From spiders to snakes, Christina is having quite an experience

Posted: August 2, 2015

Spiders are no longer scary when you stare at so many of them under a microscope!
Christina has enjoyed her time with the dissecting scope

Christina has enjoyed her time with the dissecting scope

I have made some wonderful memories here this past summer. From essentially
camping out until midnight in a corn field, telling stories and enjoying snacks
while waiting to collect our data on predator activity, to listening to bird
songs and carefully moving around rat snakes in a field while measuring
insect damage on goldenrod plants, I have gotten quite a look at Entomology
research and all of the quirks along the road.

When I was on vacation in Florida with my family this summer, we went on a
Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios that involves a close encounter with
malicious giant spiders.
“That part with the spiders always freaks me out,” says my brother.
“Honestly, it used to freak me out as well, but when your job involves
staring at dead spiders under a microscope every day, you learn to get used to
it!” says I in reply.

And indeed you do! One of the major jobs we have here in the lab involves
identifying and counting the many kinds of predaceous insects found in
pitfall traps from corn fields. Once we remove from the samples all of the ground beetles, which are one of the most important predators in agricultural fields, we have to sort through what is left and record all the details. And trust me, if spiders are scary even when they look small, they don’t become any less scary under 50X magnification!

Next to this, I have gained the right to boast that I spent my summer tending a
stink bug colony and all of the associated benefits (such as boasting to my rather skeptical family that I know how to tell male and female stink bugs apart). I also learned how to catch and handle ants for my own project that deals with examining how ant and beetle interactions change when more or less beetles are present. Interestingly enough, one of the easiest ways to catch a few ants is to stick a piece of hot dog in a test tube and drop it somewhere outside!

But more seriously, I have gained so many insights into entomological research and
agriculture in Pennsylvania. I had the opportunity to participate in real research that is being conducted at Penn State that will shed light on many important issues in today’s agriculture and offer solutions for everyday problems, such as offering insight into managing slug problems in corn fields. I express my thanks for the opportunity
and hope that my time here has contributed something to these studies!