Web research project aims to collect information about spiders


Hannah Thompson

Texas State Graduate student Bria Marty holds a preserved spider, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, at the Science Greenhouse.

Daniella Carrera, News Reporter

A Texas State graduate student is conducting volunteer-based research to better collect data about our eight-legged friends—spiders.

The project, created by Bria Marty, biology graduate student, is called Spider Friends and tasks students to find, observe and collect information on spiders.

Student volunteers first take a questionnaire to assess their views on spiders. After they consent to the study, students will receive a packet containing a self-guided activity tasking them to seek out specific species of spiders.

The students use the guide created by Marty to identify the types of spiders that can be found in Texas, whether they be inside or outside.

Students can take a picture of the spiders and share them using a data-collecting social network called iNaturalist. The application allows users to share images of plants or animals. After completing the activity, students will complete a post-activity survey.

According to the iNaturalist website, by recording and sharing your observations you will create research-quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.

Associate biology professor Kristy Daniel’s primary research focus is exploring issues in communicating science with visuals in both college classrooms and informal learning environments, an example being Spider Friends.

“I study how people learn about the fish and the snakes…or how they (educators) talk about those to help get other people to understand what they do” Daniel said.

Marty hopes to explain the science in a way that can be understood by everyone regardless of prior academic experience and feels her program is a step toward thoroughly researching spiders.

“Spiders are absolutely understudied and we need more information on them,” Marty said. “You don’t need to be a scientist to do this.”

Marty is of six students who is working together in a research project called Minding the Hill country under Associate Biology Professor Kristy Daniel. The project is composed of five activities, including Spider Friends, that are provided to community members who are interested in learning about the outdoors.

Minding the Hill Country aims to make science more accessible for a wider population. The project is a series of activities that can be provided to community members that are interested in learning about the outdoors. Marty’s project, Spider Friends, is one of the activities trying to teach community members about the environment.

Marty said the goal is to make science accessible to everyone while also seeing if community science can change what we think about spiders.

“If (the activity) does show to have a positive influence on perceptions about it, then that means this might be how we have to communicate about spiders,” Marty said.

Marty said an engaging activity could be the most effective way to communicate information about spiders to bring awareness.

Jessica Hobbs, biology senior, had Marty as an instructional assistant for a plant ecology lab and after seeing how she interacted and held spiders, said she grew to like them.

“(Marty) successfully converted me from a spider hater to a spider lover,” Hobbs said.

Marty’s project, Spider Friends is set to be completed in the fall of 2020.

Students interested in participating in the Spider Friends research project can visit Marty’s website to take the pre-survey to see if you are legible to complete self-guided activity.

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