Monday, February 13, 2012

2012 Ohio Natural History Conference

Columbus, Ohio was THE place to be this past Saturday, for one reason: the Ohio Natural History Conference. Yes, this meetup for natural history enthusiasts was indeed a blast and well worth the wait. This year's theme was citizen science, and all the presentations centered around that theme. There's never been a better time to be a naturalist, considering how easy the Internet is making it (especially if you're interested in Entomology).

This year was the 9th year for the conference, and it marked the 100th year of the Ohio Biological Survey, which sponsors the conference along with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. OBS publishes some great literature on the natural history of Ohio, especially the insects. It will be exciting to see the direction OBS goes in the next 100 years, and you can expect more great research coming from it.

Brian Armitage, former direction of the OBS, speaks about its history.

I was enthralled by every talk, it's extremely exciting to see the barriers between hard science and the general public breaking down. The keynote presentation was given by David Bonter, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He's the assistant director of citizen science there, and gave a fascinating account of the projects the Lab is doing. 

The biggest takeaway from his presentation was that citizen scientists are gathering solid scientific data on a scale that would be impossible otherwise. On top of that, the participants are volunteers, so that data is free. 

I was livetweeting the conference, which forced me to furiously switch between taking notes and grabbing my Droid to send updates to Twitter. That stream is a better summary of the conference than I could offer here, so head to the Storify link I made for the tweets to read about the presentations that were given.

My favorite part of the conference was presenting my own research in the form of a poster. I've mentioned my summer research on assassin bugs before, but haven't blogged at length about it before. During the process of making the poster, I finally wrote everything down concisely, so I'll make a post about that soon. My poster was entitled "A Biological Survey of the Assassin Bugs (Hemiptera:Reduviidae) at the Barbara A. Beiser Field Station" and I highlighted the seven species of assassin bugs I encountered. I also assisted in the preparation of a poster about millipede fluoresce under UV, "UV Fluorescing Millipedes from Southeastern Ohio."

I had a great experience talking to other interested people about my research, and I'm looking forward to doing it again. I feel like I had a strong poster with interesting research (I mean, how can you beat assassin bugs and millipedes?), and hopefully I'll be talking about it more in the future.

If you couldn't make it out to the conference this year, start planning for next year! There's not a date set yet, but it's usually held during early or mid-February. Maybe I'll present research again next year, what more could you want?

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