Public education and outreach is really important to us. We have partnered with universities, local botanical gardens, and horticulture clubs to provide K-Adult education related to carnivorous plant and arthropod biodiversity and evolutionary biology. Below are just a few examples of past activities that have helped meet our outreach goals.
Penn State Great Insect Fair
Since 2017, our lab has participated in the Great Insect Fair, hosted by the Department of Entomology at Penn State. The fair celebrates insect (and some arthropod!) biodiversity and showcases pollinators, morphological and physiological adaptations, parasite manipulation of host behavior (Zombie ants!), vector-born disease, among other areas (see faculty pages and interests here). We developed the ‘Centre County Carnivores!’, which introduces the public to carnivorous plants (and their relatives) that grow natively in bog ecosystems surrounding State College, PA. Participants learned about these amazing plants’ unique morphologies for trapping prey (concepts: adaption, convergent evolution, homology, are traps leaves or flowers – why or why not?) and how these amazing plants digest their insect prey (concepts: pH, enzymes, microbial communities). We’ve also demonstrated the activity of cysteine protease, an enzyme used by independent lineages of carnivorous plants to digest prey, as well as the electrical signal generated by the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) when their trigger hairs are touched. Our booth was even featured in a PennLive article!
Arizona Insect Festival
In 2013 and 2014, Tanya helped to design and develop the ‘Arthropod Zoo: Hall of Biodiversity’ portion of the University of Arizona’s Insect Festival held on the UA campus. The zoo included seven education stations highlighting key arthropod adaptions and included hands-on activities, specimen displays, and an Arthropod Affection area where the public could interact with various arthropods. The entire festival was estimated to reach 4000 guests and was visited by congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2013. Media was made available by Arizona Public Media in 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEWa-uyilb4#t=217) and the UA Daily Wildcat in 2014 (http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2014/09/insects-invade-student-union-for-annual-festival), and the following UA website (www.arizonainsectfestival.com/arthropod-zoo.html).
Tucson Botanical Gardens
In 2013, Tanya worked with Alyson Greene M.Ed., Education Specialist in the Youth Education Department to design and implement K-2nd public outreach programs on the plant life cycle, native plants and their pollinators, and plant carnivory (http://www.tucsonbotanical.org/education/youth-education/). As part of these programs, we were able to reach local public, private, and homeschooled elementary school students that visited TBG, during site visits to local schools (e.g. Gina Gonzales’s 2nd grade class at Liberty Gifted and Talented Elementary School that is primarily Hispanic-serving), and at Plant Science Family Night where we held an “Ethnobotany of the Southwest” outreach science booth at Ventana Vista Elementary School for K-5 students and their families. This final event was funded in part by a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Rod Wing (UA). Information on Plant Science Family Night can be found on the following website (http://vvffo.org/events/plants-science-family-night.cfm).
Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society
In collaboration with BACPS, Tanya has provided public outreach and education incorporating carnivorous plant biology and evolution. For their 2007 annual horticulture show, we developed educational fact cards for plants on display. In Fall 2010, Tanya gave a seminar on my research for BACPS, “…a group of hobbyists, growers, scientists and educators based in the San Francisco Bay Area”. The event sparked interest in on-campus visits to the lab. In 2011, local early middle-high school students visited UC Berkeley and were introduced to the importance of specimen vouchering, as well as DNA structure, transcription, and translation using an interactive puzzle piece activity. Next, students performed plant DNA extractions with strawberries and dish soap, salt, and rubbing alcohol as household reagents. The result was a large DNA precipitant that could be evaluated using concepts gained during the puzzle activity. In another 2011 visit, local high school students were introduced to plant gland diversity with microscopy, as well as applications of PCR.