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STEAM Salon with Helen Craig: Using UMD Libraries to Educate and Empower Students on the Importance of Insect Ecosystem Services

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Image shows STEAM Salon speaker Helen Craig

Powered by Research Education at University Libraries. STEAM Salon is an informal series held in the STEM Library featuring faculty and student speakers in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics who engage and inspire our university community with their current research.

This presentation is about the convergence of students, insects, and the UMD Libraries, a collision that might not make sense at first glance, but when you look more closely, it makes all the sense in the world. Insects are well known to the public as pollinators, but less recognized is their importance in degrading wood and other plant debris in forests and parkland, the decomposition of dead animals left on the ground, their value in cleaning flowing water, and even their nutritional advantages. They have been key to medical and biological research and have provided goods such as honey, silk, wax, dyes, and food to human culture. Additionally, they are critical components of our trophic structure: they feed on plants that might otherwise become weeds, they feed on insects that become our pests, and they support desired vertebrates (e.g., birds, reptiles, mammals) as food. It was calculated that insects have at least an annual value of $70 billion for their ecosystem services (Losey and Vaughan, Bioscience 56 311-323, 2006). With support from The Sustainability Fund and collaborations with the UMD Libraries, we began an educational program to familiarize the students at the University of Maryland about the value of insects towards sustainability of human interaction with the environment, and connect their value to the preservation of our society.

Speaker Bio: Helen Craig is a Master’s student at the University of Maryland in The Department of Entomology under the guidance of Dr. Bill Lamp. She received her Bachelor’s degree in 2022, also from UMD, in Ecology and Evolution with a minor in Sustainability. Between her undergraduate and graduate career, Helen worked as a Lab Manager in the Entomology department, working on a nationwide sustainable forage agriculture grant. Helen is deeply passionate about sustainability, climate change, and circular food systems, which she integrates into all the work she does. Her background as an undergraduate, faculty member, and graduate student gives her a unique perspective on the relationship students have with insects as well as how students collaborate with the UMD libraries.

UMD Libraries welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you have questions about the access provided or would like to request accommodations, please contact For some types of accommodations, including securing an ASL interpreter, the Libraries may need two to four weeks of advance notice. Automatic captions will be available for this virtual event.


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