STEM Month: Episode 16

In today’s episode, we meet the lovely Dr. Paula Shrewsbury from the University of Maryland. She is an entomologist, which means she studies bugs and insects for a living. Dr. Shrewsbury is often asked if she was a “bug geek” when she was a kid. She was not. While she was in college, trying to discover which career might be right for her, she tried various classes to learn as much as she could about different aspects of science. It was an educational site visit to a Rhode Island nursery that brought her future career into focus when her professor helped the nursery owner diagnose a particularly pestering problem. The professor took one look at the plants and was able to tell the owner what the problem was and how to solve it. “I said ‘I want to be able to do that!’ I wanted to be able to look at something and know what it is and help somebody take care of the problem,” Dr. Shrewsbury said.

Dr. Shrewsbury recommends that girls who are interested in STEM take their time and explore all the possibilities out there. “I never knew about entomology or that there was a job where you could be paid to play with bugs,” she said. “That’s pretty cool, and there are lots of jobs out there. A lot of people think ‘doctor, dentist, veterinarian’ and those are the options. [But] There are SO MANY options!”

Dr. Shrewsbury works in a lab at the University of Maryland. Her workspace is full of terrariums with all manner of creatures that scurry, crawl, slither and fly. After the interview she let us meet some of the residents of the lab, including grasshoppers, blue death feigning beetles, tarantulas, millipedes and this stick insect, who entertained us greatly.


Walking sticks are native to Maryland, so keep your eye out on your next troop hike or visit to camp. They’ll be a bit difficult to spot, since they blend in so well with the branches of trees and shrubs.

If you are interested in learning more about Maryland bug life, visit the Caitlin Dunbar Nature Center at Camp Ilchester, where Ranger BoxTurtle can introduce you to all manner of critters. Email to schedule a visit. You can also check out Maryland Day in April at the University of Maryland, where Dr. Shrewsbury and her team run a Bug Petting Zoo for kids and families.

This is Lisa’s Stick Insect Dance. If you’ve got some awesome insect-inspired dance moves, let us know in the comments below!


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