Entomologist to lead Bug Safari | SteamboatToday.com
Tamera Manzanares

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Entomologist to lead Bug Safari

Clark Pearson at first struggles to explain why he decided to study bugs. Then, he thinks of two adjectives that aptly describe his subjects and interest in his field.

“They are just cool and awesome,” he said.

Pearson, a graduate student at Tulane University in New Orleans, has been researching insects and their relationships with different plant communities at the Carpenter Ranch. He will share his findings and enthusiasm for the small, yet integral parts of ecosystems during a free tour and talk, beginning at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the ranch.

For Pearson, studying in–sects at the Carpenter Ranch was a chance to come home to Colorado. He grew up in Denver and went to school in Grand Junction. But the educational ranch, which balances land and wildlife preservation with a cattle operation, also was an opportunity to study insects in different ecosystems.

Specifically, he was interested in the varying dynamics of bugs and plants in unmanaged, protected pastures near the Yampa River and cattle-grazed, flood irrigated pastures.

“In a lot of ways, insects are critical to the way we live,” he said from his office in New Orleans. “If it wasn’t for insects, you couldn’t enjoy that peach from the Grand Valley.”

From an ecological perspective, one of the biggest advantages of studying insects is that their systems tend to be much more intact than mammal systems, providing a better model of the intricate interactions among species.

Since 2000, Pearson has identified more than 300 species of insects on the ranch. Participants in the Bug Safari tour will have the chance to catch and identify some of these insects in the meadows and river while learning about the bugs’ role in the ecosystems.

At 7:30 p.m., Pearson will present a basic background about insects and discuss his experiments and findings of his project at the Carpenter Ranch.

For more information about the Bug Safari and talk, call Heidi Mitzelfeld at 276-4626.