Project Description

As part of the Broader Impacts of a National Science Foundation grant on firefly communication, we’ve got support to host a local outreach event that combines art and science around the topic of fireflies. We are collaborating with Ibiyinka (Ibi) Alao, a United Nations Ambassador of Art from Nigeria, who has used his childhood experiences with fireflies to help cope with the grief of letting go through the power of art, music, and storytelling.

We are hoping to partner with local schools, museums, or other interested groups that would like to work with us to host an “Art, Science, and Wonder” outreach event, coordinate some artist-in-residence opportunities with Ibi, and create educational exhibits.

Middlebury Contact: Greg Pask

Engage children in the powerful combination of science and art when understanding natural phenomena.

I am a sensory neurobiologist who works with insects, including ants, fireflies, and other beetles. I also have experience in science communication and outreach events that cater to a wide range of audiences.

This project has a five-year timeline, but we’d like to begin once in-person gatherings are deemed safe. However, starting a fruitful connection early is a priority and can greatly improve our planning efficiency.

Our grant support is meant to provide financial support for some aspects of the opportunity, with the hopes of forming community partnerships that can provide the support for future events and collaborations.

We are flexible in the time of year, although early summer provides a great opportunity to coincide with local firefly emergence.

We’d like for community partners to work with us to coordinate logistics of the outreach event(s), potentially provide a suitable space, advertise the event(s) to the community, and provide some financial support for potential supplies/residency costs of the event(s).

Ibi and I met will working together at the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival, where I was a part of a booth where people could look at live fireflies, learn about the bioluminescence reaction, and interact with an electronic firefly that we constructed for the event. Ibi was running a painting station with glow-in-the-dark paints where children learned how to paint with respect to light and shadow, as well as have a live performance that included storytelling, music, and dance.

I have also been a part of several insect outreach events at local schools, farms, and outdoor groups, where we’ve done insect walks, “touch tank” exhibits, and after-dark insect blacklighting evenings.

You can find more about Ibi’s past community events here.