Sunday, August 26, 2012

Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference 2012

From August 1 - 5, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore was in Tucson, Arizona to attend the 20th annual Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference at Lowes Ventana Canyon. This is a time for arthropod caretakers and educators to meet, exchange care ideas, and discuss the joys and occasional frustrations of providing glorious live insect and spider exhibits for the public.

Tucson is sunny 300 days of the year and exceptionally hot in August. But in the cool of nighttime, the insects come out to play - and so do the entomologists. Sarah attended several black lighting activities and saw giant moths, green-gold beetles, ant lions, and many other creatures that rarely fly by day.

The conference featured talks on insect rearing - such as how to build a setup to raise newly hatched tarantulas without the risk of cannibalism, and without having to store each spiderling in a separate lidded cage. Another speaker discussed the likelihood of a teacher presenting curriculum on carnivorous insects compared to plant eating ones.

Butterfly exhibit staff compared notes on what makes their butterflies happy and how this helps keep their Lepidoptera inside the exhibit instead of out damaging the environment. We learned about the fascinating and potentially devastating to insects bacteria Wolbachia. This complicated genus of bacteria can change the reproductive success of isolated insect populations. Understanding Wolbachia is critical in the success of any effort to repopulate insect

Most importantly, this was a chance for people who care about the smaller life forms to see each other, talk, and share their concerns. Humans dominate the world in technology, but insects certainly rule in numbers, diversity, and adaptation. Insects deeply impact nearly every land habitat on earth. Either as food, pollinators, aerators, predators or pruners, they shape their environment and provide necessary balance. Without bugs, whole ecosystems would not be sustainable. So this collection of geeky bug lovers is actually working to preserve all the life forms that depend on insects. And they just happen to recognize how cool those insects are.

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