Tour de Entomology Graduate Student Association


Joe Sullivan

Welcome and come in. We are entering the raucous home of one of our generous graduate students on any particular weekend when a stress alleviation session is needed. We had a party last year where each person brought their favorite imported beer or wine. We watched films, ate, talked, and gambled. We have a great time joking about our common travails and the wily characters on our scene. We need time together to have fun because the annual events require work from us to be successful.

From the party scene, we journey in space and time to a series of the community outreach events we help spon-sor. The first event this year was the grand launch of the Insect Expo at the University of Illinois Stock Pavilion. Instead of the usual herds of livestock, we see an unbelievable rush of little bipedal creatures called children. Students from primary education throughout the region experienced many attractive and educational displays. Dan Capps brought hundreds of his most chromatic and enigmatic insects. The cockroach racetrack displayed the running talent developed to evade capture in the wild and human feet in our houses. Graduate students from each lab in the department talked about aspects of their research with the students on the first day and townsfolk on the second day. The event was very well received and highly praised with compliments going to all who organized and participated. Almost all the entomology graduate students contributed to the success.

Another event which reaches both children and their parents is the Champaign Park District Alternative Hallo-ween held in Memorial Stadium. The steady contribution of entomology graduate students has made this very popular with the children. As one can see, the line to pet tobacco hornworms, get a look at tarantulas, see the milk-weed bugs, and get some candy stretches for 50 feet. During the evening, we get children pouting at mom because they don't want to give the caterpillar back to the entomology student. They want to stay right here until they get to keep it as a pet. Is it difficult to say, "No" to a raptly interested young girl who wants this pet? Yes, it is! We also get questions from older adolescents like, "What is the potential to learn about human brain diseases and stuff like that from doing research with tobacco hornworms?"

The last event on the public education tour will be the famous Insect Fear Film Festival which has received national notoriety and is going on its fourteenth year. We see undergraduate and graduate students along with adults from the local community with their children. The gala event begins with insect collections and live insect displays being explained by entomology graduate student volunteers. A crew of graduate students prepares some culinary insect delights for open-minded individuals to sample. Then May Berenbaum introduces the theme to the films and provides entertaining and educational points on the films' portrayal of arthropods. The eclectic mix of scary and humorous films starts with a couple for younger audiences and ends with some films for older if not more mature audiences. All in all, we have a great time and some learning occurs on the side.

Obviously, these events show EGSA is about sharing our interest and enthusiasm for insects with the wider com-munity to our mutual benefit. We build solidarity in social events. We share our research and understanding in events like the Insect Expo, the Halloween demonstration, and the Insect Fear Film Festival. We do a service to ourselves learning how to present insect knowledge in attractive formats, and the discipline benefits from increased public exposure and understanding. We hope y'all can drop in on one of these events to see us in action.