Sarah's dream is becoming reality!

Posted: July 5, 2015

Undergraduate Sarah McTish describes her research path to the Tooker lab.
Sarah find the good stuff in Scotia Barrens

Sarah find the good stuff in Scotia Barrens

When I was 8-years-old, I attended the Great Insect Fair at Penn State. I had always had an interest in insects, but it was at that fair that I learned that a person could go to school to become an entomologist. It was at that event that I decided that I was going to become at entomologist someday.

During that same summer, I discovered a mayfly nymph for the first time in the swamp on my neighbor’s property. After seeing this mayfly swimming around the creek, I ran back to the house and excitedly told my parents that I found a tiny fish in the stream! My dad was skeptical and had me show him what I had found.  We went back to the creek together and collected a specimen to identify. He then showed me that it was not a fish, but an aquatic insect. This fascinated me, so my dad helped me print out an aquatic insect guide and bind it into a book. With this book, I started to spend even more time in the creek exploring; so for my third grade science fair project, I conducted an experiment on how the insects present in a stream can indicate the quality of the water in the stream.

Image source:

An inspirational mayfly nymph. Image source

Now, I am a student at Penn State working towards a minor in entomology and achieving my dreams.  This summer, I am working on a project in the Tooker Lab funded by an Undergraduate Research Grant from the College of Agricultural Sciences as well as a seed grant from Penn State Institutes in Energy and the Environment. I am looking at the relationship between insecticides and invertebrate populations in vernal pools. Between Penn State’s Living Filter and the Scotia Barrens, I have eight vernal pools I am studying. So far, I collected insect samples and water samples from each of the pools once, and now, I am working on the second sampling of the summer.

Sarah looking for invertebrates at Penn State's the Living Filter

Sarah looking for invertebrates at Penn State's the Living Filter

A mayfly nymph started my dream of becoming an entomologist and now, a mayfly nymph is allowing me to achieve this dream.

-Sarah McTish