caddisflies.

All in all, this was a great (albeit short) little introduction to terrestrial arthropod sampling. Special thanks to the Stanley Park Ecology Society volunteers for leading us on the great nature walk!



Bugs ‘n’ More! Insect outreach with kids


Getting out to talk to kids about bugs has got to be one of the coolest things to do in science outreach….As we did last year, we went to the Richmond Nature Park for their insect (and spider!) show. Great thanks to all the volunteers and especially Emily Toda for putting this together.


Tanya Stemberger was out to get the kids into entomophagy (eating insects), serving up tasty insect treats with Grant Olson. Tanya is subtly indicating that this is going to be awesome.


Grant is a professional in the world of insect cuisine, as he works for Enterra, a company that produces animal feed from insects. Of course, all the bugs served up were human grade!


Catherine Scott was on hand to talk to kids about our native spiders, and to show some great examples, including black widows and jumping spiders. Here she is with a Madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the great insects we had on hand for kids to touch and handle.


It was great to see Mike Hopcraft, the Reptile Guy, back again with his awesome collection of scorpions, tarantulas and more!

We had an absolute blast showing these cool insects and spiders to the kids. If you ever get the chance to do this kind of outreach, DO NOT HESITATE! It is awesome!

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OK, bear with me here. I got so many great shots of kids playing with insects, I put them in a gallery. Just click on the first image below, and a slideshow should appear. Enjoy!


Weekend Expedition 51: Wild Research Butterfly ID workshop


This weekend, I went to the UBC Botanical Garden to cover another Butterfly ID workshop for Wild Research. This was very similar to last year’s event, basically a crash course in family and species-level ID of BC butterflies and a pitch to take part in the BC Butterfly Atlas project. This project is a citizen science initiative aimed at documenting diversity and trends among butterfly species across the province.  The classroom learning in the morning was followed by a walk around the grounds to catch and ID butterflies found amid the large botanical collection, which represents several BC habitat types.


Getting the ID sheet squared away with the field guides.


This kid was the focus of much of my attention! Super cute and periodically voicing her opinion on the proceedings.



ID quiz!


Seriously, the kid was pretty adorable.


We learned about diversity and ecology of butterflies, as well as planting a garden with butterflies in mind.


Butterflies can get to be about this big! (Taisha Mitchell was actually talking about planting for butterflies, and did a great job!)


I think I can see the speaker and the screen in her glasses. Enhance!


Well I guess that only works in the movies…




A Western Tiger Swallowtail in the garden.



Captive-reared Painted Ladies were on hand in case no wild ones showed up!


I am not sure what she is planning to do with this Painted Lady, but my guess is eat it!


A beautiful Halictid on the way to the Alpine section.


Getting familiar with the sweep net is an important component of the indoctrination training.



The pond in the Alpine section is actually a good place to find Pacific Treefrogs!


Hallowe’en Science Spooktacular!


This weekend members of our lab brought out our long-suffering arthropod menagerie for some more outreach, this time at our university for the annual Hallowe’en Science Spooktacular. This event combines the fun of Hallowe’en with the awesomeness of science. The displays on hand creepily demonstrated all kinds of horrifying things, such as radiation safety, microbiology, weird fluid dynamics, and of course, insects!


The event was packed!

cat spider nuts

Catherine tries to freak out a vampire with tales of spider biology. Actually, this is how she talks at any event, including during  her Presiden’t’s Prize winning talk at last week’s ESC conference! Photo by Mike Hrabar.


This beautiful widow was one of three we brought out to demonstrate the awesomeness of these spiders.


Antonia Musso prepares the maggot art with some acrylic paint.


The artists get to work


Antonia displays the finest piece of the day.


Mike busts out the leaf insects.


The costumes add to the cuteness of kids meeting insects.


The undergrads were out in force to do their part in outreach. Great show everyone!


Bruce Leighton brings the steampunk chic with a horrifying Victorian curio cabinet!


Jutta Rickers- Haunerland demonstrates the radioactivity of various household items, including some of the old Pentax Super-Takumar lenses!


Uranium glass fluorescing!


Bekka Brodie tries out the Van der Graaf, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to convince her son Tavi to follow suit.


A glimpse into the wizarding world of microscopy.


A smoking-hot demonstration of glassblowing by our own Bruce Harwood.


Tavi got to take home an awesome glass dinosaur!


This Ewok was awesome!


This girl loved the black widows and the leaf insects. 


This kid is filling his brains with insect knowledge.


It was great seeing all the parents bringing their kids out to these events. This kind of early exposure to science can’t be bad.


The end of a great day of science outreach! Photo by Mike Hrabar.

Weekend Expedition 2: Stanley Park with Wild Research

This weekend expedition was much like any you might venture to make on a winter day in Vancouver: grey and rainy! The rain was not severe though, so with the camera protected by a big umbrella, I headed out with Wild Research for a birdwatching trip led by Elly Knight, a grassland songbird researcher at SFU. The mission today was to get out and see some waterbirds as well as some passerines that make their homes in wintertime Vancouver. I was along to document the fun, as well as to offer my own, often unreliable, ID help! Click on any image below to see a gallery of the resulting shots.