Did you know that blow flies and beetles are the greatest decomposers in the world? While their consumption of dead things is not pretty, it is an essential part of nature. The museum’s next Sunday with a Scientist event for children and families explored ecology and forensic science.
Through hands-on activities, the scientists helped visitors better understand the role insects, specifically blow flies and their maggots, play in the decomposition of carcasses and nutrient cycling. As insects breakdown dead tissue, they allow nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen, to be released into the ecosystem. Without this unpleasant, yet fascinating process, the planet would be overwhelmed with foul-smelling carcasses. These insects are also useful forensically to estimate the length of time a person or animal has been deceased, which can be important in criminal investigations.
Visitors were able to view blowflies and beetles up close through microscopes. They were also inspired to make a piece of art with the help of live maggots.
The event, "Blow flies, Beetles, and Bad Guys: Ecology and Forensic Science," will be presented by Amanda Fujikawa and Christian Elowsky, doctoral students in the UNL School of Natural Resources.
Amanda Fujikawa's research in the Nebraska Sandhills shows that long-held beliefs in forensic entomology may need revision.