Howdy! My name is Shelby Kilpatrick and I recently graduated as a member of the Class of 2017 with a B.S. in Entomology and Agricultural Leadership and Development. Between the dates of Monday, April 10th and Wednesday, April 12th, I participated in the 65th Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America (SWB-ESA). Entomology, the study of insects, incorporates applications within the fields of agriculture, urban, and medical sciences. This was my fourth SWB-ESA meeting to attend and represent Texas A&M University at as an undergraduate. These meetings allow entomologists an opportunity to both present their research and learn from others’ findings. It is also a great opportunity for networking, particularly for students interested in entomology.
On the first day of the meeting, I assisted with hosting the Insect Expo for over 850 youth and adults from the Austin area. During the Insect Expo, held at each SWB-ESA meeting regardless of its location, volunteers educate attendees about insects. Visitors rotate between booths on topics including insect metamorphosis, identification, biodiversity, collecting, pollination, and communication. I volunteered in the Entomophagy station, encouraging people to taste foods prepared with insects such as cookies and protein bars. I showed others that insects, prepared properly, can be quite tasty. I was surprised at the number of students who returned for multiple samples of roasted crickets! It was a lot of fun watching them convince their fiends to try them too.
Another one of the highlights of each year’s SWB-ESA meeting is the Linnaean Games competition. The Linnaean Games are a collegiate quiz-bowl style entomology contest where teams are asked questions from a wide range of entomology topics, both of historical and current day nature. This was my fourth year to serve as a member of the TAMU Department of Entomology’s Undergraduate Linnaean Games team. TAMU also has a Graduate Linnaean Games team that my team trained with in the months leading up to the SWB-ESA meeting. In addition to our teams representing TAMU at the SWB-ESA meeting, Oklahoma State University (OSU) brought both a Graduate and an Undergraduate team to compete this year.
The competition is a lot of fun to watch and can be intense to compete in. Teams compete in pairs and winning teams advance through a bracket system to compete with other teams. If a team loses two rounds however, they are removed from the brackets and do not compete any further. After everyone on each of the teams competing in a round introduces themselves, toss up questions are asked and available for anyone on either team to answer. If the person who buzzes in first answers correctly, their team earns points and is given a chance to earn more with a group bonus question. If the person presents a wrong answer, then anyone on the opposing team has a chance to answer the question correctly for a chance at bonus points. A panel of judges ultimately decides if a provided answer is correct. If the teams are unable to answer a question, the audience is called on and often, an expert on the topic will share the answer for all to learn. Sometimes no one knows, so the Games Master decides not to share the answer and saves the question for next year’s contest. The top two overall teams at each ESA branch meeting advance to the National ESA competition which will be held in Denver, Colorado this November.
The most difficult round that my team competed in this year, in my opinion, was against TAMU’s Graduate team. After practicing and learning with them, especially this semester, it was difficult to compete knowing that only one of our teams would have a chance at moving forward to the national competition. It was a close round, but my team won and, after a few more rounds, went on to receive 2nd Place Overall. The OSU Graduate Team received 1st Place Overall and will also be advancing to Nationals this fall.
One of the requirements of being a member of the Linnaean Games Team at TAMU is presenting research at the SWB-ESA and the National ESA meeting (if your team advances). I have been fortunate to participate in several research projects during my undergraduate career with one of my most recent ones being on “Density-dependent phenotypic plasticity in Schistocerca lineata Scudder, 1899 (Orthoptera: Acrididae).” I gave an oral presentation under this title and was honored to received 2nd Place in the Undergraduate 10-Minute Paper category. Presenting my research at ESA meetings has helped prepare me for future opportunities to communicate scientific results and their importance to others in both the scientific and public communities.
In addition to presenting my own research, I attended several sessions and reviewed posters highlighting research on kissing bugs, fire ants, honey bees, lacewings, burying beetles, ticks, genetics, undergraduate entomology courses, and entomology outreach to name a few topics. I enjoy seeing and understanding other peoples’ research projects because I always learn something new related to entomology. Sometimes, I even learn things that I can apply to my own life or that inspire ideas for my own projects.
At the end of the SWB-ESA meeting, a brief business meeting was held before a seminar on entomophagy and the Awards Banquet. Several TAMU students were recognized for their research presentations and posters as well as insect photography. I was honored to be selected as the recipient of both the Undergraduate Student Achievement in Entomology Award – SWB and the Percival Scientific Undergraduate Entomology Student Activity Award.
These awards recognized my achievements in entomology research, involvement in outreach, contributions to ESA, TAMU’s Department of Entomology, and my communities while maintaining academic excellence. It is a privilege to be recognized by the SWB-ESA in this way. I intend to stay actively involved in the ESA community as I begin the next phase of my academic and entomological career this fall; pursuing a Ph.D. in Entomology at The Pennsylvania State University studying native bees and participating in their new Integrative Pollinator Ecology (IPE) Graduate Training Program.
I would like to thank TAMU LAUNCH: Honors for their support of my SWB-ESA attendance through a Travel Fund Award. I learned a lot during the meeting and made many new friends and memories. Additionally, I would like to express my sincerest appreciation for the TAMU Department of Entomology and the SWB-ESA for allowing me opportunities to advance and share my knowledge of entomology throughout my undergraduate career. I look forward to continuing my education as well as my life journey.
If you are interested, please visit my ePortfolio for updated information about my academic and extracurricular activities: http://shelbykkilpatrick.weebly.com/.