First Annual Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival
National Park Service
Contact: Lauren Newman, 805-370-2343
Come discover your neighborhood national park unit at the first annual Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival. The event is free and open to the public. Hours are 7:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, April 16th, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 17th at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, CA.
Both the evening program on Friday and the day program on Saturday will feature hands-on, family friendly activities for all ages. From owls and bats to mountain lions and fossils, each festival station will involve participants in a variety of engaging scientific practices. The evening program will feature several events that focus on ‘things that fly at night’.
The National Park Service is pleased to announce that Brent ‘The Bug Guy’ Karner from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will bring his popular insect light show and will attract moths, beetles, and other insects to a viewing area. Insect collecting at night provides “instant gratification” says Karner. “The black lights and mercury vapor lights we use will bring in a variety of bugs. It’s like turning on a big porch light in the forest.” Different insects respond to different types of lights, so participants will be able to examine which bugs are attracted to each light station.
Participants seeking more interaction can temporarily place one of the insects in a vial for closer inspection and identification, before releasing it back into the wild. Those that would like to keep their distance can inspect the insects on the viewing sheet, without getting too close.
The black and mercury lights often generate a few surprise visits from unexpected mountain creatures. “In 2009,” says Karner, “a similar program saw the arrival of a very large centipede, who came to enjoy the bug show and find a snack.”
The public can expect to identify many of the bugs drawn to the light show, as over 1.5 million insect species have already been described. Karner is quick to point out however that “there may be many millions of species still waiting to be described, so there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll draw in something that will be new to science.” Set-ups like these regularly help scientists uncover new species and give participants a chance to engage in true citizen science.
The Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.