Monday, August 10, 2009

Bugs From Arizona

Each year Pacific Science Center sends a representative from the Life Sciences Department to the annual Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference. Last week, Life Sciences Manager, Sarah Moore attended and was able to work out a mutually beneficial maneuver with a few of her peers. Here is Sarah’s story:

Seattle was hot earlier this month, but it was even hotter in Rio Rico, Arizona. That’s where I attended the 2009 Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference. This annual event brings together teachers, insect hobbyists, invertebrate zookeepers and conservation workers to discuss the minutia of invertebrate behavior, ecology and husbandry, and how to make more people say “Ooh! Ah!” and fewer say “Eww! Ick!” about bugs.

It is a chance for people who care about the smallest creatures in our environment to talk with each other and be reminded that yes, small is beautiful. Little lives still matter, and preserving a habitat for beetles or teaching a child not to hurt a spider can have many beneficial impacts, including the conservation and greater knowledge of many larger life forms. It is also a chance for organizations that exhibit insects to meet and form friendships with the breeders and vendors who provide them.

One of the highlights of the gathering is getting to see what cool animals Hatari Invertebrates brought this year. This small but reputable company, specializing in Sonoran and Southwest arthropod species, always has amazing, beautiful and diverse insects, spiders and scorpions available for exhibit.

This year, while waiting in line to buy some velvet ants and grasshoppers, I caught the eye of Woodland Park Zoo’s Manager of Collections, who also happened to be attending the conference.

“Hey,” I said, “Are you adding arthropods to your collection too?”
“Well, I am purchasing some spiders for Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium as well as insects for our own display. Can we all ship them back together?”
“Sure. That would be ideal because the more organisms we ship, the larger and more heat-resistant container they can be transported in” (not actual words used, we don’t talk that way).

So all the regional purchases came back to Seattle in one big foam box. This not only saves on shipping costs, it is far safer for all the animals being shipped. A larger box with thicker walls is better insulated against extremes of heat. It also holds more air, which helps keep the insides of the cages from getting waterlogged or drying out.

At one time, regional organizations may have viewed each other as competition, or as having missions so different as to prevent working together. It was nice to share in this small way with our local zoos, knowing that the message of wonder these tiny animals bring is equally important to the work all three organizations do.

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