Sex & bugs & rock ‘n roll

Sarah Dalesman shares her experiences of being part of the British Ecological Society’s roadshow.

On the Friday as the gates opened the first of our bug hunters started to turn up, playing a quick game of ‘whose poo’ or ‘which animal are you’ (apparently I’m a kestrel!) on their way into the tent. On the first day ground beetles and crane flies (Daddy Long Legs) were everywhere, and our enthusiastic bug hunters did a great job of finding them. It was really fascinating chatting to so many people over the weekend, and I learnt a lot from people dropping by the tent. I was very impressed with how knowledgeable our visitors of all ages were. Discussions ranged from how to recognise frog poo (very tricky for most people including me, but apparently easy if you’ve seen your aunt pooed on by a frog!) to the potential factors contributing towards bee decline. It became clear that whilst people are often very aware of scientific issues that have made it into the news, they were enthusiastic about the opportunity to discuss why science isn’t always as ‘cut and dry’ as news articles often portray it. I definitely gained a greater appreciation of ensuring I don’t just present ‘facts’ at public science events, but provide an opening to discuss what is unknown and why continued research is needed.

The bug hunter’s enthusiasm was fantastic, with many of our hunters that we met over the weekend turning up with beasties they had found throughout the festival site, including tent-loving soldier beetles and a ground beetle that had ventured onto the bouncy castle. I found that children of all ages enjoyed discovering which beastie they had collected, with younger children preferring to hunt through for a picture that resembled their find, and older potential ecologists of the future working their way through the keys (a series of questions that you answer to identify a plant or animal). I really enjoyed seeing eagerness to engage in scientific discovery at the festival. My highlight was a wonderful picture we received from Blossom, one of our first time bug hunters on Sunday; a stunning drawing of some mini-beasts with the inspiring title on the back ‘Saving Bugs’. Great idea Blossom!


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