Posts

2018-2019: A Year in Review

The 2018-2019 academic year has both exciting and challenging. This year I took more courses for my entomology major and horticulture minor. In addition, I explored courses in the environmental sciences and plant pathology to help me narrow my interests for my potential career path.

This Year’s Courses:

  • ENTMLGY 5110 – Ecology and Management of Pathogens and Insects Affecting Trees in Forest and Urban Environments
  • ENTMLGY 5420 – Insect Behavior: Mechanisms and Function
  • ENTMLGY 5800 – Pesticide Science
  • ENR 2100 – Introduction to Environmental Science
  • ENR 5797.03 – Study at a Foreign Institution: New Zealand
  • ESCE 5271 – Wellness: Achieving a Healthy Lifestyle
  • HCS 2340.02 – Herbaceous Ornamental Plants
  • HCS 3320 – Plant Propagation: The Manipulation of Plant Reproduction
  • HCS 3521 – Greenhouse Systems and Management
  • PLNTPTH 2001 – Sick Plants and a Hungry World

I also made many noteworthy accomplishments this academic year. Below is an outline of these achievements.

  • I completed another year of working at the Triplehorn Insect Collection.
  • I studied abroad for three weeks in New Zealand.
  • I began work on my Honors thesis
  • I completed another year of teaching piano.
  • I volunteered at Inniswood Metro Gardens over the summer and autumn.
  • I volunteered at the the Museum of Biological Diversity Open House 2019.
  • I was elected president of the Chrysalis Undergraduate Entomology Club.
  • I completed a total of 28 credit hours.

My main goal for my final year at the Ohio State University is to finish working on my Honors thesis and hopefully get my research published.

Experiences Abroad in New Zealand

cottage in front of mountains

The beautiful scenery of a New Zealand mountainside

During my freshman orientation at the Ohio State University, I remember learning about the many study abroad opportunities offered by the university and thinking to myself that I would never be able to participate in something so distinctive. I had barely ever traveled outside of my home state of Ohio, let alone the United States, and travelling to another country sounded way out of reach. Yet in the back of my mind, I somewhat hoped that someday I would be able to do just that.

Now, three years later, I’ve just finished a study abroad trip in New Zealand, a country located on the other side of the world! My freshman self could never have imagined doing something so far out of my comfort zone, and the fact that I was able to accomplish this feat is a testament to just how much I have grown throughout my college experience.

hand holding bumblebee

Myself holding a fluffy New Zealand bumblebee

Although I am studying entomology, this study abroad focused on environmental sciences: the impacts of tourism and human development on the environment. Still, I was able to have several entomology-related experiences. I learned some new things about Manuka honey, an expensive medicinal honey produced only by New Zealand honeybees. I got to see a display of different insects that can be found at different elevations at a local natural history museum. And I found many interesting bugs out in the wild, including ichneumon wasps, bumblebees, immature wetas, and a praying mantis.

Throughout the study abroad, we learned several things about the natural history of New Zealand, the Maori people, sustainable New Zealand businesses, and the tourism industry. I greatly enjoyed learning about Maori culture, which is very different from American culture. My favorite thing that we learned was a traditional Maori song; singing is very important in Maori tradition. In fact, when we introduced ourselves to the Maori at the marae that we stayed overnight at, we sang the Ohio State University Alma Mater as part of a traditional greeting.

Hannah bungy jumping

Myself bungy jumping from the tallest bungy in New Zealand

Some activities we participated in included whale watching, rowing waka amas (traditional Maori boats), ziplining, a vineyard tour, invasive weed removal, wildlife viewing, and hiking. Some of the wildlife we observed included dolphins, penguins, sea lions, seals, kias, and other native birds. While in Queenstown we had a free day to explore the city. A few newly made friends invited me to go bungy jumping, and with Queenstown being the adventure capital of the world, I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

In addition to attending lectures, completing readings, and writing essay questions, we also were divided into small groups to complete a small research project on New Zealand perspectives of tourism. This project involved working together as a team to interview the people of New Zealand about their views on tourism and its impact on the New Zealand environment. It was very interesting to hear the viewpoints of New Zealand residents firsthand. At the end of the class, each group wrote a small research paper and presented their findings. Overall it turned out that New Zealand has a generally positive attitude about tourism, but they still greatly care about the environment and how tourism could impact it.

Hannah sitting on rocks

Myself sitting on some coastal rocks

This study abroad was not only an opportunity for me to learn more about environmental issues and cultures in another country, it was also an opportunity for me to be more independent. I’d never spent longer than a week away from home. I’d never even been on a plane before. Yet I was able to figure everything out and make it on my own for an entire month. I feel like this trip was a great experience of personal growth and exploration. I was very nervous before going on the trip, but afterward I can happily say that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I made so many memories and learned so many things, and I would recommend every student strive to participate in a study abroad experience before they graduate so that they, too, can experience the independence, learning, and personal growth that comes with travelling to another country.

 

vineyard

The stretching vineyard at Yealands Estate

 

A Brief History of Chrysalis Entomology Club

Chrysalis logoWhen I first came to the Ohio State University to study entomology, one of the most exciting prospects for me was joining student organizations. Student organizations are a great way to meet new people who have similar interests and network with students and faculty. Because of this, I wanted to join a student organization that related to my entomology major. This search led me to Chrysalis, the undergraduate entomology club at the Ohio State University.

Prior to my arrival at the university, Chrysalis had just undergone some major changes. Attendance was down, and the previous president had graduated, leaving the new president to try to pick up a dying club. I still remember our first meeting of the semester; the president and I were the only people to show up. It was then that I became determined to help the club to once again become a successful student organization with a thriving membership.

club members with beekeeping equipment

The members of Chrysalis pose with several pieces of beekeeping equipment

At the end of the academic year the president once again graduated and a new president was elected. Together we tried our best to revitalize the club, to little success. It was a continuing trend that the president, the vice president, and myself were the only ones to show up to meetings. Still, we stayed determined. After that president graduated, I was the only one who expressed interest in taking over the leadership role, so she passed the torch down to me and wished me luck with my continued endeavors.

The vice president and I figured that we needed to try something different than we had already tried in order to entice members, both old and new, to come to meetings. The club also lacked a stable backbone of student officers. Thus, our first goal was to build a student government that was interested in building up the club and could work well as a team. By setting up a table at the annual CFAES Back to School Bash featuring live bugs, we were able to attract attention from prospective members. It was through this event that we managed to find two people interested in being the treasurer and the secretary.

hands holding various arthropods

Members holding a giant prickly stick insect (back), a golden-eyed stick insect (left), and a millipede (right)

Now that the club had a team, we could work together to more easily come up with ideas for club meetings and activities. Our first meeting was at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Research Laboratory, where we learned about honeybees and beekeeping. It was a successful meeting, with an attendance of 5. For our next meeting we cooked cricket tacos and chocolate “chirp” cookies at the RPAC learning kitchen and learned about the agricultural and environmental implications of the entomophagy industry; 9 people showed up! Our next meeting was at the OSU insectary, where insectary manager George Keeney taught us about rearing live insects and other arthropods; 11 people attended! Finally we had high attendance numbers, and all it took was setting up a strong student leadership that could work together to to plan interesting and educational activities and get club members excited.

Since then, the club has also had a guest lecture on the invasive Asian longhorn beetle, visited Blooms & Butterflies at the Franklin Park Conservatory, and participated in a community service project called Seeds of Service. Future plans include more cooking with insects, collecting trips, learning to make an insect collection, movie nights, and visits to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

To learn more about Chrysalis Entomology Club, including joining information and a photo gallery, visit our website!

 

Open Houses at the Museum of Biological Diversity

One of the most important aspects of science is reaching out and teaching the general public about important scientific ideas. It is with this principle in mind that the Ohio State University Museum of Biological Diversity holds its annual Open House. The Open House is a one-day event where the public is free to explore the many different collections throughout the museum, including the Triplehorn Insect Collection, the acarology collection, the herbarium, the tetrapod collection, and many more. Several thousand people attend every year, and it is all thanks to the many volunteers who dedicate their time to making the Open House an enjoyable and educational experience.

I have volunteered at the Open House for the Triplehorn Insect Collection each year since 2017. It is an amazing experience to get to talk to the public about insects. Many people in the general public are afraid of insects, mostly because they don’t know very much about them. By educating the public about these wondrous creatures, we can help curb those fears and build an appreciation for the smallest members of the animal kingdom.

volunteers at My Pet Mealworm

Myself and another volunteer at the “My Pet Mealworm” activity

One of the activities offered by the insect collection is called “My Pet Mealworm”, which allows kids and adults to take home a pet mealworm. This provides them with the opportunity to watch an insect grow and metamorphosize from one form to another; mealworms will eventually turn into pupae before emerging as adult beetles. It also teaches kids the importance of caring for insect life and the responsibility of pet ownership. Other activities offered by the collection include educational displays, “bugs in goo”, art installations, and viewing parasitoid wasps through a microscope.

drawer of insects

Rare, endangered, and extirpated insects of Ohio, a display new to the Triplehorn Insect Collection in 2019

Each year the Open House features a new theme. For the 2017 theme of “Web of Life”, the insect collection focused on teaching the public how insects fit into the ecosystem as prey, predators, decomposers, and pollinators. For the 2018 theme of “Magnified”, the insect collection featured a new poster of a giant eastern hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) with important features magnified. For the 2019 theme of “Habitat for Biodiversity”, the collection featured a new display highlighting the endangered species of Ohio, including the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus).

The Open House is a great opportunity for scientists to reach out to the public and for the public to learn more about the biodiversity that surrounds them. That is why I plan to continue volunteering for the Open House in future years, even after graduation. I look forward to seeing what exciting new exhibits and activities future themes will inspire.

Project Wellness: Plant-Based for Beginners

This semester I took the course ESCE 5271, Wellness: Achieving a Healthy Lifestyle. This was an excellent course that focused on the different aspects of wellness and how to apply them to our lives as students. As part of this course, we were required to complete a final project, the purpose of which was for students to share their personal knowledge about domains of wellness with others to help build wellness awareness within the student community. For my project, I decided to make a website about how to begin eating a plant-based diet.

I was vegetarian for 4 years before going completely plant-based in August of 2017. As a college student, I have struggled to be able to maintain this plant-based lifestyle. After all, college brings about many financial, time, and stress-related challenges that can sometimes make focusing on wellness quite difficult. I am very passionate about the plant-based diet, so I want to share what I have learned over the last year with my fellow students so that they do not have to face the same struggles that I did.

Making the website was a lot of fun. I was already fairly familiar with how to build a u.osu website thanks to previous experience building this honors and scholars e-portfolio. Because of this, I was able to focus on the design and structure of the website as well as the information that I wanted to share. I decided to make the focus of the website be on living a plant-based lifestyle while also saving time and money. I knew that this focus would be applicable to many busy college students, and I wanted to be able to effectively connect with my audience.

Feel free to check out my final project, Plant-Based for Beginners.

2017-2018: A Year in Review

The 2017-2018 academic year has been a year of personal achievement and academic discovery. This year I took more courses for my entomology major, as well as several courses to get started with my new horticulture minor.

This Year’s Courses:

  • CHEM 2910H – Honors Organic Chemistry I
  • EEOB 3410 – Ecology
  • ENTMLGY 2200 – Beekeeping
  • ENTMLGY 4999H – Honors Research with Distinction
  • ENTMLGY 5604 – Capstone Problem Based Studies in Plant Health
  • HCS 2194 – Introduction to Hydroponics
  • HCS 2201 – Ecology of Managed Plant Systems
  • HCS 2202E – Honors Embedded Form and Function in Cultivated Plants
  • MOLGEN 4500E – Honors Embedded General Genetics

I also made many noteworthy accomplishments this academic year. Below is an outline of these achievements.

  • I completed one year of working at the Triplehorn Insect Collection.
  • I completed my honors research project on sex ratio variation in the parasitoid wasp Pelecinus polyturator.
  • I presented a poster on my research at both the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum and the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum.
  • I survived organic chemistry.
  • I completed another year of teaching piano.
  • I volunteered at Inniswood Metro Gardens over the summer and autumn.
  • I volunteered at the Museum of Biological Diversity Open House 2018.
  • I finally chose a minor: horticulture!
  • I continued to participate in Chrysalis Undergraduate Entomology Club.
  • I took 1 honors course and 2 honors embedded courses, completing my honors curriculum.
  • I completed a total of 28 credit hours.

Getting to conduct and present my own research was an incredible experience, and I am thankful that the honors program pushed me toward this accomplishment. I look forward to completing other research projects in the future, and I hope to get my Pelecinus research published.

Edible Landscapes of Ohio

This semester I took the course ENTMLGY/PLNTPTH 5604, Capstone Problem-Based Studies in Plant Health, which is a required course for my entomology major. As a capstone course, this course was very different from other courses that I had taken in the past. It focused on real-world problem solving and career applications of entomology and plant pathology. Instead of learning course material and taking quizzes, we instead learned about professional skills and completed assignments such as designing a resume and writing a CV. We also had to practice working with others in our field by completing an assignment as a class-wide group. Each year this project is different. This year, we decided to focus on teaching the community how to plant fruits and vegetables as edible ornamentals via a student-made website.

In order to complete this assignment, each student in the class had to work together in a large group. We had to be able to effectively communicate, manage our time inside and outside of class, and allocate different responsibilities to different people. We eventually decided to split the website into several parts, and each person would write one part. We also had someone in charge of editing and another person in charge of images and photography. Because the class consisted of both plant pathology and entomology majors, we also had to freely share our knowledge with each other. My responsibility was to write the part of the website focusing on blackberry pests. These pests included spotted winged drosophila, Japanese beetles, and blackberry psyllids.

At the end of the semester, we presented our final website to a panel of faculty in the plant pathology and entomology departments. Because of my previous experience with public speaking, I volunteered to present on the section about blackberries. This required me to work closely with my fellow students who had completed the other parts of the website on blackberries in order to familiarize myself with the material. Ultimately we had a very successful presentation.

The exciting part of this project is that it doesn’t end here. Because of the broad scope of edible landscapes, our class decided to focus on only three fruits: blackberries, cherries, and pears. That leaves many more fruits, vegetables, and herbs for future capstone classes to explore. The hope is that future classes will continue to build onto the website foundation that our class built, eventually creating an exhaustive resource for members of the community who are interested in growing their own food.

Feel free to check out our website, Edible Landscapes, and watch how it evolves in the future!

Researching Pelecinids

Hannah and Dr. Johnson with poster

Myself and my research advisor, Dr. Norman Johnson, in front of my poster at the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum

One of my main goals when I started attending the Ohio State University was to participate in undergraduate research, but I had no idea where to start. What should I research? Who should I ask? Luckily for me, a great research opportunity arose through my internship at the Triplehorn Insect Collection. Dr. Norman Johnson and Dr. Luciana Musetti, who both study parasitic Hymenoptera, offered to help me complete a research project on the elusive parasitoid wasp Pelecinus polyturator. These beautiful wasps parasitize, or lay their eggs in, the grubs of June beetles. They can be found here in Ohio, as well as southeastern Canada, the rest of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and from Mexico to Argentina (excluding Chile).

Pelecinid wasp

A female Pelecinid wasp

An interesting aspect of these unique insects is that they are divided into two distinct populations. There is a northern population in Canada and the United States, and there is a southern population in South America. There is a clear divide in Mexico between these populations where there are no Pelecinids to be found. In a fascinating example of a phenomenon known as geographical parthenogenesis, the northern population consists almost entirely of females that reproduce without mating. However, the southern population consists of both males and females. My research project aimed to explore this phenomenon. What could be causing this sex ratio variation, and what are the consequences?

Hannah explaining research

Myself explaining my research to entomologist Dr. Megan Meuti

Throughout the process of completing my research project, I got to learn many things about the research process. Before starting to design a study, I had to complete an extensive review of previous literature regarding  P. polyturator and Wolbachia, a symbiotic bacteria that can affect sex ratio in insect populations. I learned about how insect specimens are collected in the field for research by collecting samples from Malaise traps. I also got to work with artist Jordan Reynolds to photograph P. polyturator specimens for the Hymenoptera Online database (hol.osu.edu).

Once I actually started my research, I got to work in the molecular lab with graduate student Huayan Chen. There I learned about how to extract DNA from specimens, how to replicate that DNA through PCR, and how to test for the presence of target genes through a process called gel electrophoresis. These are all critical skills for phylogenetic research that I will likely use again in the future when I conduct research in graduate school.

After my project was complete, I had the opportunity to design a poster and present my findings at both the CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum and the Denman Undergraduate Research forum. It was exciting, if not a little nerve-racking, to get to explain my research to students and faculty, as well as several forum judges. Now I am getting ready for the final steps of writing an honors thesis on my research and hopefully getting it published!

Overall, conducting and presenting my research was a great learning opportunity that will definitely benefit me in the future. I would like to thank Dr. Norman Johnson for being my research advisor, and Dr. Luciana Musetti for introducing me to this research opportunity. To learn more about my research project, you can follow my blog posts at the Pinning Block.

Plant Collection

plant collection

Two plants from my collection, the common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, and the northern white cedar, Thuja occidentalis

When I took ENTMLGY 4000, General Entomology, for my entomology major, I made an insect collection by collecting and pinning insect specimens. I had always known that some people press flowers and plants for personal plant collections, but it wasn’t until taking HCS 2201, Ecology of Managed Plant Systems, for my horticulture minor that I realized that scientists also made professional collections of plants. In fact, there is a large scientific collection of plants in the Ohio State University Herbarium at the Museum of Biological Diversity, which is also the home of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.

honey locust

The honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos

This course taught me the two most important aspects of collecting plants: plant preservation and plant identification. Before taking this course, I had never pressed a plant in my life other than an occasional flower from a special event. To press a plant, the sample must be placed between several sheet of paper, newspaper, or paper towels and pressed inside something like a phone book. The more weight the better, so we were encouraged to stack many books on top of each other or add heavy objects such as dumbbells. After several weeks, the plants are dry and ready to mount into the collection.

arrowwood viburnum

The arrowwood viburnum, Viburnum dentatum

Mounting plants is very different from mounting insects. Professionally, plants are mounted onto acid-free white paper using paper tabs that will not stick to or damage the plant. However, for our personal collections, we were allowed to get creative and use different kinds of paper, as well as tape the plants directly to the page. I quickly learned that this was the easiest method; gluing plants to paper just became a mess, and none of the plants ended up sticking.

In order to get full credit for the collection, students had to collect different species from many different taxonomic families. Some families, such as Asteraceae and Rosaceae, were very easy to locate and identify. Others, such as Phytolaccaceae and Apocynaceae, took me more time to identify after collecting samples. By learning about the taxonomic characteristics of various plants in class, I became better at being able to identify even these more obscure plant families. We also had to collect at least three different parts from each plant, such as leaves, flowers, roots, bark, branches, buds, seeds, and even fruits. It was fun to experiment with drying fruits and seeds in the oven in order to add them to the collection.

 

Of all the samples that I collected, my favorite is probably the ginkgo tree, Ginkgo biloba. These trees can be found all over campus. Usually only males are planted as ornamental tree because the females produce foul-smelling fruits. However, I was able to collect some fruits from the female ginkgo tree in front of Weigal Hall. Go check it out when it is fruiting, and you can experience the smell for yourself! Of course, my other favorite sample is the Ohio buckeye tree, Aesculus glabra. I was very excited to include our state tree, and our college mascot, in my final collection.