Quinnipiac University invited members of the community to celebrate Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The Earth Day Fair took place on the university’s Mt. Carmel campus. Students, professors, and people from the community roamed the campus lawns. Among the attractions were pottery demonstrations, the Animal Embassy, an exhibition of a biology class, and a beekeeper.
Earth Day is a global event that tries to raise awareness of environmental issues. Peace activist John McConnell founded it in 1969. While the event was limited to the U.S. during the first years, it has become an international phenomenon over time. The Earth Day Network, founded in 1990, has brought Earth Day to communities all over the world.
Based in Guilford, Conn., pottery maker David Frank welcomed the opportunity to celebrate Mother Earth by “offering an opportunity to see pottery be thrown and seeing the finished product.”
Frank said that this year was his first Earth Day participation at Quinnipiac. But, the veteran ceramist went on, “I have done things (events) at Quinnipiac in the past and I have done shows in the past. I’ve made pots for my living since 1969, so I’ve done a lot of shows.”
The Animal Embassy tent was almost constantly surrounded by a large number of people. The organization is a safe haven for adopted and rescued animals across the spectrum. In addition, the Animal Embassy is all about educating people about animals and “the diversity of life on Earth.”
Holding a small corn snake in her hands, Jenn Torres, animal care and education specialist with the Animal Embassy, explained further. “We rescue them and any chances we get to re-release them, we do.”
“This is an un-releasable snake,” she said, speaking in a rapid voice, “because this one was born and bred in captivity. It was given to us because (the owners) were bored with it, they didn’t want ‘em anymore – just ridiculous.”
Surrounded by people, she pointed toward her intern, who was holding a massive rabbit in his arms that caused astonished looks from everyone. “That rabbit,” she said, “they didn’t think it was gonna get this big. Maybe researching the animal you get would be a good idea.”
Talking about one of the gray tree frogs they had brought to the fair, Torres said, “It is a naturally occurring frog. Some lady was really nice, (she) saw it crossing the street, got out of her car, put it in her pocket, and brought it to the Animal Embassy and was like, ‘I don’t want it to die’.”
Torres and her team took care of the frog, implemented it into their educational programs over the winter, and plan to release it back into its natural environment next week.
Another popular element of the Earth Day Fair was an exhibition put together by Professor Dennis Richardson and his biology class. The course about Invertebrate Zoology is intended, according to Richardson, “to get people interested in invertebrates. And, you know, people are afraid of ‘em, but if you think about it, most animals on this planet are invertebrates. And they’re really kinda cute.”
“Did you guys all hear the cockroach hiss?” He asked the crowd.
“No,” responded a woman in the audience.
“Come on over,” Richardson said. “I’ll show you why we call them hissing cockroaches.” The woman stepped back with a horrified look on her face. “Oh come on,” he responded playfully. “Come on guys,” said one of Richardson’s students, trying to draw the people closer to the table.
“They don’t fly,” the professor took over again, “ (and) they don’t run. And you have the cockroach banana bread, no, I’m just kiddin’.” The people around him laughed in relief.
He found the creature he was looking for and called everyone to come closer. He gently touched the back of a cockroach and thus elicited a hissing sound.
“I don’t like that.” Said a woman from the audience. Another woman asked where these creatures could be found. “These are native to Madagascar,” Richardson said, which caused sighs of relief from the crowd.
“What we have here,” said Richardson while walking over to the next table, “is two of the most common house spiders that you see around your house. And there is absolutely no reason to kill these guys.”
He explained the common cellar spider (aka daddy long-legs), a usual guest in most American basements. “Have you ever heard anything of the daddy long-legs, of their biology?” He asked around, and continued without waiting for answers. “They say that it’s the most deadly venom on earth, but that’s just absolutely not true.”
While Professor Richardson finished his presentation by talking about scorpions, the adjacent beekeeper’s stand sparked interest from visitors.
“There’s been a lot of issues for the last eight years with bees,” said Mark Creighton, Connecticut’s State Beekeeper and Bee-Inspector. “Bees are on decline, many bees are dying, and we wonder why, right? Well, our agricultural practices have changed.”
Creighton continued, talking about the introduction of new chemicals into the environment. “We don’t know the synergies between all of those chemicals. And see, in a hive, the wax is like a sponge, so it absorbs all the chemicals from the environment.”
Besides these more educational elements, the fair offered organically grown food, a henna tattoo stand, information about the State Park, and a raffle.
Quinnipiac’s Chief of Public Safety, David Barger, roamed the campus as well. Being there “to check on the event and enjoy a cupcake,” the Chief summed up the Earth Day Fair as “a great event, something that the entire Quinnipiac community could get involved in.”