It wasn’t until high school that freshman Grace Tietz discovered her passion for learning about insects.
Tietz first became interested in entomology when she participated in the Science Olympiad, a science competition comprised of 23 different events, two years in a row. Other than entomology, the competition covers several different areas of science, including protein modeling, physics, the solar system and building robots.
“Entomology was one of the newer events and they needed someone to do it, so I took one for the team,” Tietz said. “I started learning more about it, and at first I wasn’t super excited about the idea. It actually became a lot more exciting when I gained enough knowledge base to the point where I could go outside and say, ‘Hey, I know what kind of grasshopper that is!’”
According to Tietz, competitors are tested by having to identify pictures of insects by their origin and family. There’s an additional information section, in which their living conditions, eating habits and economic implications of the insects must be determined as well.
“The main problem is that you have this book, so if you’re really lost, you could technically flip through and find what you need to find,” Tietz said. “But since you’re under a time constraint, you really have to move quickly and still know a lot beforehand.”
Tietz made it to nationals her first year participating.
“At national level, we were getting live and pinned specimens, which is very different from just looking at photos,” Tietz said.
According to Tietz, knowing so much about insects is something that has proven to be very practical, even in her everyday life.
“It’s pretty cool when you’re studying these insects in your field guide, but it’s another thing to see them in real life,” Tietz said.
She may have retired from entomology competitions since graduating high school, but Tietz still finds ways to put the hobby to good use in college.
“Last semester, there was a swarm of flies infested our bathroom,” Tietz said. “I had my guide here, so I looked it up, identified it and quickly discovered that we should probably call someone because they tended to lve in places like our drains.”
The regional competition for the Science Olympiad will be held this year at the University of Maryland, College Park Feb. 20.