ABS Outreach Fair
ADVENTURES IN ANIMAL BEHAVIOR
CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS
Wednesday June 10, 2015, 2:00-6:00 pm
Alaska Museum of Science and Nature
It is hard to imagine a field better suited to science outreach than animal behavior. People have innumerable questions about the behavior of their pets or squirrels in their backyard, techniques and experiments are easy to demonstrate, and applications range from agriculture and conservation to understanding our own behavior. Each year ABS members come together by the hundreds at the annual meeting, offering a great opportunity to reach out to the local community to excite them about behavior research and science more generally. For the last few years, over 30 labs (about 15/year) have participated in the ABS Outreach Fair, which is generally hosted by local museums and natural history centers.
Students, postdocs, and PIs have been working to translate their research into engaging and informative activities for the public, from taking fake birds out of mistnets and tracking stuffed mice with radio collars, to watching butterflies get marked and released. Letting kids participate in such methodological demonstrations is often a great hook for telling them about what we can learn from animal behavior. Fair participants have also designed creative ways to communicate concepts from their work, such as the ease with which some animals can distinguish olfactory cues, whereas we are much more visually oriented or the importance of learning in behavior. Thanks to the generous efforts of local museums and the ABS participants, each of these fairs has attracted a diverse audience, generally 300-600 members of the public, from toddlers to teens to seniors. The kids are invariably excited to explore each and every display and have been overheard remarking “Look Mom, a girl scientist!”
While the outreach fair has proven a valuable event for the local community, it has emerged as equally exciting for the ABS participants. When else does one have an opportunity to see the famed “Patricelli Robogrouse” in action? And what better way to learn about possible systems for dissertation research than to see fish, spiders, termites, caterpillars and bees gathered together in one room with people that know how to work with them? Students have also remarked that having to explain their research to such a wide audience forced them to think about the broader importance of their work. And each year, the participants learn a lot about what activities work well for communicating their research (kids love prizes!) and which ones fall a little flat (people would rather do something than read something).
Is your lab interested in participating in this year’s outreach fair? Please contact Emilie Snell-Rood (email@example.com).
For more information on past fairs, check out some coverage at: http://www.idsnews.com/article/2011/07/iu-animal-behvior-conference-ends-with-science-festival (2011) or http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/not-bad-science/2013/08/09/meeting-the-locals-science-outreach-at-the-animal-behavior-society-conference/ (2013).