Critterology

How bacteria and bugs drive the world

Dates: June 2nd-13th

Cost: $600

Moose, trees, wolves, birds, and even people would not exist without all the tiny helpers that make life possible. In this module, we’ll explore the world around us and discover how small things, like insects and bacteria, can play a large role in the world. We will split our time between field trips in the mornings and hands-on laboratory time in the afternoon. Students will explore ponds, streams, fields, tundra, and forests to investigate what small life forms live in these habitats by collecting soil and water samples, insects, and other smaller critters. At each different habitat, students will learn about different techniques scientists use in field research to understand the environment. We will then bring our samples back to a lab where students will use microscopes and keys to identify everything we collect. Students will be able to see how alien the microscopic world looks and learn about the great diversity in the micro-world. Students will also learn how to culture bacteria and will learn special techniques that allow them to look for exciting bacteria with magnetic properties. Students will make a final presentation consisting of sketches and water color paintings that compare and contrast different food webs, ecosystems, and interactions among microbes, invertebrates, and their environment.

Don Larson

Don is a Ph.D. student in the Biology and Wildlife Department at UAF. He grew up on the Muddy Mississippi in Wisconsin and spent much of his childhood wading through ponds and streams trying to catch frogs and dragonfly nymphs. He moved to Fairbanks in 2006 to complete his undergraduate degree. After graduating with a B.S. in Biology, he became a graduate student at UAF. Don is interested in parasites, frogs, and how they interact during winter. Wood frogs survive the harsh Fairbanks winters by freezing solid for over 7 months every year!! They do this by packing their cells with so much sugar that they taste nearly as sweet as a sip of Coke (not that you should ever lick a frog!). Aside from his research, Don can often be found hiking nearby trails, skiing, and canoeing the Tanana River.

Tom Larson

Tom has a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and is currently a Ph.D. student in Microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He currently focuses on disease-causing bacteria, but also has experience studying bacteria and other microbes living in the environment. He enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring the tiny life forms that most people overlook. Tom went to many summer science programs when he was in middle school and knows how exciting the science of small organisms can be.

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