Bug Girl

Name: Bug Girl
Age: 48 (ish)
Location: Michigan
Occupation: Administrator of a University Research Center

Although Bug Girl grew up in central Ohio, her family moved to Texas when she was thirteen. The culture shock, along with the fire ants and poisonous snakes, made the environment less than hospitable to this outdoorsy, bookish young girl. Fortunately, her love of learning and nature-loving moxie helped her to get by.

When she was an undergraduate student, Bug wanted to study zoology, animal behavior in particular. “Insects are a handy study organism,” she explains. “PETA isn’t much interested in them, they are small and easy to observe, and, as a bonus, they tend to be most active during afternoon/evening hours, which pretty much matched my undergraduate schedule. I initially wanted to work with birds, but that only lasted for two 5AM observation sessions.”

As a Masters student, she took an entomology course in order to broaden her academic background. It was then that she became hooked. She loved that entomology allowed her to combine her curiosity about animal behavior along with assisting in the creation of sustainable agriculture. “I could do more than just say “Bad Farmer!”‘ she explains. “I could offer actual alternatives to using pesticides, or to develop methods of fine-tuning pesticide applications so less was used. Also, I got paid to run around outside, act like a nut with a net, and turn over rocks. WIN!”

Bug Garden
Bug Garden

As an entomologist who is also the administrator of a university research center, she does notice some overlap between the two seemingly different jobs. “There aren’t many women in both fields!” she exclaims.

Her job at the university allows her to work in a bucolic setting, and to guide students through their projects that directly relate to sustainable agriculture. But doesn’t working with bugs make her feel just a little icky?

“I am not creeped easily,” she says. “But there is one standout event. When I was in grad school, I TA’ed a general Entomology course. For the anatomy section, I had to collect male and female American Cockroaches – the really big, 4cm ones with wings – out of a fifty gallon trash bin.  So, I had to reach in as far as I could and grab roaches, sex them, and put them in an external container…all while not letting the thousands of other giant roaches in there run up my arm, fly on my head, or escape. I did not squeal,” she boasts. “Not out loud, anyway!”

Every morning she checks her email, and then holds meetings with the different units of the research station. She coordinates public events, plans classes, and holds down the computerized fort. The human element of troubleshooting can be a bit of a challenge, however. “For example, we had some fool go donut-ing around a cornfield in a truck and they destroyed $50K worth of atmospheric sensors. Last week someone forgot to close a gate at the dairy and twenty heifers escaped and had to be chased down. You never know from day to day what’s next!”

In the future, Bug hopes to spend more time gardening and sharing her love of insects virtually. “The one hing that keeps me going is being able to mentor my younger staff and undergraduates, it’s nice to be able to be there as a sounding board for them,” she says. “I know exactly what it’s like to not have that support, and it’s exciting to be able to make things easier for them.”

For taking the “creep” out of the creepy crawlies, and for being a technologically savvy maven to boot, Bug Girl is October 2010’s Cool Girl!

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