For seven years I had been developing education projects in the Dominican Republic. Even while working and researching in China I have had programs continuing in both the DR and Haiti. Last fall we finished building and starting a small school on the north coast of Haiti with the help of extraordinary volunteers.
Over this period of time we have done science education in the schools. Dr. Greta Binford of Lewis and Clark University brought a team to the Caribbean two years ago and we taught children about spiders in which she and her students were experts. When Greta returned to the States she applied for a grant which included my program of Dominican Outreach. The grant has been approved for the summer of 2012. The grant included the following language:
“Public outreach: Popular interest in spiders provides an excellent opportunity to communicate the role of science to the public. This project will provide opportunities to interact with the media about biodiversity and the contribution of basic research to the understanding of biological and geological history in their part of the world. In addition, we will be making a special effort to involve a group of underprivileged young men and women via collaboration with an orphanage in the Dominican Republic: Dominican Outreach. This program is directed by Father Dale A. Johnson, who has an impressive commitment to teaching children the value of biodiversity in their region and empowering them with basic methods of collecting, curating and identifying species. Father Dale has previously worked in collaboration with beetle systematists from Harvard University, which resulted in the discovery of new beetle species (some named after the orphans who collected them). We will work with Father Dale to teach children how to collect, preserve, and identify arachnids, providing them with keys to spiders they are likely to encounter. We will involve students at our respective universities in this outreach program, with the goal of instilling in them the importance of community involvement.”
Dr. Binford is a woman of great stature in this small part of the science world. She has been featured on NPR Radio and National Geographic. She is called America’s Spiderwoman.
During the time the science team was in the Dominican Republic I took them to sites where they searched for a relative of the Brown Recluse Spider. A children’s writer and her husband who has worked for National Geographic followed us around. They have produced a wonderful book called Spider and Venom. I understand there is a photograph of me and a dedication to Greta and me in the book. It is available through Amazon.com.
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