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Locally Sourced Science

LSS 108: Women’s History month: recognizing women scientists in the Finger Lakes region

Similar to previous years, in March we recognize women scientists who have connections to the Finger Lakes.

Isa Betancourt is an entomologist and science communicator who received her B.S. from Cornell University and M.S. from Drexel University. She runs The Bugscope! a very popular live broadcast every Thursday ~2:45 pm ET. Her followers can learn about 6 and 8 legged creatures on her Facebook account and on Twitter as well.

She talks to Mark Sarvary about insects and science communication (they share a passion for both of those topics) and her super exciting upcoming adventure with National Geographic.

In a historical piece, Kitty Gifford tells us about Anna Botsford Comstock (September 1, 1854 – August 24, 1930) and her best-selling book The Handbook of Nature Study.

Anna Botsford Comstock, plate III. Wood engraving. Insect life; an introduction to nature-study and a guide for teachers, students, and others interested in out-of-door life (1897), by John Henry Comstock.

Dr. Anna Levina is an Active Learning Postdoctoral Researcher and potato expert at Cornell University. Nancy Ruiz talked to her about potatoes, teaching, pedagogy, and life in general.

Producer: Mark Sarvary

Music/Voiceover: Joe Lewis

Contributors: Kitty Gifford, Nancy Ruiz & Mark Sarvary

LSS 107: Under the Microscope

In today’s show, we hear interviews of two different professionals who use microscopes in their work.

Mark Sarvary starts the show off by presenting a review of an exhibition called “The History of Glass and the Microscope”, that was on display in 2016 at the Corning Museum of Glass. You can still read about the exhibit here: (

Diagram of set-up for visualization of Fluorescent-stained proteins on DNA (figure courtesy of Dr. Brooks Crickard (

Our first interview of today’s show is with Dr. Brooks Crickard, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University. He talks about his research using single molecule total internal reflection microscopy (TIRFM). This technique allows him to directly visualize proteins and protein complexes as they function on DNA in real-time. Crickard also discusses challenges he has faced as a new faculty member during the pandemic.

Foldscope parts (bottom) and Instructions (top) (Photo courtesy of Sten Anderson)

In the second part of our show, you’ll hear an interview with Sten Anderson, a science teacher at DeWitt Middle school in Ithaca, New York. He recently taught his 7th grade students how to use foldscopes, flexible, waterproof, paper-based microscopes (  Students learned how to use foldscopes during both in-person and remote instruction.  Anderson guided students in how to gather, examine and record images of non-living and living specimens.  The purchase of a foldscope for each of his students was made possible by a Red and Gold Grant from the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (

Producer: Liz Mahood

Segments: Mark Sarvary, Nancy Ruiz, Esther Racoosin

Music: Joe Lewis, Blue Dot Sessions

LSS 106: The story of the new Cornell CALS Dean and what is new in Alzheimer’s research

In this episode, Mark Sarvary interviewed the new dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dr. Benjamin Houlton began his term on October 1, 2020, as the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is also and a professor in the departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Global Development.

Hear the story of how Dean Houlton almost received a Cornell Ph.D. and how he works with farmers in both California and in New York state to mitigate the impact of climate change.

In the second interview, Candice Limper talked to Nancy Ruiz about her research at Cornell University, discussing what Alzheimer’s disease is and some of the symptoms. Nancy is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate and is trying to understand what factors contribute to the development of this disease as part of her thesis. During this interview, she describes a mouse model that she uses to understand the molecular mechanisms involved.

In our Locally Birding segment, Kitty Gifford talked about the largest American woodpecker (and used some puns). Kitty mentioned in her segment this recent research: The Re-Establishment of Pileated Woodpeckers in New York City Following Nearly Two Centuries of Extirpation

pileated woodpecker in newfield new york
Pileated woodpecker in Newfield, NY | Photo by Kitty Gifford.

Thanks for listening and thanks to our contributors:

Producer: Mark Sarvary

Segments: Mark Sarvary, Candice Limper, Kitty Gifford

Music: Joe Lewis

LSS 105: Science Education in Colleges and Universities – Remote learning and camera use study; and a new course “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in STEM”

Kitty Gifford interviews Dr. Frank Castelli, Educational research postdoc with the Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories at Cornell.

WordCloud using the text from recently published paper about why highered students don't turn on their cameras during Zoom classes. Provided by Frank Castelli
Word cloud created by Frank Castelli using student responses.

One of the greatest challenges in online learning is that students do not turn their cameras on and teachers speak into the void. Frank Castelli and his co-author, Mark Sarvary, studied this phenomenon and published a study in the Journal Ecology and Evolution titled  “Why Students Do Not Turn on Their Video Cameras During Online Classes and an Equitable and Inclusive Plan to Encourage Them to Do So,”

The results of the study are discussed along with a plan any instructor can use to encourage camera use:

1. Do NOT require video cameras to be turned on and do offer alternatives.

2. Explicitly encourage camera use, explain why you are doing so, and establish the norm

3. Address potential distractions and give breaks to help maintain attention.

4. Use active learning techniques to keep students engaged and promote equity.

5. Survey your students to understand their challenges.

You can also read about the study in the Cornell Chronicle:

Appearance, social norms keep students off Zoom cameras

Janani Hariharan interviews Dr. Corrie Moreau, Martha N. and John C. Moser Professor of Arthropod Biosystematics and Biodiversity at Cornell University.

Dr. Corrie Moreau

Dr. Moreau created a seminar class called Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in STEM in Fall 2020. This interview touches on her motivation to create such a class especially in the wake of the George Floyd protests of 2020, the structure of the class and her favorite moments of the class. She also shared some recommendations for other educators who might want to design similar classes at their own institutions.

Image of Mars NASA Rover Perseverance (Courtesy of SPIF)

And, to close out the show, Esther Racoosin speaks with Zoe Learner Ponterio, Manager at the Spacecraft Planetary Image Facility, also known as SPIF, located at Cornell. SPIF is hosting a watch party on Thursday, February 18 at 2:30 pm to view the landing of the Mars 2020 mission. To find out more about SPIF, visit