Returning recently from a trip to Canada, Extension Assistant Professor Rick Harper met with researchers at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario to discuss and help advance a social science initiative pertaining to human perceptions and attitudes toward the environment – namely, insects. “It is fascinating to see the similarities and dissimilarities that residents in the US and residents in Canada have in relation to the way they view insects – a key part of the natural world that surrounds them. The fact that arthropod-vectored illnesses like Lyme disease get “lumped in”as being insect-driven has been one important notable difference between focus–group participants based here in the Northeast US and those based in Canada.” According to Dr. R. Harvey Lemelin, Lakehead University Associate Professor and Project Director, “by asking individuals from all walks of life what their assumptions and perceptions of insects are, we will be able to acquire a greater understanding of human-insect interactions, and develop appropriate public outreach strategies.
As a new Extension Faculty member, Harper believes that the very nature of university-based outreach lends itself to him being in the community and “taking the pulse” of how citizens feel toward topics of environmental importance. “On a number of occasions I have had the opportunity to deliver a lecture for outside stakeholder audiences and then work in a focus-group based exercise as part of our research – it has been a natural fit.”