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Kids get up close with bugs in Denali

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Posted: Monday, July 9, 2012 10:39 pm

FAIRBANKS — They came crawling and flying into the hands of kids who were waiting to sample them — the insects around the Denali National Park and Preserve were highly sought-after subjects last week at the four-day Denali Bug Camp.

In its second year, the camp attracted four 11- and 12-year-olds to participate.

The campers were stationed at the Denali Education Center and went on daily excursions with entomologists and other scientists to discover local insects.

They learned to trap, collect, identify and preserve specimens, including different types of wasps, beetles and ants.

Sayde Ridling, a recent graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an entomologist, accompanied the kids and taught them a lot about her specialty — beetles.

Blair Schoenborn, youth programs director, said the kids did well with the creepy crawlies. One boy came to the camp scared of spiders, but left with no fear.

The campers participated in a National Park Service citizen science project this year. They collected dragonfly larvae from ponds and shipped the samples to the University of Maine, where they will be tested for mercury levels. The university is testing the levels of contaminants in national parks.

“They got to do real science,” Schoenborn said, which excited the campers.

For more information on the center’s programs, visit www.denalieducationcenter.com.

Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523.

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