Posted: June 27, 2017

Kyra joined us for the summer and she kinda likes it.

Kyra's pinned ground beetles

Kyra's pinned ground beetles

A few days after finishing my finals at Bryn Mawr College, I found myself digging holes (taking soil samples with a "yard butler" if you want to be exact) in a field in the middle of Pennsylvania. If you had asked me four months ago what I imagined I would be doing this summer, that's probably not how I would have answered, but then again, I hadn't yet learned of the opportunity in the Tooker lab. When I did hear about an agroecology internship in Penn State's Department of Entomology, I didn't immediately think it would be an obvious fit for me as a Bryn Mawr biology major with no experience in agriculture or entomology. But because I'm interested in conservation, I'd had an interest in sustainable agriculture for a while and decided that I'd like to know more (i.e. anything) about entomology. Plus, I figured, it would be fun to live somewhere new for the summer.

So that's how I ended up in a field in the middle of Pennsylvania on my first day at my summer internship. At first, I wondered what exactly I had gotten myself into; but in no time I was enjoying learning about fields I knew little about from people who are passionate about them. Being around people who think that small corn crops are cute and who get excited whenever an uncommon insect crosses their path has made me more interested in the plants, insects, and animals I come across too. In my time with the Tooker lab, I've become more curious about identifying the things I find in nature, especially insects.

I like that I now know the difference between sorghum and soy, that I can figure out what pests have been eating corn based on the damage they leave behind, and that I can tell you what makes a marsh slug different from a gray garden slug. And if there's one thing I've learned more than anything in my time at Tooker lab, it's that if you spend enough time with excited entomologists, you might adopt the tendency to talk to insects in a baby voice on occasion. While I might not be pursuing a career in entomology, I'll definitely bring my newfound enthusiasm for insects back to Bryn Mawr in the fall as I continue to explore my interests in biology.

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John Tooker, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Entomology