‘Sunday Scientist’ explores bugs, blood, and bad guys of forensic science

Amanda Fujikawa
Amanda Fujikawa

Did you know that blowflies and beetles are the greatest decomposers in the world? While their consumption of dead things is not pretty, it is an essential part of nature. And that process of decomposition will be explored during the "Sunday with a Scientist" event, Jan. 20 at the University of Nebraska State Museum.

"Blowflies, Beetles and Bad Guys: Ecology and Forensic Science" will be presented by Amanda Fujikawa and Christian Elowsky, doctoral students in the School of Natural Resources. The event will be from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Morrill Hall.

Through hands-on activities, the scientists will help visitors better understand the role insects, specifically blowflies and their maggots, play in the decomposition of carcasses and nutrient cycling. As insects breakdown dead tissue, they allow nutrients—such as carbon and nitrogen—to be released into the ecosystem. Without this unpleasant, yet fascinating process, the planet would be overwhelmed with foul-smelling carcasses. These insects are also useful forensically to estimate the length of time a person or animal has been deceased, which can be important in criminal investigations.

Visitors will be able to view blowflies and beetles up close through microscopes. They will also have the chance to make a piece of art with the help of live maggots.

Sunday with a Scientist is a series of presentations that highlight the work of UNL researchers, while educating children and families on a variety of topics related to science and natural history. Presenters share scientific information in a fun and informal way through demonstrations, activities, or by conducting their science on site.

Kathy French, education coordinator for the NU State Museum, organizes the Sunday with a Scientist program.

For more information, go to http://www.museum.unl.edu or call 402-472-3779.

More details at: http://go.unl.edu/h7x