What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I am an Assistant Professor of Insect Biology in the Department of Entomology. I coordinate and advise for our undergraduate Insect Science program and I work closely with Nebraska One Health. In a nutshell, I focus on helping students be their best, most awesome selves while they’re at UNL. I focus on human-insect-environment relationships to help Nebraskans live healthier lives. My teaching and extension efforts are pulled together through my Civic Entomology Lab.
What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
UNL gave me the opportunity to combine my passions for nature, connecting people and insects through teaching and One Health extension efforts. I know insects aren’t every one’s cup of tea. In fact, they are detested by many. But there is a lot we can learn about ourselves from this fear/dislike. I believe that by learning to develop positive relationships with insects, we can develop positive relationships with one another. I get to focus on this mission every day at UNL. Plus, insects are just plain fun and entomologists are funny. We enjoy studying the animals that make most people’s skin crawl - we must have a good sense of humor, right? UNL lets me work in a whole building of us on East Campus - we’re in extension locations throughout the state, too! Stop by anytime!
What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?
I love the mutualism, collaboration and community-building that comes with education. Working with people - whether they are undergraduate or graduate students, members of the public or colleagues - creates new inquiries for all involved, including me. I never want to stop learning. With insects this is particularly easy. In the grand scheme of things, we know so little. I also enjoy and appreciate undergraduates helping me stay modern and up to date with trending social media apps, music, doggo lingo, etc.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Work-life balance is a constant pursuit and struggle of mine. I feel one of my greatest achievements was when my 6-year old son received a Lakota name, Chikala Itanchan (Little Leader) from a colleague, Ted Hibbeler, who runs UNL’s Tribal Extension Office. This Lakota name came about because my son attends the UNL Indigenous Youth Food Sovereignty Program (“The Hoop”) with me on Saturday mornings to help me and Ted. My career and my personal life intersected in a beautiful way that supported time with my son rather than keeping us apart. In other words, I beat “the system” of trying to balance!
What is something that most people don't know about you?
I like to tinker with instruments and compose music. My go-to is the piano. But every instrument has its own voice and particulars and I love to meddle with their sounds. I help with film scoring for my husband’s Visually Hidden LLC productions and we record music together as ET TU’. You can see my latest scoring work for an award-winning short film we did together as a family (DRAWN TOGETHER) or check out our music on our Spotify channel.
What is your life like outside of work?
Honestly? It’s sort of a big, exciting, messy, sometimes overwhelming circus. Not relaxing - that’s for sure. I’m awful at relaxing. Except when I’m taking photos for my iNaturalist profile. Unfamiliar with iNaturalist? Check it out. Trust me. If you’ve ever thought, “Hm. Wish I knew what this [insert plant or animal description] was”, you’ll love it. Outside of work, I’m focused on family, which includes everything from changing dirty diapers and pretending to be a pirate captain, to trying to be a good neighbor and going on road trip adventures with our 6.5- and 2.5-year-old kiddos and pup. Otherwise, we’re constantly working on our fixer upper house, writing music, caring for our animal menagerie of turtles, toads and fish, playing strategy board games and, most importantly, trying to make each other laugh.