Insects make up the largest and most diverse group of organisms on the planet, with the over 1 million described and 4-30 estimated species all playing a crucial role in biodiversity of the ecosystem. They are also critical for a wide variety of science and technology fields including agriculture, environmental and even biomedical science, and are even being explored as a vital source of food.
“Insects are much too important to leave out of an event like the USA Science & Engineering Festival,” says Dr. Aaron T. Dossey, a Ph.D. biochemist and postdoctoral research entomologist, currently working for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agriculture Research Service.
This noted insect scientist is seeking sponsors, volunteers and interested organizations to help him host an Entomology-centered section at the Festival’s finale Expo next April.
“Insects represent one of the best introductions to the study and appreciation of science,” says Aaron, “and in a venue like the Expo, students and others would be able to see insect species from around the world up close, and learn just how cool and vital insects are.” The theme of these exhibits and demonstrations has been dubbed, Entomology Inspires: Education, Research, Technology, Culture and Conservation.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from organizations, volunteers (including those from school science clubs) and other entities to help make this section at the festival a great success,” says Aaron.
The Entomological Foundation, Green Matter, Aaron’s new organization All Things Bugs and Daniella Martin, host of Girl Meets Bug, (the insect cooking/travel show) are just a few of the contributors who have already signed on as sponsors and partners in Aaron’s goal to create a centralized approach towards engaging Expo visitors in a wide range of exciting hands-on activities in Entomology.
For example, the Entomology Foundation (one of the primary insect-focused education and outreach organizations in the United States) will have a host of volunteers on hand at the Expo to conduct interactive education sessions in entomology, insect races, “maggot art” demonstrations and other fun encounters.
All Things Bugs LLC is a newly formed company focused on utilizing insects and related arthropods for any application possible, from drug discovery to education and outreach – even as sources of a sustainable food source. Aaron founded this in part to organize this very event – the Festival’s Entomology section. Also, All Things Bugs was started to qualify for a new grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to create an insect-based food for children suffering from malnutrition in impoverished regions of the world. This grant is likely to be funded pending a few last minute administrative activities.
Green Matter, Limited is an environmental education company founded and run by Michelle Sawyers Harris (aka “The Bug Hugger”). Green Matter utilizes insects to inspire people of all ages to use their brains (gray “Matter”) engage in and promote sustainable living (aka “Green” living).
Additionally, various insect zoos will provide a wide range of insects from around the world (especially from the tropics and sub-tropics) for visitors to observe and learn about, admire and experience firsthand.
Of course, you will NOT want to miss the insect-cooking talents of Daniella Martin, adds Aaron. “She is really passionate about teaching people that insects are fabulous food – in addition to spreading the word that insects represent the most environmentally-efficient animal protein source on the planet.” With her recipes consisting of such critters as grasshoppers, mealworms, crickets, caterpillars, beetles and scorpions, she is increasing public awareness and acceptance of edible insects, with the ultimate goals of helping to solve world hunger, support indigenous people, and reduce pesticide use in food production.
“I attended the Festival last year so I know how huge and successful it was,” says Aaron, whose work as a scientist is currently focused on studying natural product compounds produced by insects – particularly walkingstick insects. “So the Festival represents a fantastic chance for outreach, fundraising and visibility for partners in Entomology!”
Booth themes already confirmed for the Entomology section include: 1) Bees and Pollinators; 2) Insect Zoos and Live Insect Displays; 3) Cutting-Edge Insect Technology (cyborg beetles, genomics, biomedical science and agriculture); 4) Insects as Human Food; 5) Biodiversity, Systematics and Taxonomy; and 6) a booth section for Entomology organizations and clubs engaging in Entomological education and outreach.
Those interested in serving as sponsors and/or volunteers should contact Dr. Aaron T. Dossey at: BugoChem@gmail.com and http://www.allthingsbugs.com Also don’t be afraid to “bug” us online! You can also find more on this exciting festival section on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/Allthingsbugs) and by following us on Twitter (@Allthingsbugs; http://twitter.com/#!/AllThingsBugs). Looking forward to seeing you all there!