Colorado Department of Agriculture | 2020

At Colorado Department of Agriculture, I primarily worked on the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Program. I monitored 60 sites with pan traps where I collected samples weekly and identified the insects in the samples. I was specifically looking for EABs and parasitic wasp species that had been released for the control of the EAB. I also set out sentinel logs which contained EAB larva to assess which of the biological control species of parasitic wasps for EAB had become established in the area. I also collected biological agents from field nurseries for distribution to property owners and land managers across Colorado for control of noxious weeds like leafy spurge and Canada thistle.

University of Colorado Museum of Natural History 2017 to 2019

My graduate assistantship is at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History (UCMC) in the entomology collection. My primary duties are curation of the Willey Grasshopper Collection, freezer rotation, imaging of specimens, and various other tasks.

The Willey Grasshopper Collection is an orphaned collection that was donated to the UCMC in 2012 consisting of 11,355 specimens collected by Dr. Robert Willey. It consists primarily of Arphia conspersa specimens, but other grasshopper species are present. These specimens were used in hybrid studies of color morphs and behavioral studies focusing on grasshopper displays and song. Many of the specimens were collected from the same localities in Colorado over many years. The collection also includes extra material such as Dr. Robert Willey’s field notes and sonographs of grasshopper songs. I am inventorying the collection, transcribing label information, connecting labels to field notes, and eventually integrating the collection into the large entomology collection of the UCMC.

I also created new educational displays using specimens from the outreach collection for the education department of the UCMC to use in programs. This was a collaborative effort between myself and the education staff to identify key themes and concepts that the displays should use. I assembled the displays with specimens, original artwork by myself, and information text. I created fact sheets with lists of specimens in each display with fun facts for ease of use by volunteers who may not be familiar with the species showcased in each display.

As part of my museum education class, I was required to create a education activity for a museum setting. I choose to create a new program for the Girls At the Museum Exploring Science (GAMES) program. GAMES fosters interest in science in elementary and middle school girls through field trips to CU-Boulder to meet scientists and do hands-on science activities. The entomology section had wanted a new activity for GAMES since the old pinning activity had been used for several years. I developed a biological keying activity for GAMES with a simple key for the girls to use to identify insects. I worked with the education department to tailor the activity and materials to the proper age groups and for ease of use by volunteers who may not work in the entomology section. The activity has been a success.

Denver Botanic Gardens | Summer 2018 Internship

I interned at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the summer of 2018 in the Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium of Vascular Plants. I was very excited about this internship opportunity due to my interested in insect-plant interactions.  My duties were general herbarium tasks to keep the processing of specimens moving while herbarium staff were in the field.  This internship allowed me to learn more about how to process loans both outgoing and incoming.  I inventoried, sorted, updated database records,and packed exchange specimens to be sent to other herbaria in Colorado.  It was a wonderful learning opportunity to work at a collection that was not university based.

Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit | 2017

At the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit, I was one of the summer education interns. My duties primarily were to help visitors in the aquarium gallery, provide feeding tours, and facilitate the touch tank to ensure both animals and visitors had a positive experience. I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity since it was outside of my normal focus of entomology. It was a good learning experience since it was a very different set up from my previous education/outreach related experiences.

University of Central Florida Collection of Arthropods | 2014-2017

The University of Central Florida Collection of Arthropods, a.k.a the Bug Closet, was my first museum experience. I started as a student volunteer identifying butterflies and after a semester I was hired and later promoted to outreach coordinator. I had several projects at the collection over my 3 year tenure. The first project that I was started with was sorting of soil and leaf litter samples (a treasure hunt for beetles, collembolans, and diplurans). I later sorted malaise trap samples, identified new Lepidoptera specimens, reorganized the outreach/education collection, imaged specimens, and updated the collection website. As outreach coordinator, I led tours of UCF students, school kids, and general public groups. Another aspect of the outreach coordinator was providing displays for UCF Department of Biology events and handling media requests/interviews. My largest endeavour was to reorganize the Lepidoptera section, identify unidentified specimens (often lbms –little brown moths), and update taxonomy as applicable.

Because of the freedom I was given to explore collections and the amount of responsibility I was entrusted with, I found direction with career goals. I decided my junior year that I wanted to work in museums and be a collection manager like my boss, Shawn Kelly. In high school, I had wanted to be a librarian but decided to major in biology. The Bug Closet showed me that I could bridge what I loved about working at the library with biology. I am very grateful for the Bug Closet since it helped me pay my way through college and gave me training I would have had the opportunity to have otherwise.

In 2016, I presented a poster at the XXV International Congress of Entomology Poster Session that I created with my fellow Bug Closet coworkers, Shiala Morales,Brian Silverman, Shawn Kelly, and Ryan Ridenbaugh. The poster can be viewed here as a PDF: XXV International Congress of Entomology Poster

Photo Credit: Derek Woller

Indian River Research and Education Center | Summer 2014 & 2015

I worked at the Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) as a laboratory technician in the summers of 2014 and 2015 in two different labs. IRREC is a University of Florida/IFAS research station focused on conservation and agricultural research.

In 2014, I worked in the Insect Laboratory under Dr. Ronald Cave on the Mexican Bromeliad Weevil Program. This position was primarily the rearing and care of weevil colonies for research in quarantine/secure containment settings since the weevils are highly invasive. As part of colony care, I took regular records of data regarding the larval development of the weevils. I also assisted with processing data of leaf damage and data analyses for researchers at the lab.

In 2015, I worked at the Weed Laboratory under Dr. William Overholt on the Air Potato Biological Control Program. Air potato is an invasive vine in Florida that can quickly overtake plots of land and is notoriously difficult to remove. The current method of controlling air potato is release of the Air Potato Beetle which feeds solely on this vine. At the Weed Lab, I worked in the field and laboratory greenhouses to raise air potato beetles to be distributed to homeowners across the state. A major part of this position was running the beetle distribution shipments and associated customer service. Since my duties were split between colony care and managing distribution of beetles, I had to find a way to streamline the process since there was a not a consistent method for fulfilling air potato beetle distribution requests. To solve the time problem, I developed a record keeping system in Microsoft Excel and protocol for fulfilment of air potato beetle requests. This system allowed for the number of air potato beetles distributed to homeowners in Florida to almost triple from 8700 in 2014 to 23,000 in 2015.