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Engaging with insects

Dr. Tierney Brosius encourages students to get involved in outreach

December  29, 2016

Nebraska native Dr. Tierney Brosius is a wellspring of enthusiasm for insects and entomology, a passion she discovered as a youth involved in 4-H. Encouraged as a child to do what she loves, she sees that mindset as essential to her role, whether professor, mother or citizen.

Giving back to the community — while inspiring her students and colleagues to do the same — is a natural extension of her philosophy, and it's one that certainly has kept her in high demand. A firm believer in science outreach, she has been a featured speaker for Nahant Marsh, a local 4-H Entomology Club, the Davenport Horticultural Society and several public school science nights.

"I think insects tend to lend themselves well to public engagement," Dr. Brosius said. "Next year I'm hoping to have my entomology students help with a monarch release event at Nahant Marsh. I've also teamed up with River Bend Wildland Trust and River Action for their Bio Blitz events."

Dr. Brosius has an affinity for beetles. as evidenced by her dissertation on tiger beetles and numerous publications. Her most recent work with Augustana's Upper Mississippi Center focuses on urban forest health by looking at ground beetle diversity and abundance. The "Book of Beetles" sits prominently on her bookshelf, and her office is adorned with natural and earthy artwork.

Currently she is working on something that is a first for her — illustrating a textbook on insect conservation. It's already a couple years in the works, and she is writing and using her artistic skills to co-author the book with a world authority in the entomology field. Her eye-catching images will help readers understand the content. She is dedicated to using her drawing ability to impart the importance of visuals to convey scientific concepts. She expects the project to be completed by the end of 2017.

Besides sharing her knowledge with more than 100 zoology and entomology students in the classroom each year, Dr. Brosius sees her role as one to educate a generation of scientists willing to engage the public.

Outreach and engagement are central to the future of science, so instilling that in her students is key — she does so by working on speaking skills in the classroom, talking about the role of communication in science, and guiding students to outreach opportunities where they can see for themselves that sharing scientific knowledge is rewarding and fun.