By Kelly Weinersmith & the ASP Public Relations Committee
On March 4, 1999 (the anniversary of H.B. Ward’s Birthday), ASP’s Education Committee kicked off the first “Parasite Day”. The event was a great success, reaching ~1,370 people. Twenty years later, ASP’s Public Relations Committee resurrected this event. Our goal is to make Parasite Day an annual and international celebration of careers in parasitology, and the fascinating world of parasites.
For our first year, the PR Committee focused on connecting parasitologists with classrooms through video conferencing, and generating enthusiasm about parasites on twitter using the #ParasiteDay2019 hashtag. ASP members also engaged in in-person outreach, and used Virtual Field Trips to reach classrooms throughout Nebraska. Approximately 1,200 students were reached on Parasite Day 2019 (this excludes folks reached through the twitter account, as this type of reach is difficult to quantify).
We summarize the reach of these activities below.
Video Conferences with Classrooms
ASP’s Public Relations Committee put out an open call for parasitologists and K-12 teachers to sign-up for video conferences, and matched parasitologists up with 27 classrooms. Twenty-two parasitologists participated, including 7 graduate students, 4 postdocs, and 11 folks who are professors, research scientists, and/or curators. We were thrilled to have international participation, with parasitologists hailing from the USA (N=16), Canada (N=1), Scotland (N=1), Ireland (N=1), England (N=1), Spain (N=1), and New Zealand (N=1).
We spoke to students that varied in age from elementary school (N=4 classes), junior high (N=7), high school (N=15), and 1 undergraduate class in Malaysia. Over 800 students were reached, including 200 students in a large assembly who had the privilege of learning about parasitology from Dr. John Shea.
We received great feedback from the teachers who participated in our Parasite Day 2019 video conferences:
“We really enjoyed the experience and enthusiasm that each of the scientists had! Thank you for an amazing opportunity!” -Monica Kelley (Geneva High School, NY)
“Wonderful experience! Our presenters were interesting, prepared and engaging. Hoping to participate next year!!” - Dr. Amber Struthers (Tempe High School, AZ)
“My students LOVED it! I had prepped them briefly on Friday so they came in ready to ask questions. Dr. Mora stepped in at the last minute and did a stellar job. My kids are already thinking about the different jobs she shared about.” -Jan Kragen (Suquamish Elementary, WA)
“I was great! Kaitlin [Gallagher] showed us a wonderful power point that was totally related to our AP biology class: she spoke of evolution, food chains, life cycles, DNA analysis and scientific method. She answered our questions clearly and we all enjoyed that she will be able to name a tapeworm after her mom. Wonderful idea and hope to participate next year too.” -Natasha Schaefer (Woodcreek High School, CA)
We look forward to doing this again next year!
Virtual Field Trips
Dr. John Janovy Jr worked with Annie Mumgaard and the University of Nebraska State Museum to reach 261 students through the Virtual Field Trip program. This included 12 classrooms, with students ranging from 6th to 12th grade.
Annie Mumgaard had this to say about John's work with the Virtual Field Trip on Parasite Day:
"Congrats to Dr. Janovy for taking up the challenge of seven virtual connections to nine different classrooms to reach over 230 youth! The goal of our virtual program is to use 21st century technology to extend the walls of the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History to promote scientific literacy and classroom enrichment. That most certainly happened with Dr. Janovy. He was asked about the impact of parasites, about his favorite parasite, about what one had to do to become a parasitologist, and so much more. We were thrilled to partner with Dr. Janovy to celebrate National Parasite Day!"
Here is what John had to say about the experience:
“I thought it was a great experience, I had a whole lot of fun, and the teachers were very much engaged. Hopefully some of those young people will end up in the parasitology classes at Cedar Point Biological Station and on the UNL campus. The University of Nebraska State Museum, which supports this community engagement, is a big time tourist attraction. I also did some follow-up with the Norfolk school, sending them some material on evolution, some primary literature related to a couple of student questions, and a web site link. The teacher at Norfolk thought it was great that I referred to the cell phones as infectious agents spreading through the population like an epidemic and advised them to turn them off when they got into university classes.”
Dr. Kristin Herrmann did an in-person presentation at Alvarado High School, which reached 110 9th grade biology and AP biology students.
And stayed tuned for an upcoming blog post from Dr. Chris Blanar, whose love for parasitology could not be constrained to just one day! Chris is celebrating Parasite MONTH at Nova Southeastern University, and will fill us in on the multiple parasite-themed events he ran during the month of March.
ASP on Twitter
#ParasiteDay2019 was a huge success! The American Society of Parasitologists twitter account (@AmSocParasit) encouraged folks to share their favorite parasite photo or video. This generated over 100 tweets with parasite photos or videos that included the #ParasiteDay2019 hashtag. Some of these tweets were particularly successful, including a tweet by Dr. Amandine Guerin with a video Toxoplasma gondii, which was retweeted 489 times and liked 1,600 times as of March 12, 2019.
Parasite Day 2019 fell on the same week as International Women’s Day 2019. To celebrate IWD2019, Dr. Susan Perkins and members of the PR Committee generated tweets for the ASP’s twitter account highlighting women in parasitology. These tweets will continue to be released throughout the month of March.
A huge THANK YOU to all of the parasitologists, teachers, and students who participated in Parasite Day 2019!