Get Your Bug On at Ventana Canyon

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The scorpions got here first and the nonprofit Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute in Tucson wants to make sure they are here to stay, with their many invertebrate friends, so it hosts an annual summer conference here for bug scientists and educators. This year, the 20th annual Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference is at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, July 31 through August 5.

The conference is open to anyone, at a fee of $305 for the full event or $130 a day. Some field trips can be purchased individually. The conference draws about 100 attendees each year from universities and museums around the country and gives conference goers from zoos, schools and universities a chance to learn from each other.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will show how to build an outdoor exhibit for insect biodiversity in the interest of “citizen science” to help educators engage the public. One session is on “utilizing insects to bring success to struggling students.” Who knew? An educator from the Millstone River School will show others how this works.

Emily Francis, director of the Institute, said the conference aims to share knowledge and encourage conservation of invertebrates.

Some events are tailored to families. Others are simply aimed at making learning fun. There will be a Family Bug Hunt and Picnic on Aug. 2. On the same day, a workshop called “Ask a Bug” is scheduled. The scientists and educators have a sense of humor along with a deep commitment to biodiversity and sustainability. Unlike some of us, they aren’t afraid of scorpions and tarantulas. One area of study by these scientists is “human attitudes toward anthropoids.”

A scientist who studies the caloric intake of the Giant Jumping Stick will talk about how those calories are used effectively by the invertebrate. The St. Louis Zoo will show how local bugs can be incorporated into public displays at zoos that mostly focus on exhibiting animals with spines.

“Death Eaters,” the American Burying Beetle, and its relative, the Margined Burying Beetle, are among the topics of arthrostudies papers to be presented on Aug. 4. If you want to learn how to farm mass quantities of tarantulas economically and maintenance free, there’s a session on that, set for the same day.

One of several field trips to be offered, on Aug. 3, will take visitors to Catalina State Park, to see the “Flora and Wee Fauna” in the park. There will be a poolside insect trivia contest at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 2. Exhibits of bugs and on bug research will be set up throughout the conference at the hotel.

Presenters are set to come from California, Oregon, Missouri, Delaware and elsewhere around the country. In earlier years, before the economic crunch, the conference attracted international attendees.

Conference T-shirts decorated with a comic illustration of a giant beetle pulling a cage filled with jeans-clad scientists is on sale online at $17.

Registration is underway and you can register up to the start of the conference online. Go to http://sasionline.org/ to register and for more information about the conference on the website of the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute. Or feel free to call them at 883-3945.

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