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CREC Students Explore Connecticut Ecosystems, Study Insect Species During Summer Biodiversity Camp

When Ariana Patterson, a 17-year-old at CREC Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, looks at plants, she sees more than just greenery and foliage – she sees small ecosystems with the plants and insects exchanging benefits.

As a teaching assistant at Biodiversity Camp at CREC Two Rivers Middle School this year, Ariana shared this perspective with the middle and high school students at the weeklong summer camp.

“You have to think of it as a more important piece of the puzzle. You start to look at it as even if it’s small or a little creepy it has some significance that can’t just be brushed off. It makes you want to learn more about it and want to protect it,” said Ariana, who first attended the camp a few years ago as a middle school student at CREC Two Rivers Middle School.

Biodiversity Camp, organized by CREC Two Rivers Middle School Science Teacher Edmund Smith and Dr. David Wagner, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Connecticut, is a free camp where participants get the opportunity to investigate the biodiversity of local ecosystems and learn how to identify common insects and plants.

The camp is geared towards extreme enrichment with students that have already proven themselves energetic, focused and comfortable with extended field studies, said Smith.

“This camp is not meant to give students their first experiences in field studies. Several students have chosen college and career paths in the biological sciences following their experiences with the Biodiversity Camp,” he said.

Biodiversity Camp took place from June 26th - 30th this year. The camp had 20 high school and middle school students. About half were CREC students, 40 percent came from Hartford Public Schools and the rest were from other districts.

Jacob Kuczek, 13, a student at CREC Two Rivers Middle, said he and other camp participants explored the Fenton River near UConn, the Connecticut River and Matianuck Natural Area Preserve.

“We explored a bit, everyone in the camp got nets to catch insects. We brushed the nets through the grass and looked to see if we caught anything,” he said.

Insects that were caught – milkweed beetles, black fireflies, spiders, moths, among others – were either frozen to be examined under a microscope or kept alive.

“The purpose of keeping them alive is to study their behavior, what they eat,” said Jacob.

Students attended the camp during the day. On the last night, campers competed in a BioBlitz – a contest to see who could catch and identify the most insects - until midnight and slept at CREC Two Rivers Magnet Middle School.
This is the camp’s third summer, with the first and second camps running in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, camp organizers focused on a statewide CT BioBlitz where CREC Two Rivers Middle School set a world record of most organisms identified in a 24-hour period.


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