Category: outreach

nanonaturalist: Dianne Odegard from Bat Conser…


Dianne Odegard from Bat Conservation International [] shows a Mexican free-tailed bat to the February Lost Pines Master Naturalist chapter meeting, Feb 20, 2017 in Bastrop, TX

Dianne gave an excellent presentation on bats, the variety of species, their importance in ecosystems, and dispelled some common misconceptions about bats and human diseases.

At the end of her presentation, she pulled out a bat so we could see how tiny they are up close. The Mexican free-tailed bat is the species that roosts under the Congress bridge in downtown Austin, and this is the largest urban population of bats in the world. I have seen the bats emerge from the bridge several times, but didn’t realize how tiny they are with their wings folded up! These bats do not hibernate, instead they migrate south for winter, just like many birds do.

In my digging through Ye Olde Archives for the Rebloggenings, it was fun to come across this post for a few reasons. This was my second Master Naturalist meeting (memories!) and this was such a great presentation with LIVE BATS!

But also…


They run Austin Bat Refuge! [link] (and aren’t they ADORABLE???)

You know how my yard is an insect wonderland paradise? [that’s the link to my post about my yard in case you missed it] Well, their yard is the bat refuge. That’s right. It’s not some fancy official facility. IT’S THEIR BACK YARD. They’ve enclosed almost the entire thing in a flight cage (it’s massive!) where they also grow vegetables, to attract moths/caterpillars, so the bats can eat the moths that show up to eat the vegetables! They built a long trough of water so they can swoop and drink!

They have pet fruit bats that live in hammocks they hung over the couch and TV in their living room. (Hey, almost sounds like how I have free-range spiders all over my house?)

Sleepy puppy waking up – Straw-colored fruit bat

They come to the same outreach events I do and bring ambassador bats that can’t be released, so people get to see real live bats up close and learn about them. 

This is June Bug! She can’t fly, so she can’t be released. She’s an Eastern Red Bat. She is SO SOFT. I know, because I GOT TO PET HER WHILE SHE WAS PURRING (YES BATS PURR) OMG OMG OMG. Bat Friend Privileges!! That’s the kind of thing you can only get away with when nobody else is around. They wear the gloves when people are around, but at the house, LOL what are gloves???? It’s like me with my stinging caterpillars. I don’t get my hands near them when I’m bringing them to outreach events, but at my house, OUCH, oops!

Also, since June Bug can’t fly, sometimes, she would get placed in a tree, and Lee would ask people to “find the bat”!

I love them. They are such nice people. They do great outreach events. They throw themselves into rescue whole-heartedly. They hate the idea that anytime a bat gets indoors, people call places that only think to kill the bat–as they become more well-known, they are getting called more frequently, and these bats are getting saved, rehabbed, and released. That’s better for everybody!

Also, their social media pages are the best <3 

Austin Bat Refuge on facebook [link]
Austin Bat Refuge on Instagram [link]
Austin Bat Refuge website [link]

Reposted July 11, 2019





Just had a very promising “pre-job interview” job interview at a local nature park as an interpreter. I’m reasonably sure I’ll get the position… she contacted me after meeting me briefly on Father’s Day when I came in to go on a hike.

What will you be interpreting? Sign language? A forgien language?

Oh, haha, nature and archaeology! It’s kind of confusing, but people who work as frontline science communicators and talk to the public about complicated topics in layman’s terms or do activities to get people interested and engaged are called “interpreters”.

In outreach you don’t “teach” because when you teach, you are shoving knowledge at people whether they want it or not. In outreach, you “interpret,” which means you help explain something to somebody in a way that makes it accessible to them.

When I do outreach, I have my bugs, and I will say, oh hey look at this caterpillars face, his mouth is on sideways so he can eat the edges of leaves. I’m not teaching, I’m interpreting nature to people in a way that unlocks things for them. I’ll say interesting things that make people think and ask even more questions, or look at nature a little more closely. Did you know mosquitos are a type of fly? Did you know you can find caterpillars by looking for their poops piling up on leaves underneath where they hang out? Did you know a lot of spiders will take down and remake their webs every night? Why do you think they do that?

The trick with interpretation is, people ask all sorts of questions, and we don’t always have the answers. So we have to go looking for the answers with whoever asked them, and sometimes we’re left with bigger questions. It’s fun!

Anyways, once I went to the aquarium with my family, and I was telling them about the blue ringed octopus they had, and one of the staff noticed me and told me YOU SHOULD WORK HERE. Ah yes, getting paid to do this is the dream, isn’t it?

June 28, 2019







the holy trifecta


I am so jealous look at these round boys

I still haven’t seen a wild Luna Moth



June 2, 2019

Last night, I dreamed a luna moth came to my house and oviposited on a plant right outside my window and I woke up and now I’m mad.

June 3, 2019

I’ve been living on the East Coast for 8 years now. EIGHT YEARS I’ve been waiting to see one. Granted I live in a very urban area but they’re around, and I do get out to camp and hike.

My dad went to Linden, New freakin Jersey to visit a power plant for work and saw one just hanging out on one of the side buildings, and he couldn’t even take a photo because they didn’t allow photos on site.

He asked me to ID it based on his description and about four words in (two of which were “big” and “pretty”) I asked “was it green” “yeah how’d you know” and I screamed.

I brought a pair of mating cecropia moths to UT Austin’s big open house event and my favorite comment was a kid who said they were kissing with their butts and giggled furiously.

It was good. Them mating kept them from RUINING THEIR WINGS because they flop around like dead fish-pancake hybrids like idiots as a defense mechanism.

They were popular. I’m not even involved in UT’s Biodiversity Collections, I’m just friends with a guy who is and he said I should bring my moths and stick insects to the event because their offerings for the live specimen displays were lacking. The moths were very popular.

June 6, 2019

do you have any advice for someone interested …

do you have any advice for someone interested in going into a zoology related career? i'd really love to but i'm worried i'm not cut out for it

Do some hard thinking about whether or not you think you can emotionally handle a career where you’ll come face to face with the reality of the anthropogenic slaughter of the natural world and its implications for our collective future every single day.

I worked as a west coast fisheries observer for a year after graduating with high honors from an excellent school and a prestigious federal scholarship program and then witnessed firsthand the indiscriminate killing and waste of millions of bycatch animals for short-term profit. It had severe impacts on my emotional state and I’m only just now getting back into the zoology field that I’d waited my whole life to enter after making peace with what I’ve seen. I think I’m strong enough now to continue down this career path, but it took a lot of suffering and the death of parts of my idealistic personality to get there. I’ve been working in social media/brand management and walking dogs just as something to do while I get my brain right. No fancy education can teach you how to handle things like this—ultimately I think it’s more about personality and emotional fortitude.

I’m not exaggerating the pain of this career path at all, and if anyone else wants to weigh in I’d appreciate your comments on what you do to stay positive and sane while working in zoology or other conservation-related fields. It’s more important now than it’s ever been at any other point in human history, but universities would do well to incorporate the concept of climate grief into their biology programs to better prepare students for what’s out there (and some already have).




i went to Explore UT today and got some cecropia moth eggs from @nanonaturalist !! thank you SO much, i’m so excited to watch them grow up!

i also got to hold a hissing cockroach which was fun

Yaaaay! Good luck! I haven’t raised Cecropias before (just kidnapped older caterpillars and cocoons), so I’m excited to try these out too!

It’s funny, I wasn’t planning to be at ExploreUT, but last night one of my friends told me they had volunteer cancelations and were hurting for people. Also, he suggested that I bring my Cecropia moths and stick insects. Both my and my babies’ surprise appearance was much welcomed, and oh boy, the Cecropia moths were mating the entire time. One kid asked if they were kissing with their butts. 😂

The entomology collections had four tables, three had specimens in drawers plus an interactive game at one, and the last table had the living specimens, which would have been only the hissing cockroaches and (well-contained) black widow and brown recluse spiders had I not been present. We were pretty busy all day, so I didn’t get a chance to get better photos of the tables, but loooook!

There’s the hamper with my babies! Their cocoons are off to the right so people could touch them. The sticks are in the tank you can almost see to the left.

(Funny story: that little pink book on the table in front of the bald dude, aka Alex Wild, is a baby album/scrapbook my friend who dragged me into this put together for his botflies. He had ultrasounds done on them and everything. Nerd)

The moths were Popular. I mean, Look;

People were leaning in on the tables to see the moths around the crowd so much that this is how offset they were at the end of the day. Also, here is a better view of the baby sticks. They were very well behaved. Only one escaped, that I know of. At one point I was informed I had a stick insect on my shoulder and I just sighed.

It appears I have successfully infiltrated the Biodiversity Center at UT!

March 2, 2019

@lieslol I was starstruck when I found out UT had hired him and we’d be living in the same city and now we’re on a first name basis

Academia is a small world. Some of my iNaturalist buddies are grad students at UT who have worked with him. And as the curator for the entomology collection, he’s involved in organizing the outreach events. The first outreach event I organized for my master naturalist chapter was Texas Wildlife Day at Texas Memorial Museum, on UT campus, January 2018. That was also the first time we were in the same room. Later, he came to give a talk to the Austin Butterfly Forum, and I asked a question. Then Texas Wildlife Day again this year, which happened after we had both been scheduled as speakers at the Dionysium [link], so when I mentioned harassing his cockroaches at Texas Wildlife Day in the email thread about Dionysium logistics, then snuck up during Texas Wildlife Day and started harassing his cockroaches, he probably recognized me as that weirdo who had harassed his cockroaches the year before and randomly started… answering questions at his table even though… my table was… over there?

Anyways, at said Dionysium, we talked a bit beforehand, then there was my caterpillar talk and my participation in the mosquito debate (just imagine one of my rants in here except I’m using my face hole instead of my hand noodles to do it), and uhhhh yeah I may have bumped up my credibility a little (he may have also double checked on my iNaturalist stats afterwards, based on how he introduced me to the guy in charge of the Stengl Lost Pines site [link], which I am desperately trying to crawl around in (*droooools over the biodiversity present in that protected area*)).

So yeah, one of my bug heroes is introducing me to people as an expert, and I’m the only person who was there for the whole day without a break (because I’m crazy and also MY BABIES!), and I wasn’t on the schedule (I’m not even affiliated with the College of Natural Sciences!)–I emailed him at 2 am to tell him I was coming. When I pass my PMP exam next Friday (because I’m passing this time, dammit), I’m hopping on some digitization projects for him, and I swear if he’s not intimidated by how much I get done, then I have failed.

March 2, 2019



i went to Explore UT today and got some cecropia moth eggs from @nanonaturalist !! thank you SO much, i’m so excited to watch them grow up!

i also got to hold a hissing cockroach which was fun

Yaaaay! Good luck! I haven’t raised Cecropias before (just kidnapped older caterpillars and cocoons), so I’m excited to try these out too!

It’s funny, I wasn’t planning to be at ExploreUT, but last night one of my friends told me they had volunteer cancelations and were hurting for people. Also, he suggested that I bring my Cecropia moths and stick insects. Both my and my babies’ surprise appearance was much welcomed, and oh boy, the Cecropia moths were mating the entire time. One kid asked if they were kissing with their butts. 😂

The entomology collections had four tables, three had specimens in drawers plus an interactive game at one, and the last table had the living specimens, which would have been only the hissing cockroaches and (well-contained) black widow and brown recluse spiders had I not been present. We were pretty busy all day, so I didn’t get a chance to get better photos of the tables, but loooook!

There’s the hamper with my babies! Their cocoons are off to the right so people could touch them. The sticks are in the tank you can almost see to the left.

(Funny story: that little pink book on the table in front of the bald dude, aka Alex Wild, is a baby album/scrapbook my friend who dragged me into this put together for his botflies. He had ultrasounds done on them and everything. Nerd)

The moths were Popular. I mean, Look;

People were leaning in on the tables to see the moths around the crowd so much that this is how offset they were at the end of the day. Also, here is a better view of the baby sticks. They were very well behaved. Only one escaped, that I know of. At one point I was informed I had a stick insect on my shoulder and I just sighed.

It appears I have successfully infiltrated the Biodiversity Center at UT!

March 2, 2019

nanonaturalist: nanonaturalist: nanonaturalis…





It’s a boy!!!

I still have another Cecropia moth cocoon. We’ll see if he gets a girlfriend (they’re probably siblings…)

February 26, 2019

She’s here and she’s beautiful!

I love her!!!! If you have not had the honor of meeting a Cecropia moth, they do this little gryration dance… constantly.

Ugh yes perfect

February 27, 2019

Moth Drama Update

Evening y’all. I’m home (finally), and was expecting to arrive to some thoroughly indecent behavior. Instead, they are just, next to each other?

My face for scale

I took the enclosure outside, thinking I could hang it up, maybe attract some more suitable gentlemen for my lovely lady to mate with, but instead they both started vibrating like they wanted to take off. When the male started flopping around I came back inside (I really don’t want them to tear up their wings!!). They settled back down right away.

For a while it looked like a dance of seduction, and I opened the door and readied the camera for action, and the male almost flew out into the house.

I might just hang them up out front anyway. It’s not supposed to get too cold tonight, but will drop to freezing in a few days. Stupid weather is ruining everything!

February 27, 2019


Seems the male needed the wind to blow the female’s pheromones around to help him find her (????) and we are very much in business.

I … don’t know what I will do if the eggs are fertile… I have two of their host plants, but not enough to support ONE caterpillar let alone a hundred. The butterfly forum might be about to get lucky…

February 28, 2019 (3 am)

Okay, back to these guys!

They stopped mating long enough for the female to cover the enclosure in these things:

And the male started flopping and shredding his wings, so I put them in the garage (it’s cold out!) to settle him down, and I guess it made them amorous again because they are back to mating!

I got wrangled into helping out with the Biodiversity Collection’s outreach tables for ExploreUT tomorrow, so I’ll be bringing them, and kids of all ages can witness the miracle of reproduction, moth style (last year I ended up showing off stick insect group love sessions, much to the delight of the parents, haaaa!!).

The female is still super fat. They lay 100+ eggs in my experience. Eeep!!!

March 1, 2019

thelepidopteragirl: nanonaturalist: thelepid…









Tommy McElrath‏ @monotomidae

The giant bee wasn’t “lost to science”. No one got grants to go study or monitor their populations for >20 years because no one would find it. That’s the real story here. We are constantly undervaluing and underobserving basic natural history about small creatures like bees.

In the light of everyone reblogging about the rediscovery of the Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) no one is acknowledging (besides us zoologists) the fact that this has already happened with this bee. It was thought lost since 1859 until it was rediscovered in 1981 and now 2019. This is because of lack of funding going towards conversing and discovering insects like this bee! 

This is the important missing part of the story!!!!!

I face the same challenge in my work to study and protect frogs.

If you search a list of “critically endangered invertebrates” at least a third of them are listed as “possibly extinct”.

POSSIBLY. Because no one has the funding to even got and check if they still exist. That’s where we are at with invert conservation.

this is why i hate pandas

Hell, this is where we’re at WITH BIRDS.

I have some tiny bug friends on iNat who have been valiantly going through all the unidentified tiny bug photos and trying to identify them (and I mean, true valor). One of them will comment on some random photo of a thing I snapped with my phone in my yard two years ago before I knew what I was doing “Oh hey THIS IS A RARE BLAH DE BLAH” and I’m just like, oh yeah I just randomly found it in my yard I probably have hundreds of those.

Sometimes, I will find a bug, identify the bug, upload the bug to iNat, and iNat will helpfully tell me, OH YEAH THIS IS CRITICALLY ENDANGERED IN TEXAS. Like, one of the spittlebugs I find sometimes in the fields might go extinct because THE FIELDS KEEP GETTING DESTROYED.

Another aspect of this story that isn’t getting told: a lot of the natural sciences are no longer even teaching natural history and organisms the way they used to. Taxonomy is all about genetics these days. Museums are switching over to hiring… people who can’t identify specimens without running PCR??? Like, they cannot look at an animal and tell you what it is unless they analyze cellular tissue. So universities aren’t teaching the “old way” anymore? So, nobody tries to get grants and study ecology because all people care about is genetics and blah blah who cares??? 

Both are important, but the funding institutions clearly do not agree. And the way science is funded these days, people HAVE to go for what they know will get them money to do the work they know is important. Just add a little bit of genetics to get some money to do the ecology work, right? But over twenty, thirty years… ecology work doesn’t get funding anymore. 

Anyway, don’t listen to me, I picked engineering and I still can’t find a job. I’ll just be muttering to myself in this ditch over here collecting microscopic hemiptera and getting gnats in my eyes.

February 23, 2019

Sooo having been in museums & done projects that involved molecular work I have a few comments. Taxonomy =/= genetic work. We call classification w molecular work systematics. Molecular data has let us really learn a lot, but it needs to be balanced with morphology especially in cases with cryptic species complexes. I used museum specimens both for morphology & molecular work to describe new species.

In my experience, museums are not hiring people who only do molecular work, it it’s instead universities. Phylogenetics & systematics is sexy & gets funded. In museums, everyone I know & work with has training & background in their organism. You have to be able to identify things & know shit before they will hire you. That is part of why it can be so hard to get into museum work. There is a limited number of positions & you have to truly be an expert. This also goes for curators besides collections managers & assistants.

There simply isn’t the same amount of opportunities that there were 20-30 years ago to learn this stuff. A lot of people retired. Universities moved away from teaching natural sciences in some cases. However in my degree(s), natural sciences are taught & are very popular classes. It just really depends on your faculty on what is offered. If you’re going to be a entomologist, chances are you aren’t going to not take entomology bc it’s the fundamental course.

If we look at the popularity of courses like the bee course, the lep courses, etc that are offered to people taught by experts – it’s obivous there is this want for natural history. Even though I work w bee people I wouldn’t be able to get into the bee course bc the wait list is so long.

And that brings me to the final point. How do we get things listed as endangered? Museum specimens . That’s how we got the rusty patch bumblebee listed– there was the historical data. I am seeing a movement back to the importance of natural sciences.

Also if you’re going to do molecular work? You do have to know some taxonomy to be able to sort your samples from traps to prep them for pcr.

NSF had big funding for taxonomy & collections but with budget cuts that decreased around 2016.

I suspect my museum experiences are very different yours bc every insitution is different, but this is what I’ve seen in general.

There is a HUGE overlap between universities and museums in many places. I wasn’t able to get much museum experience besides taking a few general seminar courses where I was the only scientist in a room with historians and artists. I took this course the year UT Austin defunded the only science museum in the city and removed its collections. Any chances I ever had at working in this museum in an official capacity were destroyed by the state government. So all the context I have for discussing “Issues in Museums” (title of the seminar) were articles and news stories and experiences from all my classmates who did get to work in museums.

I am happy to hear it’s not as dire as some stories led me to believe. The genetics work is absolutely essential, but it’s just a small piece of a bigger story.

February 23, 2019

Yah fuck the government, my friends who worked at the Smithsonian got royally screwed over – especially the collection assistants who were contactors. (This is why u shouldn’t rely in government contractors to be your staff…😒).

It is worth mentioning: when I say “removed its collections,” I am using museum terminology that the random non-museum person probably doesn’t know, so let me clarify!

I am talking specifically about the Texas Memorial Museum. It is the only science museum open to the general public in Austin, TX. It is a natural history museum, it is still open (although admission is no longer free), and it’s still as great as a museum as it can be given the circumstances! All the permanent exhibits are still up, but they are… old and dusty. The top floor is a rotating exhibit space, which is for visiting exhibits, but I have no idea what they have in mind for that area (maybe I can ask the director and find out, bwahahaha). 

Before I add another huge wall of text with some kinda depressing stuff, here’s a photo and some great stuff and it’s not all bad!

I volunteer at their big Texas Wildlife Day event every January (which Texas Memorial Museum removes the admission fee for, so everybody can visit for free), and this year they had almost 1700 visitors that day! That breaks THEIR ALL TIME ADMISSION RECORD! Keep in mind: this is A TINY museum (not everything is bigger in Texas! Especially not our funding for the sciences!). Our table had mammal skulls, pelts, and tracks, and I brought in my alligator gar skeleton which people LOVED. And yes, all this stuff is for touching. Kids were going to TOWN on this fish skeleton, which (remember) I found by the river in Austin, which I made sure to tell all those kids so they could know, these guys are swimming in the river IN YOUR CITY, RIGHT NOW, and this was A SMALL ONE! They get TALLER THAN YOUR DAD!!!

Their scales are armored plates composed of bone covered in a mineral similar to enamel. Their scales are essentially like teeth. Back in the day, people used to use their scales as spear-tips. I had a kid who came up to the table, who was talking to me and told me that he collected arrow heads, and I was telling him that about the scales, and he thought it was really neat, so I secretly snapped a scale off and handed it to him. Hey, it’s MY fish skeleton, I can DO WHAT I WANT!

This event is just one of many ways that their director, Dr. Pamela Owen (she’s amazing) is helping the museum continue to be relevant even in the face of stagnant collections. She and her staff have put together these kits for educators to bring museum concepts to their classrooms free of charge [link].

And lest you think there’s no reason to visit the museum?

One of my friends was the Entomology Curator at TMM (coincidentally, this is also the guy who keeps taking me to the magical place with all the fish skeletons by the river!). He did this. My photo does it absolutely no justice. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in a museum in my life. To give you a sense of scale, the two Luna Moths are smaller than the Blue Morpho. There’s more than I could fit in the frame of my camera. 

He also makes earrings out of cockroach wings lol

What Are Museum Collections Anyway?!

When Museum People talk about Collections, they are talking about What’s In The Back. Museums are not just places for fun to learn about science (but they are definitely for that!), they are also places for storing knowledge, for academics to develop their expertise in their education, and for conducting research (creating NEW knowledge!). Those news articles you read about NEW MAMMAL DISCOVERED!!! Guess what? People didn’t see it scurrying in the forest. Some grad student was researching a rodent, and found a mouse in a drawer that didn’t quite look right, and looked into it, and it turns out it’s a NEW TO SCIENCE mouse, and oh no, wait, it might already be extinct, GO FIND IT!!! And *WHEW* they did find one, good, it’s just critically endangered.

Museum Collections don’t just happen. They accumulate over hundreds of years of dedicated, laborious work, and they are irreplaceable. In many cases, the only way for us to know how climate change has impacted biodiversity is by seeing what kinds of species somebody collected in a pit trap in a location 200 years ago.

Let me talk specifically about the Texas Memorial Museum collections. They still exist–don’t worry about that part! But, the collections that used to be owned by the museum included an obsessively detailed mosquito catalogue of Texas dating back to just before the invasive species arrived. How did the Aedes mosquitos affect the diversity of native species? Well, we can figure that out! Another example of what the collections contain: A ton of specimens from the Galapagos islands. Guess what you can’t collect anymore?

So what happened to these specimens? They are all still within the University of Texas at Austin. The more recently living specimens are all part of the Biodiversity Center [link] now (meaning, preserved animals, but not rocks and fossils). Good news, these specimens are all still available for research, education, and sharing with other institutions. Bad news, you can’t go see them. If they had remained part of the museum collections, and if they had retained enough funding to pay curators, they could rotate exhibits, and you could have seen them

(Small aside, though, curator for the Entomology section of the Texas Biodiversity Center is Alex Wild, bug photographer extraordinaire who you may recognize as the ant guy who gets grumpy about copyright and stupid politicians on twitter, who also Knows What’s Up and set up the Insects Unlocked program where they are trying to take as many high quality photographs of the items in these collections as possible [link], and make them available CREATIVE COMMONS – NO ATTRIBUTION online! So, if they’ve managed to get to it, and it’s a bug, YOU ACTUALLY CAN SEE IT!! [link TO PHOTOS])

Rotating exhibits on display is good for several reasons. 

1) The museums can come up with fun and interesting ways to make people who normally wouldn’t want to visit a museum… want to visit a museum. Some tired examples are putting together gimmicky “Real life Pokemon” exhibits (ya gotta do what ya gotta do). But what about the frenzy that overtook Seattle when the real life transformation mask that inspired the Seahawks logo was rediscovered and displayed at the Burke Museum? [link] When a museum doesn’t have the flexibility to change out any exhibits, they lose out on this kind of opportunity.

2) Constant exposure to light, dust, and little to no maintenance/upkeep results in slow degradation and diminished lifespan on specimens. Rotating specimens on display allows the museum to avoid looking “dated” as newer methods in preservation and modeling are more life-like. In some museums, looking old in dated in part of the experience (I’ll give the Natural History Museum in London a pass on the faded hummingbirds. TMM… please, just… have somebody vacuum the wolves?)

3) Even people who like visiting science museums will stop visiting if everything is the same ALL the time, especially if your museum is small enough that the entire thing can be visited in under two hours by somebody who reads all the labels. Some things should stay the same for nostalgia’s sake, yes, but… At least switch out the pickled fish, they’re expired!

In terms of My Personal Museum Journey who knows. For what it’s worth, prior to my subjecting a theater full of people to The Pooping Caterpillar Video [link](bwahahahaha), Alex Wild did tell me I was welcome back at UT anytime and not only did I tell him I’d hold him to that, but I *also* wanted money (and there might be a little bit of grant money for digitizing stuff, so we’ll see). He’s seen me around enough Bug Events and I know enough Bug People that perhaps he thinks I’m like a normal Bug Person* with Credibility and not a crazy engineer who really wanted to be a Bug Person and Who Needs Sleep When There’s An Extinction Going On?! I’ll end up being the digitizing productivity gremlin and I’ll mentor all the undergrads and they won’t be able to get me to leave.

*note: normal Bug People are still… I mean… they’re a bit off. The bug people think I’m weird.

February 24, 2019



i had a skype meeting with my scicomm professor today because I couldn’t make the original time. We were discussing the hands on project I have to do for the class. Just so you know, I’m super disappointed with the class so I don’t have a lot of patience. 

Me: Well I could do something that’s more museum related. There’s this activity that I do with the Girls Exploring Science Program about taxonomy. 

Professor: ok, tell me more.

Me: So I would use the basic concept behind that activity, but make it into a sorting activity where people get to sort specimens into groups based on similarities they see since that’s part of what museum people do. I sort stuff to morphospecies all the time in my job. I want to do something that gives people an idea of what a scientist/museum person does since they aren’t able to see behind the scenes.

Professor: Oh so you would be teaching them about speciation?


me: No I would be teaching them about using morphology to classify organisms. Classical taxonomy. 

I came SO close to loosing it today. SO Close. Everything has to have a “science concept or idea” behind it that you are trying to convey to the audience. Yeah ok, it’s science communication. But I like to do activities that allow people to step into the shoes of a scientist since it’s important to me to express that everyone can do science! I like to do activities that allow conversations which is part of the reason I like to show up with live animals or boxes of specimens and just talk to people. I don’t want my activity to just be “Oh learn about this concept” and nothing else. I want it to be more immersive.

My Hot Take That Nobody Asked For

Note: this post is bolded because I want everybody to imagine that I am, if not actually yelling it, then at least very assertively attempting to get my point across

The second you make SciComm or Outreach about “teaching” anybody ANYTHING, you have already failed.

I completely and totally see why you would be frustrated with this professor, because her approach to this field is fundamentally antithetical to her goals.

Most people do not want to be taught anything. They are tired of teachers telling them a bunch of boring garbage that has no relevance to them that they will never use, which wastes their time while simultaneously making them feel insecure about their intellect/abilities.

However, most people are very curious about the world and how it works, but OUR BULLSHIT MEDIA & EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM has drilled it into us that ASKING QUESTIONS means we’re idiots, and hey, guess what, I did ask questions in school and most of the time, the teacher had no idea what the answer was. Most people are incredibly intelligent in ways that even they are unable to recognize or unwilling to admit. WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT IF THERE WAS A WAY FOR SCIENTISTS TO REACH THE PUBLIC, IN A NON-CONFRONTATIONAL WAY? WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT IF THERE WAS A WAY FOR THEM TO THEN DIRECT THIS PUBLIC TO ADDITIONAL RESOURCES WHERE THEY CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IF THEY SO WISH???

Oh hey look it already exists, it’s called “science communication” and/or “outreach” and IT ONLY WORKS WHEN YOU DON’T TRY TO TEACH PEOPLE CRAP

What does work, then? GET PEOPLE CURIOUS. Give your audience a taste of something strange, something unusual, something exciting. And what is exciting to your audience could seem mundane to you. You would not BELIEVE the reactions an entire class of 1st graders had to me bringing a couple Polyphemus moth caterpillars as special guests. And they weren’t even that big yet! These kids had NEVER SEEN REAL CATERPILLARS BEFORE!!! They could not handle it! They went NUTS! I did not give them a lecture on caterpillar anatomy and make them fill out worksheets. I SHOWED THEM THE DAMN CATERPILLARS EATING AND POOPING AND MOLTING. What would they get out of knowing what prolegs are called? I don’t even care if they remembered any of the facts I told them. All I care about is that they left my presentation thinking “WOW BUGS ARE INTERESTING!!! I want to spend more time outside so I can see more bugs!”

Any “science communication” activity that is “learn about this concept” is not science communication, it’s a CLASS. What is your audience going to get out of a class? NOTHING. I’m so sorry you have to sit through it. Get the credits and forget everything you “learned” because it’s GARBAGE.

A disgruntled Director of Outreach >:(

Februrary 13, 2019 (3 am oooh boy)

Cute Fluffbutts Getting Me in Trouble, Don’t S…

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time (October 2017), I was volunteering at the intermediate school for our Junior Naturalist After-School program. We all went outside and the kids got to run around and explore the school yard around the classroom we met in. One of the kids dug around in a peppervine bush a bit, and called our attention to these things:


Look at them, aren’t they perfect???

But what are they? all eyes turn to me Uhhhh well they’re caterpillars! But what do they turn into? Uhhhh probably a moth??? They don’t really care, they’re outside running around having fun (and staring at caterpillars go nuts on this peppervine bush I mean seriously guys). Meanwhile, I pull out the iNaturalist app, it tells me it’s probably the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moth, and I tell the kids and show them a picture of the adult moth and they LOSE THEIR MINDS because check it out: 


Above photo by Monica Krancevic, from iNaturalist [link]

Yes, friends, that is A MOTH. And the caterpillars look like fuzzy stripey sluggy things.

Except… Time passed. The horde of caterpillars disappears (though somehow the peppervine didn’t). Spring comes. And the last day of our program (March 2018), the side of our classroom is covered in moths. But… they’re not covered in Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moths. The moth in the photo above is a Grapeleaf Skeletonizer (Harrisina americana). Our moths looked like:


There is a closely related moth to the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer that doesn’t have the little red scarf. It’s called Harrisina coracina. That’s right, it’s one of the bugs that doesn’t even get a common name. Interesting! I went to the internet, and looked up the caterpillars of this moth to see if they were maybe lookalikes with the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer. And! There were no photos of the caterpillars anywhere. It was enough to make me think that yes, in fact, they must be lookalikes.

Blast forward a few months to the summer (July 2018). I am dealing with VINE SPHINX MOTH DRAMA. They are eating possum grape like NO TOMORROW. I have to CLIMB A LADDER INTO A TREE AT 2 AM TO GET GRAPE VINES FOR THEM TO EAT. It’s a situation. I managed to find some small vines in the back corners of my yard, and I trimmed a bit of it off. And guess who was there?


Well, hey there, strangers! I know EXACTLY who y’all are, and y’all ain’t skeletonizing those grapeleaves! And better yet, I’ve documented two hostplants, when bugguide’s best guess is “I think grape leaves?” [link]

Of course I raised them.


So precious, so sweet. “LOOK MA, I’M PUPATING!”

And in August, guess who flew out? Of course it was H. coracina


Because I have been so stressed out/busy/all of the above, I’m just now finishing up my August uploads to iNat. So I only uploaded the adult photo in the last day or so. 

In many cases, there are really only two reasons insects are studied: money (hobbies) and money (agriculture). The first reason is why you can find basically anything you could ever want to know about the life cycles of the big flashy moths and butterflies, and the second reason is why we know the basics about moths that can cause huge devastating damage to plants and crops. But oh boy there are a lot of moths out there and there just isn’t enough time and money to study them all. So there are some gaps, even for species that can have notable effects on crops (I mean, these things can destroy grapevines, don’t get me wrong).

So when I started posting the caterpillars and claiming that they were a species that has a gap in the scientific literature based on rearing the adult, one person bookmarked my iNat observation of my cutie little possum vine eating fuzzbutts after asking me how I knew the species. And when I finally posted the adult photo, this guy was very excited and needs to double check with the guy who wrote the caterpillar ID book, but essentially asked me to rear them again, going for complete life cycle (with eggs), and sending him the adults so he can confirm for 100% sure that my species ID is correct, and he’ll co-author the paper with me.


I looked him up, guy is legit [link to his California Dept of Food & Agriculture bio page]

So uh, yeah. Unemployment looming, but I have three talks, an outreach event, research for a legit entomology paper (?!), and I’m planning to start a non-profit (for reals). At least I won’t be bored?

Will post about the public talks + outreach event separately, but if you’re in Austin, TX, come to the Texas Memorial Museum on UT Campus Saturday January 26!! Free Admission for Texas Wildlife Day! Me and a bunch of nerds will have fun activities relating to wildlife!

January 2, 2019