Pictured are (from left) UD Linnaean Games team members Ashley Kennedy, Scott Berg, Kaitlin Handley and David Gardner.

Entomology experts

UD team wins first place in East Coast regional Linnaean Games

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9:32 a.m., April 23, 2013--A group of four University of Delaware graduate students studying in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology bested teams from Penn State, Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland to win first place in a regional match in the Entomological Society of America’s Linnaean Games, a competition in which teams are quizzed on entomological questions.

Having won the East Coast regional competition, the UD team will head to Austin, Texas, to compete in the national competition in November.

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Team members include Scott Berg, Ashley Kennedy, Kaitlin Handley and David Gardner, all master’s degree students, with Kennedy having just completed her program.

In the first round of the tournament, the team defeated Virginia Tech and later topped Penn State in the finals. Each round lasted about 20 minutes and consisted of 16 questions. If a team got an answer correct, they were given a bonus question. 

While some of the other teams had coaches to help them prepare for the Linnaean Games, the UD team had no such help. “Some schools take it really seriously and every year they have coaches,” explained Handley. “This is the first year that UD put together a team and it was all Ashley’s doing.” 

Even though the team didn’t have a coach, Kennedy was able to find something extremely helpful on-line that helped the team prepare for the competition -- YouTube videos of past competitions. She transcribed the questions and the answers from those past tournaments and handed them out to her teammates. 

Watching the videos of past tournaments, however, did have some consequences, as well, with team members getting a glimpse of just how challenging the questions would be. “Hearing some of the questions that Ashley transcribed and watching some of the videos, oftentimes, they’ll ask a question and neither team gets it and then they’ll just turn to the audience for fun and say, ‘Does anyone know it?’ and the audience is silent,” said Berg. “So we were thinking that this was going to be pretty tough. But the questions they had this year -- I don’t know if it was just luck or what -- but they seemed a little bit more manageable.” 

Kennedy also explained that while the team didn’t have a coach, they didn’t consider themselves underdogs. “We did have more of an advantage than some of the other schools just because we do have a good variety of entomology classes here that cover all the basic areas.” 

Gardner, who is relatively new to the entomology field having studied behavioral neuroscience as an undergraduate, agreed with that assessment, saying that the entomology department at UD is “great. The professors are great, colleagues are great, everyone is really interesting, so I enjoy it.”

Winning the Linnaean Games was not the only prize the group took home from the conference as Berg also won second place in oral presentation.

The team is now looking forward to the national competition and attending the five-day conference, with the hopes of recruiting a coach to help them prepare.

Kennedy noted that Charles Bartlett, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, has agreed to coach them prior to the national competition. 

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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