Staying inside doesn’t mean you can’t study science

(03/20/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — Looking for some excitement during this time at home? Discovering what’s around us is a good way to spend some free time while getting out of the house.

Nathan Lord, LSU AgCenter entomologist and director of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum, said now is a good time to get homebound students in the yard to explore the various insects native to Louisiana.

“This break from school provides a great opportunity for children to learn about the different insects here in Louisiana,” Lord said.

The Feliciana Wildlife Expo that was scheduled at the AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station before the coronavirus crisis would have given children a chance to observe the museum’s collection of insects, Lord said.

“I have travelled to every continent except Antarctica and have collected a number of different insect species that I had planned to display at the wildlife expo,” he said.

His collection consists of local insects as well as those from other areas of the world that would be interesting to see.

Lord said the experiences he has had during his travels have allowed him to collect some unique specimens.

“When I was in Madagascar, I saw many different species that are found in no other area of the world,” he said.

The same situation exists here. Surprisingly, you may have insects in your own backyard that have never been documented.

Lord said Madagascar was one of the places that felt the most alien to him. He experienced a similar feeling in Australia.

“When you’re there, other than driving on the wrong side, the scenery in some areas looks similar to places you’ve been in Louisiana,” he said. “But then as you’re just riding along, a group of kangaroos bounce across the road, or a giant flying fox overshadows your vehicle.”

Lord said parents can visit websites to help their children learn about possible science experiments right outside their door.

Three of those sites are iNaturalist, BugGuide and the wildlife identification app Seek.

“Some of these websites allow you to use your cellphone to identify plants, animals and insects,” Lord said. “There’s nothing wrong with going into your own backyard to do a little investigating.”

Louisiana still has species to be discovered. And you don’t have to go to a park or other populated areas to learn and have some fun in the process.

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LSU AgCenter entomologist and director of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum Nathan Lord shows off an elephant beetle. This is one of the many unusual insects that he’s discovered while travelling the world in search of insects for his collection. The elephant beetle is found in Central and South America. Photo by Nathan Lord/LSU AgCenter

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Insects that can be found in Louisiana. Photo by Nathan Lord/LSU AgCenter

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Insects from around the world. Photo by Nathan Lord/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter entomologist and director of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum Nathan Lord’s student researchers use a 6-meter malaise trap at the LSU AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station to passively collect insects. The students are, from left, Ilgoo Kang, doctoral student; Able Chow, master’s student; Trey Guillot, undergraduate student; and Ridley Graugnard, a high school student. Lord said this particular trap was filled with hundreds of tabanids, or horse flies, in a matter of hours. Photo by Nathan Lord/LSU AgCenter

3/20/2020 2:56:15 PM
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