Last week my lab group and I attended the annual conference of the Entomological Society of New Zealand. This was my second time attending this meeting and I have really enjoyed it each time. Prior to moving to New Zealand, I had only attended entomology meetings in the United States which are very large conferences (with ICE in Orlando bringing in over 6000 entomologists). I find that the smaller meetings here in Australasia are much more intimate and make it easier to network. Kiwis also believe in the importance of morning and afternoon tea, which not only provides lots of yummy pastries but also breaks up the day and provides plenty of time to interact. I delivered a talk about some preliminary data on the morphometrics and metabolism of my focal species, Forsteropsalis pureora, as part of the Behaviour and Evolution symposium.
As a former outreach and education coordinator in Florida, I have been eager to put together an outreach event here in New Zealand. However, I have generally lacked the time, energy, and resources to make this happen on top of my PhD research and responsibilities. This conference provided the perfect opportunity as I would have support from colleagues (who are all in one place for once!) and support from the society. A popular idea that has particularly taken off in the United States and Europe is pub science, where scientists mingle with the general public while enjoying a pint. This idea had slowly made it to the larger cities in New Zealand such as Auckland, but I wanted to try it out in our smaller conference venue city, Whanganui.
We decided to put on “Bugs in the Pub” where three entomologists delivered ten-minute talks, answered questions, and then all of the entomologists in attendance mingled with the general public. I wanted to cover a broad scope of entomological topics to disseminate an appreciation for arthropods, highlighting evolution, diversity, and their benefits to humans. I first delivered a talk on insect weaponry and sexual selection. We then had a talk on beetle diversity and finally a talk on entomophagy and the use of insect protein as a livestock feed. Additionally, we brought in some live native insects for the public to view and handle, including praying mantids, walking sticks, and a few spiders. The event seemed well received overall and I look forward to continuing on with more events like this in the future. I’d like to thank my friend and colleague Rich Leschen and my friend and labmate Neil Birrell who truly made the event possible with all of their help with conception, design, and execution. Also a big thanks to Frank. Bar + Eatery in Whanganui who not only graciously hosted our event but also expertly catered the entire conference.