Friday, February 22, 2013

Fly-tying recap; Science in Action

Hey everyone! Well, the weekend of the fly-tying course proved to be busier than I had planned, so I couldn't get to the recap of the class until now. Apologies!
    The purpose of teaching the fly-tying course at the Museum was two-fold. First, fly-tying is primarily based on entomology, which goes with our bug-themed exhibitions we're having right now. Fly-fishing is an art form in of itself, where you cast your line from the fishing rod to actively fish, hoping that the lures that you tied on your hooks and the action of your line mimic insects or other invertebrate prey enough to get a fish to bite. When people think of fly-fishing they normally think of salmon or trout fishing, but it also can be used for other local fishes in different streams and bodies of water. Here in Oklahoma most people fish for bass, but there are other fish that will be tempted by a well-tied fly and a well trained fisherman!
Example of an Adam's Dry Fly, mimicking a Midge. From

     As Andy Boswell, our entomologist and avid fly-fisher instructor, told us: fish are picky. Especially trout. If the lure doesn't act or look like a normal insect from the stream they are from, its unlikely that they will go after it. This is where entomology comes in, as he pointed out. If you are in an area that you plan to fish, it helps to investigate the water and environment around the river to see what insects are arriving and emerging from the water. That way, you can best mimic native insects the fish would eat when you tie your lures. For example, if only yellow mayflies are coming out of the river that you plan to fish and you have a ton of brown mayfly lures, you probably aren't going to fool the fish. Especially since its thought that fish can see color, so they do pay attention!
Andy teaching the class
   Andy taught our 18 students the main groups of insects that most fly-fishermen would come across to mimic for tying bait. Then he proceeded to show the class how to tie lures that mimic a beetle, a chironomid larvae, a caterpillar, an ant, and other insects. Since Andy is from Texas and has done a lot of fly-fishing in other states besides Oklahoma, he taught a lot of the general ties that can be catered to Oklahoma insects with small modifications. In total he taught about 4-5 flies, all of which each student had the opportunity to try out and take home their lure. I think will give our attendees a lot of success in their next fishing trips!
     We're hoping to continue teaching the class or at least having a more advanced class for those who came to this first class. The second reason we taught this course was to try to reach a different demographic of Oklahomans that normally wouldn't visit the museum, and I think we accomplished that. Most people that come to our museum are families: we are very successful at children's and family programming. However, there is a lot of areas we can improve on with adult programing, and this maybe is a neat way we can teach the science behind some of the popular nature sports in our state. Andy was a fantastic instructor and we hope to get him back soon, but we also are looking for native Oklahomans too that might have insight about Oklahoman insects if we continue this long-term.
Other students in the class tying away!
     The next big event for our department is Science in Action and ID Day, which is this Sunday. During this event we talk about our department, identify specimens people bring in, and promote our state's natural history. If you're in the area and have an artifact or specimen you'd like us to identify or to learn more about what is going on with science in our state, stop on by! Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fly-tying Frenzy!

- I'll be blogging to you guys more this weekend after we complete our Fly-Tying Frenzy class tomorrow, being taught by fellow Aggie Entomologist Andy Boswell. We'll highlight why entomology is important for making accurate and effective lures for fish, and tell you more about how the class went!-

Friday, February 8, 2013

And the Show goes on!

   Last Friday was the Opening of two Invertebrate themed Exhibitions at the Sam Noble Museum: Beautiful Beasts featuring the photography of Thomas Shahan, and Bugs Outside of the Box by Outhouse Exhibit Services. Because our department was so involved with the Opening and participated in it, unfortunately we didn't get an opportunity to post a blog article. But, instead today we get to recap what a great night it was! All of the images provided here are from our part-time collection manager Jessa Watters, who was generous enough to take some photos of the event!
    The first thing that started the publicity off and led the big event was putting out our giant inflatable spider. Initially we had hoped to string it up on the side of the building's entrance, but because of the wind we had to keep it on the ground for a while. This was a mixed blessing, however, because taking a photo with the spider became one of the "must do's" events on campus, and we had all kinds of people coming in to be photographed in the fangs, running away from, or on top of our spider.
The Spider! Image from SNOMNH.
Build a bug!
    Because the Opening of the exhibits was open to the public, we were expecting a fairly large crowd but were not expecting such a large turnout! The main gallery had several themed tables set up with different activities and learning stations for the attendees. The Education department had two sets of tables: one was Build a Bug where kids could make their own insects using paper cutouts of different wings, legs, etc. The other was learning about Insect Lifecycles, where they could interact with materials to learn about metamorphosis and other ways insects grow. Kids had a great time learning at these tables.
     Another table that was set up was about insects as food. Insects as a food source, especially for protein, has been a hot topic lately as many countries are looking for other ways to feed their populations. With less pressure on the environment to produce, we wanted people to give bugs a try here in Oklahoma at our opening to see what they think. And it was a huge hit! Hot Lix is a company that specializes in unique edibles, and we purchased several boxes of their dried and flavored crickets and mealworms ("Crickettes" and "Larvettes"), as well as chocolate covered ants. By the end of the evening we went through at least 144 boxes of snacks! If someone ate a bug, they got a pin saying telling everyone about it. Our Undergraduate Research Assistant Laura Figueroa and volunteer Betty Braun were some of the toughest ladies I know dealing with the crowds of kids and adults wanting to try the food, and they both did it with big smiles on their faces and with lots of encouragement to give it a try!
    The last four themed tables covered Insect Products, Insect Sounds, the Recent Invertebrates Collection and the Herpetology collection. The Herpetology department was involved in creating a table about Insects and Herps since they both are often tied together either as food or as an enemy, which led to the title "Food, Friend or Foe?". Jessa created the table featuring different frogs and reptiles that either depend on insects for food, or have to deal with defending themselves from insects as they develop while tadpoles for example. Kids loved this table as well because not only were there cool insects, but neat snakes and frog specimens too! Leading the way at this table was volunteer Marilyn Hammond, and I think she did a great job because it was one of the most popular tables!
Herps + Inverts = awesome
      Insect Products was also a popular table, where we talked about the different products that we use in our society either made from or with insects. This included things like silk, figs, shellac and cochineal (which we talked about in earlier articles). People were interested mainly in the figs...nobody really thought about how the fruit was made, and that they were eating a tiny wasp when they enjoyed their favorite Fig Newtons! The silk was also a popular item to touch, and the honey and wax as products to talk about. We had two fantastic volunteers at this table helping us out and talking about bugs: Bill Miller and Marj Greer.
Insect products!
   We tried to get all kinds of senses stimulated about insects, so we also had a table about Insect Sounds where people could listen to recordings of insects vibrating, stridulating, and singing. Eleven songs were picked and put on six iPods for adults and kids to listen to, and we had several pamphlets on the table with descriptions of each song so people could learn more about them. I think one of the favorite songs was one of a male braconid wasp singing to a female wasp to get her attention! We had two awesome volunteers Nance Ross and Carol Hutton at this table along with our Collection Manager Tamaki Yuri being our representatives!
Insect Sounds! Pamphlets were also handed out about the songs, and demos of how a tympanum in cicadas works were achieved using the baby-food jar pop tops, provided by Jessa Watters.
     Our last table was about the Recent Invertebrates Collection. At that table we had one of the large display cases that was used in the earlier Darwin Exhibit made by former Herpetology Curator Laurie Vitt and Jessa Watters, showing all the diversity of insects from Oklahoma. At the table we also had examples of crayfish, mollusks, spiders, and a jar of material that shows the "before curation" stage for most of our recent samples. Collection Assistant Laura Sohl-Smith and our volunteer Sally Mae Johnson did a fantastic job representing our collection and telling everyone why insects are so cool, and worth studying. I think they converted a lot of kids into future entomologists!
Our two lead ladies doing a great job representing all that is awesome about invertebrates!

       One of the other big draws for many people for the night was to see The Bug Chicks, which are two friends of mine from graduate school who now have a fantastic company that uses insects as a model to overcome fears and prejudices, while also fostering curiosity about the natural world. They did a fantastic presentation about insects that both kids and adults loved, and were able to really engage everyone about why insects and spiders are such fascinating creatures. They were a real hit!
      Overall a big thank you should also go to Jay Jamison and Jen Tregarthen for making the Opening such a hit and promoting it so well, as well as Helena Cohen for leading the forefront for the Education Department. A huge congratulations should also go to Tom Luczycki for creating a FANTASTIC Beautiful Beasts Exhibition...the layout, the lighting...everything is absolutely fantastic in that show. If you haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, you really should!
The Opening in full swing!
  I'm glad everything went so well, and that we got record attendance as a result. I knew Oklahomans loved insects and spiders too, and it shows ;).