Posted: May 10, 2023

Graduate students from the Penn State Entomology Department competed and won first place in the Entomology Games at this March's Entomological Society of America Eastern Branch Conference.

By Adam Scherr

The Entomology Games are a quiz bowl style competition between students representing different colleges within the Eastern Branch. Teams are asked questions regarding entomological history, recent insect-related discoveries, the structure and history of the Entomological Society of America, and any other general entomology questions. Each team of four competes head-to-head against another team, and the first person to buzz in and answer the question correctly scores points for their side.

The Penn State team of graduate students included Anne Johnson, Sonu Koirala, Codey Mathis, and team captain Adam Scherr. The idea to compete in this year's Entomology Games was suggested by Scherr at an Entomological Graduate Student Association meeting, which quickly led the EGSA to appoint Scherr as the team captain and coach, whether he was ready or not.

After a few Penn State graduate students stepped forward to join the team, the group met once a week for a month before the Eastern Branch Conference to prepare and study questions. However, the real preparation did not start until the seven-hour drive to Providence, RI, when all four team members were trapped in a car with nothing but the open road and a stack of flashcards to entertain them. Had the Eastern Branch Conference been held in a closer location, who knows if Penn State would have had the cramped study session needed to take home the gold?

The Entomology Games were held on the evening of March 19th in The Graduate Hotel. There, five other teams from Rutgers, the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia University gathered to compete with Penn State. The competition consisted of one round per team, followed by a round-robin between the winners of the first round. After the Penn State team beat Virginia Tech, they competed in a round-robin against the other winners: the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland. Our Penn State students were worried after losing by 10 points against Maryland, but they more than compensated with a decisive victory over Delaware. When the dust settled, the highest-scoring team was Penn State, followed by Delaware and Maryland in second and third place, respectively.

One funny moment during the competition was when the hosts asked about what presumed-to-be-extinct insect was recently discovered by Penn State scientist Michael Skvarla. Codey Mathis (who is advised by Dr. Skvarla) quickly buzzed in to proudly answer, "Giant lacewing!"

As a part of their award for their first-place victory, the Penn State Entomology Department was given funding to pay for the travel costs and fees for the graduate student team to represent the Eastern Branch at the Entomological Society of America National Conference in November. In its 40 years of operation, a team from the Eastern Branch never won the National Entomology Games. Penn State Entomology may change that!