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The Bug Chicks: It’s Time to Reclaim Nature Programming

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker are The Bug Chicks, entomologists who teach about the amazing world of arthropods. ©thebugchicks.com

Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker are The Bug Chicks, entomologists who teach about the amazing world of arthropods. ©thebugchicks.com

Not to date ourselves, but we are children of the 80’s. We grew up watching shows like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and we know the National Geographic theme song better than the national anthem. It was the good old days of nature programming, when shows inspired a sense of wonder. At the end of the hour you understood the true definition of the word “awesome.”

We went to sleep at night thinking of far off lands filled with bizarre creatures. We dreamed of filming them, studying them—those shows inspired a generation of young people to ask how, where, what, why? Those shows inspired us to grow up to become scientists.

Sadly, a lot of programming today forces people to ask: how can I conquer nature? Why are the animals out to get us? What techniques can I use when (not if) an animal attacks? It’s as though an animal attack is our biggest threat, like our lives are an inevitable march toward final gasping moments filled with teeth, fins, fangs, stingers and venom.

Fangs are mouthparts—why is that scary?  Do you fear giraffe teeth? Maybe if they were accompanied by creepy music and overdramatic voice-overs, you would. ©thebugchicks.com

Fangs are mouthparts—why is that scary? Do you fear giraffe teeth? Maybe if they were accompanied by creepy music and overdramatic voice-overs, you would. ©thebugchicks.com

So many nature programs want us to believe that we are constantly under attack by the world’s deadliest, or a monster this or killer that. If you are attacked you get to be on a show about how you survived the attack! People at home are patting themselves on the back thinking well, I made it through the day without getting maimed by an animal! I win! (Even though many people didn’t make it through the day driving to the grocery store…)

It’s time to reclaim science and nature programming. We are The Bug Chicks. After graduate school, we decided to create a company that specializes in fun, accessible, educational content. We’ve made over 50 videos to teach people about the amazing world of arthropods—insects, spiders and other animals with exoskeletons. It’s a true calling for us where we blend our backgrounds in science, theater, art and teaching to create unique, factual and often quirky material. No myths, no fear and no prejudice.

Our latest project is a perfect blend of nature, education and the power of social media.
We are going on a cross-country adventure to film the awesome bugs of the United States! Using a vintage sofa as our set piece in wild ecosystems across the country, we will inspire you to “get off the couch” and explore America’s backyard wilderness.

The Bug Chicks – Indiegogo

This new series will be fully integrated with mobile technology through a partnership with Project Noah (an app supported by National Geographic) where people can upload photos of insects and other arthropods found along the route. This allows interaction with students and citizen scientists all over the world. We will live-blog and tweet related behind-the-scenes clips, how-to videos and additional on the site and through social media. The final show will be available on YouTube in November.
If you support positive programming, strong female role models and factual science education, please consider contributing to our Indiegogo campaign.

For many young scientists, there are set paths to take upon attaining your advanced degree: research, extension, academia, outreach, etc. For us, there was no question that science outreach was the path for us. It’s turned into a bit of a crusade and we’re excited to have you on our side!

The Bug Chicks About the Author: Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker are The Bug Chicks. They received their master’s degrees from Texas A&M University and partner with several government and non-profit organizations including the US Forest Service, the National Ag Science Center, the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture and the UN Decade on Biodiversity on various educational projects. You can read their weekly blog on NPR’s Science Friday website. Check them out on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @thebugchicks.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Comments 7 Comments

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  1. 1. sault 11:23 am 08/12/2013

    This is a good idea, but if you’re trying to appeal to children, you’ve basically just alienated most boys since they will see this as a “girls only” kind of thing. Having one “token” boy in the background in the picture above doesn’t really help. Whether you chalk it up to immature concepts like “cooties” or whatever, even a lot of boys that are interested in bugs will be turned off by this. Track the demographics on your YouTube videos if you don’t believe me.

    Link to this
  2. 2. thebugchicks 12:18 pm 08/12/2013

    Thanks for your comment! It’s a good thing to think about. It’s funny, we actually teach more boys on average than girls. They dig us. In the video (not just the screen shot) we have a great range of ages and lots of boys. (Those kids are not actors–they are students of ours and part of our “bugdork” tribe). No need to worry about alienating boys. On our Vimeo page (we’re just now getting into YouTube, as schools have difficulty accessing it due to content) you can see our videos. Boys need female role models too!

    You’d be amazed by how many boys want to grow up to be an entomologist (and even a Bug Chick) after seeing us. Bugs are for everyone and we’ll make sure this comes across in our series.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Heteromeles 12:18 pm 08/12/2013

    Way to go! Is there any way we can help you bug out if you’re ever in our part of the country?

    Link to this
  4. 4. thebugchicks 12:20 pm 08/12/2013

    Thanks for your comment! It’s a good thing to think about. It’s funny, we actually teach more boys on average than girls. They dig us. In the video (not just the screen shot) we have a great range of ages and lots of boys. (Those kids are not actors–they are students of ours and part of our “bugdork” tribe). On our Vimeo page (we’re just now getting into YouTube, as schools have difficulty accessing it due to content) you can see our videos. Boys need female role models too!

    You’d be amazed by how many boys want to grow up to be an entomologist (and even a Bug Chick) after seeing us. Bugs are for everyone and we’ll make sure this comes across in our series.

    Link to this
  5. 5. sandragon 12:57 pm 08/12/2013

    Amen. The content of television programs has become very strange. The idea of channels dedicated to food, animals, nature programming, history, music, etc. was enchanting. But the enchantment has worn off and most of the cable channels are jockeying for the audience drawn to shock value. Admittedly I remember, and I will date myself here, when nature and science programming was limited to Wild Kingdom, some of the cool Disney presentations (flowers growing in time lapse photography!) and maybe Mr. Wizard. With the flowering of PBS we got some really good shows. This was followed by the era you remember when there was a real effort to provide good nature and science programming. Good luck with your endeavor. You may have a chance because I have been seeing some more interesting and worthwhile programs again, particularly on PBS and Natl. Geog.
    I certainly hope you include Tucson in your travels because we not only have fascinating critters but also a huge number of fascinating people interested in and working with arthropods: professionals and amateurs and curious laypeople.

    Link to this
  6. 6. sandragon 1:18 pm 08/12/2013

    Just checked out your campaign site and I see you will be coming to Saguaro NP. Good choice. Look forward to following your journey.

    Link to this
  7. 7. kaygreenwood 5:22 pm 08/12/2013

    Thank you Gals for your Career Choice. My brother is best friends with Steve Kutcher, Entomologist. Because of his ‘love of bugs’, Santa brought my son a Chilean Rose Tarantula. Santa also didn’t know how long they lived, so after 13 years with Rosy, her psych communication, sudden overnight architecture of her walnut grindings and keeping one special cricket ‘alive’ to hang with her, we knew what a trippy and interesting animal she was. Be gentle, they are hemophobes, so could bleed to death if harmed.

    Link to this

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