Gross Science at Phoenix Fan Fest, October 23, 2016

As a followup to the Gross Science panel at Phoenix Fan Fest, here are some noted insects of the Sonoran Desert.

Rainbow Grasshopper

Jay Iwasaki, (CC BY 2.0)

Jay Iwasaki, (CC BY 2.0)

Feeds on snakeweed and desert broom, making it distasteful to predators.

Opuntia Bug

Cactus Bug (Chelinidea vittiger - Opuntia Bug); trail over "Adobe Wall Pass" to Redfield Canyon S of Jackson Canyon, Galiuro Mountains, E of Redington, AZ, Lon&Queta, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cactus Bug (Chelinidea vittiger – Opuntia Bug); trail over “Adobe Wall Pass” to Redfield Canyon S of Jackson Canyon, Galiuro Mountains, E of Redington, AZ, Lon&Queta, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cause white spots to appear on cacti due to their feeding.


Photo by Eileen Kane

Diceroprocta apache photo by Eileen Kane

Different species emerge at disparate times of the year and males sing distinct songs. Desert cicada life cycles are 3-7 years in contrast with Eastern cicadas’ 13-17 years. Desert species are the only known insects who can sweat.

Palo Verde Beetle

Cobalt123 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cobalt123 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Larvae feed on roots–sometimes palo verde or mesquite trees–for up to three years.

Jerusalem Cricket

Franco Folini , CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia

Franco Folini , CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia

Sometimes know as Child of the Earth or Skull Insect, they are cousins of katydids and wetas and nocturnal predators.

Iron-Cross Blister Beetle


Blood contains cantharidin which causes blisters. They pupate in native been nests.

Tarantula Hawk

Marc Shandro (CC-SA 3.0)

Marc Shandro (CC-SA 3.0)

Females hunt tarantulas for food for her offspring. Usually nectar feeds and non-aggressive, never swat at them as their sting is very painful.


Carpenter Bee

US Forestry Service

US Forestry Service

From Steve Buchman, The Bee Works:

Along with bumble bee queens, carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) are the largest native bees in the United States. There are numerous species of carpenter bees that inhabit a broad range of ecosystems from tropical to subtropical to temperate. In the United States carpenters bees can be found across the southern United States from Arizona to Florida and in the eastern United States, north to New York.

These gentle giants get their name from their life history habits of excavating precisely rounded galleries inside wood. Using their broad, strong mandibles (jaws), they chew into dead but non-decayed limbs or trunks of standing dead trees. Some species, like the eastern Xylocopa virginica, occasionally take up residence in fence posts or structural timbers, especially redwood, and become a minor nuisance. Inside their rounded branched galleries, they form pollen/nectar loaves upon which they lay their giant eggs (up to 15 mm long). The female forms partitions between each egg cell by mixing sawdust and her saliva together. These partition walls are very similar to particle board.

More Resources

50 Common In50-common-insectssects of the Southwest by Carl E. Olson. “Olson’s love for insects began when he and his older brother collected caterpillars and silk moths in the Ohio countryside. While terminating insects with Raid is the initial instinct of many people, Olson has dedicated his career to using alternative ways to solve the insect problems people face. He is a believer in programs promoting ‘integrated pest management,’ or IPM.”

Learning About and Living With Insects of the Southwest: How to Identify Helpful, Harmful and Venomous Insects by Floyd G. Werner Carl Olson. Excerpt, The Bugman’s Philosophy by Carl Olson:

insects-southwestAs I wander about this desert, I now try to figure out what insects are around making this world so delightful to me. I may become an oasis in the desert to the creatures. If that fly comes to my nose and becomes an irritation, I may shoo it away but I know why it comes to me. Life won’t always be as I wish it to be, so maybe I can return a little of me through some other life forms. Peace of mind comes in many ways, but to me it comes in the form of diverse shapes and sizes of all those microcreatures surrounding me in life.

sting-of-the-wildThe Sting of the Wild by Justin Schmidt. The world of stinging insects through their eyes from the author of the Schmidt sting pain index.

onesmall-squareCactus Desert (One Small Square) by Donald Silver & Patricia Wynne. “It’s a sun-scorched world where clouds rarely come and nothing seems to move. That is, until children ages 6 – 9 up look a little closer to find tortoises, toads, and lizards, not to mention the scary rattlesnake and scorpion. Here, plants send their roots deep into the earth to find water, beetles stand on their head and shoot a stinky spray to fight off enemies, and roadrunners whiz by sleepy turtles and nervous desert mice on their way to … where?”

Bugs ‘N Stuff of the Southwest Facebook Group.

Science You Can Do at Home at Phoenix Fan Fest, October 22, 2016

As a followup to the Science You Can Do at Home panel at Phoenix Fan Fest, here are some resources for citizen science.

First, a definition:

Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists.

Southwest Monarch Study

monarchtag“The Southwest Monarch Study is researching the migration and breeding patterns of monarch butterflies in Arizona and the SouthWestern United States. We tag Monarch Butterflies during their Fall migration from August through November.” See upcoming event here.

Arizona Game & Fish Department

The AZGFD relies on citizen science volunteers to help it gather data on Arizona Wildlife. Among the projects you can join are:

Arizona Bald Eagle Nestwatch Program

MANMADE NEST“Beginning in February, nestwatchers are stationed at 10 to 15 breeding areas with the highest recreational pressures. The on-site protection and education provided by nestwatchers has contributed to a high percentage of the bald eagle’s success. In addition to monitoring the breeding attempt, nestwatchers can also identify individuals in life-threatening situations, making possible a rescue effort by agency biologists.”

Aubrey Valley (Black-footed Ferret) Spotlighting

black-footed_ferret_-usfws-wikicommons“Spotlighting allows the population of black-footed ferrets to be monitored. It involves the use of high-powered lights to locate and identify black-footed ferrets. The animal’s emerald green eye shine is reflected by the spotlight at night. Volunteers need to be able to stay attentive from sunset to sunrise while spotlighting for black-footed ferrets; must be able to carry up to 30 pounds while backpack spotlighting for two-hour durations; should know how to use or learn how to use a GPS unit and navigate in the dark.”

Ornate Box Turtle Watch

desert-box-turtle-sue-in-azThe Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for your help in monitoring box turtle populations by collecting simple location and weather data for any box turtle you encounter in Cochise County, and parts of Graham, Gila, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz counties.


Archaeology Southwest

swatvolunteers2“Field volunteer jobs are rare, but can include excavation, survey, and mapping projects. We can also connect you with the Arizona Site Stewards, a volunteer program to monitor threatened archaeological sites throughout Arizona. Office volunteer jobs are much more numerous, and include library research, general office work, outreach, and fundraising. Because volunteers are an integral part of our research teams, many volunteer positions require that you are able to commit to working for a specific, scheduled amount of time.”

Southwest Paleontological Society

phxiceage2“The Southwest Paleontological Society (SPS) consists of an active group of people who enjoy learning about or teaching the science of paleontology. We enjoy collecting fossils for our own private collection, collecting items for research, learning about the significance of finds, and being in the outdoors. SPS is led by experienced paleontologists who guide its members in the skill and knowledge required in the process of collecting and preparing delicate fossil specimens. SPS supports the programs and the goals of the Arizona Museum of Natural History.”

Saguaro Schoolyard BioBlitz

thomasmstrom_mg_9724thomas-m-stromcourtesy-national-geographicA BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible. “Saguaro National Park has teamed with the University of Arizona and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to engage our youth in a series of schoolyard bioblitz events, bringing students closer to the biodiversity in their own backyards. Schoolyard bioblitz events will take place throughout the year, and we will track our growing list of species here! But we don’t want to limit observations to students. Any and all are invited to participate.”

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

eBird offers innovative online tools for birders to keep track of their own lists and contribute their bird sightings for use in science and conservation. eBird is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

Each year, 15,000 people count birds at their feeders for Project FeederWatch. With more than 1.5 million checklists submitted since 1987, FeederWatchers have contributed valuable data enabling scientists to monitor changes in the distribution and abundance of birds.

By finding and monitoring bird nests, NestWatch participants help scientists track the breeding success of birds across North America. Participants witness fascinating behaviors of birds at the nest and collect information on the location, habitat, bird species, number of eggs, and number of young.

cardinal-635872_960_720Celebrate Urban Birds is a bilingual project focused on engaging underserved urban and rural residents in science, environmental education, and community activities related to birds. Participants observe a small, defined bird-watching area for 10 minutes and report on the presence or absence of 16 species of birds.

Begun in 1998, the four-day Great Backyard Bird Count was the first citizen-science program to collect and display bird observation data online on a large scale. Today, the Great Backyard Bird Count is one of the most popular annual events among bird watchers. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

The YardMap Network is an NSF-funded project that builds online communities to investigate the impacts of bird-friendly and carbon-neutral practices in backyards, community gardens, and parks. Participants will locate their yards or parks on a Google maps interface, then document their sustainable practices using simple point n’ click digital tools to create data maps.

Hummingbirds At Home Mobile App is a citizen scientist project to help learn more about hummingbirds and how to protect them.

Globe At Night

gan-cta-map“Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations. This year citizen scientists from around the world have contributed 12,236 data points. It’s easy to get involved – all you need is computer or smart phone & follow these 5 Simple Steps!”

Arizona Citizen Astronomers

exoupcloseSome Arizona amateur astronomers of note include Robert Gagliano for his discovery of an extrasolar planet in a quadruple star system; Thomas J. Bopp, a manager at a construction materials factory and an amateur astronomer at the time of the Comet Hale-Bopp discovery; and Michael Schwartz, 2013 recipient of the Edgar Wilson Award for several comets named Tenagra.


Mobile Apps for Citizen Science

Project Noah from National Geographic.

Leafsnap from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.

BudBurst from Chicago Botanic Garden and National Ecological Observatory Network.

iNaturalist from California Academy of Sciences.

NoiseTube a research project started at the Sony Computer Science Lab in Paris and currently maintained by the Software Languages Lab at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Professional Devlopment for K-12 Teachers at Phoenix Comicon

The Professional Devlopment Programming Track at Phoenix Comicon, June 2-5, 2016, Phoenix Convention Center, provides an opportunity for teachers to learn about current research topics, trends, ideas and technologies being developed by Arizona-based, up-and-coming researchers, scientist and engineers. K-12 teachers receive credits for each panel they attend where the Arizona Department of Education has certified the content.

Teachers collect unique stickers from each Phoenix Comicon panel certified for Professional Development credit.

Teachers collect unique stickers from each Phoenix Comicon panel certified for Professional Development credit.

Panels and interactive activities feature Ph.D. STEM research professionals as well as engineers and technologists. With the Every Student Succeeds Act requiring that science assessments be administered once in elementary, middle, and high school, and that schools provide professionaldevelopment in the area of parent and family engagement including collaborating with entities with a record of success in improving and increasing parent and family engagement, Phoenix Comicon Professional Devlopment Programming provides a unique opportunity for teachers to align with current topics in science, industry and engineering with popular culture.

Professional Devlopment Programming also provides access to personalized learning experiences supported by technology and professional development for the effective use of data and technology via the opportunity to interact, ask questions of and develop follow-up with contemporary researchers and innovative engineers.

Highlights from the Science Programming Track eligible for Professional Development include:

Although laboratories are important, scientists often have to travel to their subjects to study them. In this panel, researchers will discuss the exotic and remote places they’ve traveled and their adventures there.

In 1849, Austria bombed the city of Venice with over 100 pilotless balloons. Since then, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have advanced dramatically, and now include both military and hobbyist devices. In this panel, experts will discuss the science behind drones and where the technology is heading.

X-MEN, MUTATIONS, AND YOU (FRIDAY, 1:30PM – 2:30PM), North 227BC
In the X-Men universe, humans carrying the X-Gene can gain super powers including Telepathy, Super Healing, and Super Senses. In this panel, scientists will discuss where mutations come from, and whether they can ever give us beneficial powers.

(FRIDAY, 7:30PM – 8:30PM), North 227BC
Your guide to basic survival needs in a post-apocalyptic world.

Tony Stark built the first Iron Man suit in a cave with a box of scraps. He’s also created new elements, coded sentient artificial intelligence, and mastered flight. In this panel, engineers will talk about their work and the feasibility of Iron Man’s achievements.

Join the FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security, and Postal Inspection Service to hear how they use science to fight crime and protect vital infrastructure, and what they think of their TV and film counterparts.

In Star Trek, the Tricorder is a versatile device that allows high resolution scanning and analysis of patients to quickly diagnose disease. In this panel, scientists will discuss projects that are attempting to turn this science fiction into science fact.


Phoenix Comicon 2016 Programming Includes Science Interactive Space

pg2016This year, Phoenix Comicon, June 2-5, 2016, at the Phoenix Convention Center, is trying something new with science programming: a science & technology interactive space intended for adults and familiies.

Located all four days of Comicon in Room 231A of the Phoenix Convention Center’s North building, highlights of the Interactive Science space include:

Ever wonder what it would be like to live on Mars? Do you have what it takes to land a Martian rover? Are you an interstellar entrepreneur? Presented by Center for Meteorite Studies, SEDS-ASU.
THURSDAY, 12:00PM – 1:30PM

TechShop‘s hands-on, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) sessions are geared to intrigue and fire up the curiosity. .
THURSDAY, 2:00PM – 5:00PM
SUNDAY, 1:00PM – 5:00PM

Anonymous, The Matrix, Hackers, War Games, Tron… the list goes on. We are in the age of Cyber security- don’t get left behind. Presented by the AZ Cyber Warfare Range.
THURSDAY, 5:30PM – 10:00PM

Visit a team of local hackers, makers and experts to experience live, interactive demos, and awesomely engaging conversations about the future, which is NOW. Organized by Steve Greenberg of ThinClient Computing.

Top Geek Pub Trivia Challenge, Monday, May 9, 2016, at The Perch, Chandler

Phoenix Section of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) hosts a fun night of pub trivia featuring aerospace science, history, sci-fi, pop culture, and more, Monday, May 9, 2016, 6PM at The Perch, 232 S Wall St, Chandler. Sign up as an individual or as a team of up to four (Individuals will be added to teams at the event). Make new friends and impress them with your smarts! Prizes will be awarded to the top teams and to the best team name. Everyone is welcome, so bring friends. Everyone who signs up by May 1 gets one “freebie” answer: register here.

Geek Trivia

Mathematician biopic free film preview at TechShop Chandler, May 4, 2016, The Man Who Knew Infinity

Free film preview at TechShop Chandler, 249 E Chicago St, Chandler, The Man Who Knew Infinity, about mathematician Srinavasa Ramanujan, starring Dev Patel, is Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 7PM, limited seating, RSVP here. 

Rated PG-13, Opens: Friday, May 6th at Harkins Camelview @ Fashion Square


image003Colonial India, 1913. Srinavasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) is a 25-year-old shipping clerk and self-taught genius, who failed out of college due to his near-obsessive, solitary study of mathematics. Determined to pursue his passion despite rejection and derision from his peers, Ramanujan writes a letter to G. H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), an eminent British mathematics professor at Trinity College, Cambridge. Hardy recognizes the originality and brilliance of Ramanujan’s raw talent and despite the skepticism of his colleagues, undertakes bringing him to Cambridge so that his theories can be explored.

Ramanujan leaves his family, his community, and his beloved young bride, Janaki (Devika Bhisé), to travel across the world to England. There, he finds understanding and a deep connection with his sophisticated and eccentric mentor. Under Hardy’s guidance, Ramanujan’s work evolves in ways that will revolutionize mathematics and transform how scientists explain the world. Hardy fights tirelessly to get Ramanujan the recognition and respect that he deserves but in reality he is as much an outcast in the traditional culture of Cambridge as he was among his peers in India. But Ramanujan fights illness and intense homesickness to formally prove his theorems so that his work will finally be seen and believed by a mathematical establishment that is not prepared for his unconventional methods.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is the improbable true story of a unique genius whose pivotal theories propelled him from obscurity into a world in the midst of war, and how he fought tirelessly to show the world the genius of his mind.

3D Titanium Printing with Joe Manzo of Titan Industries, Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Phoenix Section of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will host a dinner event featuring Joe Manzo of Titan Industries and Orbital ATK Thursday, April 28, 2016, 6PM, at The Pink Pony, 3831 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale. Joe will be presenting on Electron Beam Melting Additive Manufacturing, a rapidly emerging technology allowing fully-functional parts to be 3D printed in titanium. The capabilities, development, and future outlook for this technology will be discussed, as well as Titan Industries’ innovative work in design for additive manufacturing that allows the benefits of the process to be maximized.

The event is open to the public. Cost is only $15 for students/educators or $30 for the public for a 3 course plated dinner and networking hour, the presentation itself is free. If you plan to attend, please register.

Chandler Science Café @ TechShop, “Astrobiology,” March 16, 2016

Clélia Tommi, Arizona State University School of Earth and Space student in astrobiology.

Clélia Tommi, Arizona State University School of Earth and Space student in astrobiology.

Please join us Wednesday, March 16, 2015, 6:30pm, at TechShop, 249 E. Chicago St., Chandler, AZ 85225, for Chandler Science Café @ TechShop, “Astrobiology,” with Clélia Tommi, Arizona State University School of Earth and Space student in astrobiology. Clélia will discuss the search for life, and its possible forms, on other planets while highlighting her research into clay minerology as well as her work with ASCEND!, (Aerospace STEM Challenges to Educate New Discoverers), an Arizona Space Grant Consortium statewide Workforce Development program, designed to involve undergraduate students from across Arizona in the full “design-build-fly-operate-analyze” cycle of a space mission.

707154main_astrobiology_0Entering its fifth year, Chandler Science Cafe moves to TechShop Chandler and to third Wednesdays of the month, 6:30-7:30pm. Science Cafés are live—and lively—events that take place in casual settings, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Chandler Science Cafe, first Wednesday of the month, 7pm, at Gangplank Chandler is presented in association with the Arizona SciTech Festival and Gangplank Labs Initiative.

Chandler Science Café @ TechShop, “The Year in NASA,” January 20, 2016


Please join us Wednesday, January 20, 2015, 6:30pm, at TechShop, 249 E. Chicago St., Chandler, AZ 85225, for Chandler Science Café @ TechShop, “The Year in NASA,” with Dennis Bonilla, NASA Contractor & Seniorspace-walk-991_960_720 Digital Strategist – Valador, Inc. We’ll discuss the past year as well as the NASA missions to come in 2016.

Dennis has a decade of experience communicating complex concepts using video games, infographics, and interactive platforms to inform and empower communities. Dennis has created federal websites, designed visualization software for NASA, and worked on documents presented to the U.S. President. Dennis is also currently the community manager for, a sustainability program developed by NASA, Nike, the U.S. Department of State, and USAID. Dennis has worked with the NASA Open Innovation Team, the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist, and the NASA Office of Human Capitol.

Dennis Bonilla, NASA Contractor & Senior Digital Strategist – Valador, Inc.

Dennis Bonilla, NASA Contractor & Senior Digital Strategist – Valador, Inc.

Entering its fifth year, Chandler Science Cafe moves to TechShop Chandler and to third Wednesdays of the month, 6:30-7:30pm. Science Cafés are live—and lively—events that take place in casual settings, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Chandler Science Cafe, first Wednesday of the month, 7pm, at Gangplank Chandler is presented in association with the Arizona SciTech Festival and Gangplank Labs Initiative. More info at We’ll celebrate the Arizona SciTech Festival February 17, 2016, as we explore Habitable Worlds and the tech required to get and stay there with a planetary scientist. March 16, 2016, we’ll talk about New Space–It Is Rocket Science.

Chandler Science Café, Adventures in Space Advocacy, November 4, 2015

Chandler Science Cafe, Adventures in Space Advocacy, is Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 7pm, at Gangplank, 260 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, AZ 85225.

In November, Chandler Science Café celebrates the new book, Adventures in Space Advocacy, a memoir by Michael Mackowski that tells the story of his involvement in grass roots advocacy for a more robust American space program.

Mike Mackowski is a local aerospace engineer in the aerospace industry and a longtime member of the National Space Society (NSS), the Planetary Society, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has worked to establish collaborative efforts among the local NSS, AIAA, etc. chapters on activities such as Yuri’s Night and SpaceUp Phoenix. He has received several awards from AIAA for public policy and STEM outreach activities.

“My hope is that historians of the space movement will find this to be an interesting first-hand account of grass-roots efforts to promote space exploration to the public,” Mackowski said. “Similarly, current space activists can learn from these examples of how to execute large pro-space events.”

The book is now available via Amazon in print and digital and will be available at science cafe.


Science Cafés are live—and lively—events that take place in casual settings, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Chandler Science Cafe, first Wednesday of the month, 7pm, at Gangplank Chandler is presented in association with the Arizona SciTech Festival and Gangplank Labs Initiative.