UF/IFAS BugFest showcases entomology department to undergrads, local residents

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s entomology department is once again showcasing its academic programs for undergraduates and inviting residents to explore the insect world, at its second annual BugFest Open House.

The event happens 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4 at the UF entomology building, Steinmetz Hall, which is located off Hull Road behind the UF lacrosse stadium. It’s hosted by the Undergraduate Entomology Club, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“BugFest is open to the public and is family friendly, however, our main goal is to bring in new students to our department, as either entomology majors or minors,” said club President Alyssa Porter, who coordinated the event.

This year’s theme is Hollywood movies, so the event will feature decorations and souvenirs inspired by the film industry, and even a red carpet to welcome visitors, said Porter, an entomology senior from Winter Haven.

For undergraduates, high school students and community college students, the event includes tours of the department, information about its six bachelor’s degree tracks, educational displays and opportunities to speak with faculty members and current entomology majors about scholarships, internship opportunities and career paths.

These facets of BugFest are important because many first- and second-year UF students are unaware of the options an entomology degree can provide, said Undergraduate Coordinator Rebecca Baldwin, an entomology assistant professor.

“If you’re pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dent or are interested in a degree in a biological science, we have a place for you,” Baldwin said. “You can also focus on biosecurity, urban pest management, plant protection, basic science or ecotourism.”

For families, BugFest features insect-themed games, such as cockroach races, as well as collections of preserved specimens and an arthropod petting zoo.

All visitors are invited to enjoy live music and dancing, free food and prizes. The first 400 students to arrive will receive a ticket to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“When you see all the implications of insect life in our world, it’s amazing,” Porter said. “Everyone should take the opportunity to learn a little bit about that, and BugFest is a fun way to educate yourself.”

A map to Steinmetz Hall can be found at http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/map.jpg

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Rebecca Baldwin, 352-273-3974, baldwinr@ufl.edu

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A young visitor peers at a collection of preserved insect specimens at the 2011 BugFest, held at the University of Florida’s entomology and nematology department. The annual event showcases undergraduate entomology programs for UF students and offers local residents a look at the world of insects. Photo by Katrina Lane