Lea Shell

About Lea Shell

Lea Shell is an entomologist and educator who devotes her time convincing others just how wonderfully important insects and microbes are to our lives. She enjoys playing with slime mold, ants, GPS units, climate loggers and interviewing scientists about their middle school experiences.

Before They Were Scientists: Mariano Vázquez

I recently interviewed physicist Mariano Vázquez. From his office in Barcelona, Spain, Mariano told me about the supercomputer encased in a crystal box located in a century old church a few hundred meters away from him. Read on as this Argentina native recounts how his time spent traveling around the world in a merchant ship with his family, the giant map on his childhood bedroom wall, and the invention of his own term for “scientist” all ultimately led him to a life of inquiry.

Lea: I’m excited to include your story in this series.

Mariano: I don’t know if it is going […]

By | January 30th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Emily Graslie

In addition to interviewing traditionally trained scientists, I sometimes get the opportunity to interview the science communicators that help translate what happens in the lab to the rest of the world. Today’s interview is with the incredible science communicator, Emily Graslie. You may recognize her from her wildly popular YouTube series, The Brain Scoop, now based at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Before we started our interview, with me in Raleigh and Emily in Chicago, we took note of our surroundings. Behind Emily were some familiar surrounds seen in many of her videos. We both clutch our coffee mugs […]

By | January 16th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|4 Comments

Starry Night Lesson Plan Now Available

Expanding on our work with Students Discover, we’re rolling out several new citizen science-based lesson plans on our Education page. Before the holidays, we released a NestWatch Lesson Plan, inspired by the long-standing citizen science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In the coming months, we’ll continue to release new lesson plans focused on global, long-running citizen science projects, aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.

Our goals are simple:

  • Engage students in citizen science so they have opportunities to:
    • Participate in authentic scientific research.
    • Feel ownership over their learning.
    • Be part of a growing community of citizen scientists.
    • Improve scientific literacy by understanding […]
By | January 13th, 2015|Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Holly Menninger

Not every scientist got their inspiration from their science classes — in fact many have gleaned inspiration from museums, family trips or extracurricular opportunities that they had when they were younger. Dr. Holly Menninger got her start in science communication speaking to groups of visitors at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. While sitting down to talk to her about middle school, I noted a subtle Midwestern accent emerged as she excitedly described her experiences and reflected on time spent with her family and important mentors.

Lea: Tell me about your middle school setup to get us started.

Holly: I […]

By | January 9th, 2015|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Happy Holidays from Your Wild Life!

Want a chance to win a custom Your Wild Life 2014 ornament? We’ve got a little holiday cheer to share in the form of handmade wooden ornaments inspired by the Arthropods of Our Homes project and the crafts of summer camp. Comment on this blog post with a story about the bugs you’ve seen in and around your home (if you’re having trouble giving those bugs a name, refer to this handy guide to identify the common insects) and we’ll randomly select a commenter to receive one of these custom ornaments to adorn your home on midnight December 31, […]

By | December 24th, 2014|Your Wild Life Team|0 Comments

NestWatch Lesson Plan Now Available

Expanding on our work with Students Discover, we will be rolling out several new citizen science-based lesson plans over the next couple of months on our Education page. We’ve focused on global, long-running citizen science projects and have worked closely with educators to create lesson plans aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.

Our goals are simple:

  • Engage students in citizen science so they have opportunities to:
    • Participate in authentic scientific research.
    • Feel ownership over their learning.
    • Be part of a growing community of citizen scientists.
    • Improve scientific literacy by understanding the process of science rather than just memorizing facts or doing canned science experiments wherein we […]
By | December 15th, 2014|Education|2 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Corrie Moreau

Corrie Moreau grew up a city kid in the South. In middle school, she was on the dance team and marched in Mardi Gras parades while looking for ants in the cracks of the sidewalk outside her apartment. Read on to learn how she took her childhood love of ants and turned it into her full-time career, how she engages girls in science at The Field Museum and how her parents fostered confidence and creativity in her from a young age onward.

Lea: Where were you in middle school?

Corrie: I grew up in Louisiana. For me, the most awesome part […]

By | December 12th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment

Engaging Students with eMammal

Check out this new video featuring Students Discover Kenan Fellow, Kelsie Armentrout, sharing her experiences about engaging students in science with eMammal camera traps! Inspired by her experience with the North Carolina Environmental Education program, she has continued to implement wildlife-based lessons in her classroom with eMammal. To find out more about becoming a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator, visit their website or watch the video below:

Video courtesy of North Carolina Environmental Education Certificate Program from North Carolina State Parks on Vimeo.

And if you’re a […]

By | December 9th, 2014|Education, Video|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Chris Schell

While interviewing scientists about their middle school lives, I often encounter a recurring them: scientists didn’t realize until they were much older that they could spend their lives researching something that fascinated them as a kid. They perceived the job of “scientist” as something held by dead and gone people from decades before. My hope is that these interviews serve as inspiration for students who would otherwise struggle to see themselves in the scientific field.

Today’s interview is with Chris Schell, a PhD candidate in evolutionary biology, who has already accomplished a lot in his early academic career. In middle […]

By | December 5th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Ants vs. Rats in NYC

Last year I got to take my first trip to New York City and spent most of my time in the medians of Broadway setting up field experiments with Dr. Elsa Youngsteadt and Dr. Amy Savage. Fast forward to this week when the paper resulting from their research is published:

Youngsteadt, E., Henderson, R. C., Savage, A. M., Ernst, A. F., Dunn, R. R. and Frank, S. D. (2014), Habitat and species identity, not diversity, predict the extent of refuse consumption by urban arthropods. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12791

Over at the EcoIPM blog, Elsa gives you […]

By | December 3rd, 2014|ants, News, Reading List, Urban Ecology, Video|0 Comments

Camel Cricket Poetry

The mail room of a science building is always an interesting place. We receive email notices like, “Your slime mold has arrived!” and “Live crickets in the mail room, no name.” And some days, our mail room is full of beautiful little dead bugs carefully packaged and sent special, just for us. Sometimes the mail room is full of poetry.

Today I opened a package containing both and I had to share [an excerpt]:

On more than one occasion, 
I have briefly observed them in what looked like 
predatory behavior, 
 
all occurring in the middle of […]

By | December 2nd, 2014|Behind the Scenes, Camel Crickets|2 Comments

Apply to be a 2015-2016 Kenan Fellow

The application process for the 2015-2016 cohort of Kenan Fellows is now open!

Watch this video to see what being a part of the Students Discover project meant to our first cohort of scientists and teacher-scientists. Learn how the Students Discover project directly relates to what you can do in your classroom and meet some of the scientists you’d be working with!

By | November 24th, 2014|Education, Jobs, Video|0 Comments

Middle School Fossil Club Makes Real Discoveries

Recently, the buzz of excitement could be heard outside Exploris Middle School in downtown Raleigh. Members of the school’s Fossil Club, led by Students Discover 2014-2015 Kenan Fellow, Juliana Thomas, were sifting shark tooth fossils out of “fossil reject dirt” from the phosphate mine in Aurora, North Carolina.  I made my way, unnoticed, into the bustling room of 20 middle school students huddled over paper plates containing precious samples of shark teeth.

“I found another one!” exclaimed one student while holding up a miniscule, fossilized shark tooth from the sample in front of her. Another student proudly […]

By | November 12th, 2014|Education|2 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Randy Woodson

When I learned that North Carolina State University had a scientist as our Chancellor I made it my personal goal to tell his middle school story. Finally, after a year of conducting Before They Were Scientists interviews, I had my chance. I recently sat down with Chancellor Randy Woodson in his office overlooking the iconic NCSU Bell Tower. He started our conversation by opening a three-ring-binder and flipping through the exhaustive list of questions I had sent the week before to help him prepare, “I went through all the questions and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m […]

By | October 24th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|6 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Doug Emlen

I recently sat down with evolutionary biologist Dr. Doug Emlen when he was in town to give a seminar at NC State. We met at the Hunt Library, and after testing out a few of their famous chairs, we settled in for an interview that took us around the world. Read on to learn how Doug spent the first six months of sixth grade in Kenya with his dad studying birds, got singled out in science class and learned early on in his academic career that he would never be Indiana Jones.

Lea: We’re thinking about middle school — what’s […]

By | October 17th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment