Nerd Night #28: Ants are Awesome

Ants are Awesome!

Friday, May 29th at 6:00 pm (MST)

Tiny Tunnels: Big Connections…

Did you know that there are whole kingdoms (more like “queen”-doms) beneath our feet?  There are an estimated ten thousand trillion ants worldwide, and they weigh roughly the same as all of humanity.  Ants are much more than a picnic pest, they often symbolize hard workers and farmers. Ants are the engineers of the natural world, with their tiny size they can cause gigantic changes in their environments. As they go undetected keeping ecosystems healthy, their interactions with other organisms “range from cooperative to hostile and from brief to life-long relationships.” Join our next virtual Nerd Night to explore the amazing world of ants.  This special virtual Nerd Night will also feature the Tiny Tunnels, Big Connections exhibit at the at the UTEP Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens.


About our Speakers:

  • Dr. Shawn Dash (Entomologist) – Ants, The Rulers Under Your Feet – Shawn T. Dash is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. He has studied myrmecology (the study of ants) for over 20 years, and focuses on understanding the role ants and other arthropods play in ecosystem form and function, especially in urban habitats. He is captivated by the fields of ornithology, herpetology, mammalogy, evolutionary biology, and of course anything to do with invertebrates. 


  • Dr. Vicky Zhuang (Collections Manager) – The Ants Go Digital: Bringing the Mackay Ant Collection Online – Vicky Zhuang is the Collections Manager at the UTEP Biodiversity Collections where she coordinates volunteers and faculty to take care of and promote the use of over 500,000 specimens of animals, plants, fossils and insects for research and education. Before coming to El Paso, Vicky worked with several collections as a curatorial assistant for herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in Berkeley, California and as a graduate student of functional anatomy. Her research focused on understanding how gecko foot anatomy has evolved with the acquisition of a dry adhesive system.


  • Rob Burgess, M.S. (Naturalist) – El Paso Ants and Ant-Loving Beetles – Rob Burgess grew up in Buffalo, NY and later worked as a physicist on a government contract studying radiation exposure at former nuclear weapons facilities. He has a Bachelor’s in physics, and a Master’s in biology, both from the University of Miami. He studied modeling ant behavior using neural networks and cellular automata. He is an enthusiastic beetle collector, focusing on beetles that live with ants, and is an affiliate in Dr. Mackay’s entomology lab at UTEP.

During the event we will also feature a BINGO Scavenger Hunt and a Museum Zodiac activity; participate to enter to win a prize!

Where:  Your House via Zoom Pro

(a Zoom Pro event link will be shared with you via email. Please do not share this link)

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