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NMSU's Student Insect Experts Qualify for Nationals

LAS CRUCES – A student team from New Mexico State University qualified for a national insect knowledge bowl with a runner-up finish at the Entomological Society of America's Southwestern branch meeting in Albuquerque.



An entomology team from New Mexico State University placed second at regional competition in Albuquerque. Linnaean team members, from left, are Paul Smith, Howard Beuhler, Sean O'Donnell and Ande Hudson.

The Linnaean Games team is eligible to compete during the national ESA meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in November, NMSU's fourth straight trip to nationals. Last year at nationals, NMSU, one of the smallest schools competing, was third among the top 10 teams in the country.

"They do a great job of representing the university," said coach Scott Bundy, a professor in entomology, plant pathology and weed science.

NMSU finished just five points behind Oklahoma State University in the regional competition, Feb. 28-March 3. NMSU has placed second to OSU over a four-year rivalry, losing by only five points in the last two contests.

"We would have liked to come in first, but it is good to place second," said team member Howard Beuhler of La Mesa.

To prepare for competition, graduate and undergraduate team members meet one to two times a week. Half of the practice is spent covering mini-lessons on contest subjects and the other half is spent answering questions with buzzers to simulate competition.

Bowl questions cover all aspects of entomology, including insect classification; beekeeping; general history of entomology; insect body functions and structures; and organs, tissues and cells. A sample question: What hormone secreted by the prothoracic gland starts the molting process? (Answer: Ecdysone.)

"I think we've done so well because the interest is there," Bundy said. "Students pick an area they are interested in and study on their own outside of class."

Beuhler said he enjoys competing and that traveling to ESA meetings allows him to make contacts and meet professionals in the field.

Other members of the first place team are team captain Paul Smith of Denver, Colo.; Sean O'Donnell, Las Cruces; and Ande Hudson, Denver, Colo. The second team includes Alana Jacobson, Phoenix, Ariz.; Beth Peterson, Las Cruces; Stephanie Redman, Española; Esme Tuchfarber, Las Cruces; and alternate Aaron Saenz, Hobbs.

Students placing in other competitions are Peterson, first in the master's student oral competition; Beuhler, first in the master's student poster competition; and O'Donnell, third in the master's student poster competition.

In these competitions, students present their own research in either a 12-minute talk or scientific poster format.