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Married Entomologists Donate Insect Collection Worth $10 Million

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Lois, 89, and Charlie O’Brien, 83, spent over six decades becoming two of the world’s preeminent entomologists. The married scientist couple amassed a personal collection of more than 1.25 million meticulously kept insect specimens—including their personal favorites: weevils (Charlie) and planthoppers (Lois). Now, they’re giving it all away, NPR reports.

The O’Briens are donating their vast collection, estimated to be worth $10 million, to Arizona State University (ASU) in hopes that it will foster further research that could have huge scientific value. The treasure trove of creepy-crawly pests doubles ASU’s current collection, called the Frank Hasbrouck Insect Collection, which consists of nearly 1 million specimens.

The O’Briens have also donated $2 million to ASU—the place where they first met—to endow future professorships with the sole goal of studying and identifying new species.

Charles W. and Lois B. O'Brien Insect Systematics Endowment from ASU Now on Vimeo.

“The O’Briens have placed great trust in us as a research community,” Nico Franz, the Hasbrouck Collection’s curator and long-time colleague of Charlie O’Brien, told ASU in a statement. “And at the same time, it’s a responsibility for us to make sure this collection has the greatest possible impact in terms of research and mentoring for future generations.”

The donation will likely have the biggest affect on the agriculture industry, specifically on invasive species like Charlie’s weevils. ASU notes there are about 65,000 identified weevil species but that estimates put the total number of species at about 220,000. Different species of weevils devastated U.S. agriculture during the Dust Bowl by burrowing into plant stalks, laying eggs, and leaving the hatched larvae to scarf down the plant parts. They continue to plague farmers all over the world.

But just because the scientists are donating their life’s work doesn’t mean they’re getting out of the bug business.

“We work seven days a week, we used to work 14 but now we’re down to 10 hours a day,” Charlie told The Guardian. “We love it so much, even if I’m getting a little old for field work.”

[h/t NPR]

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entertainment
Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
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BBC

Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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Animals
These Mobile Libraries Roaming Zimbabwe Are Pulled By Donkeys
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The people behind the Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program (RLRDP) believe you shouldn’t have to travel far to access good reading material. That’s why they have donkeys do a lot of the traveling for the people they help. According to inhabitat, RLRDP manages 15 donkey-powered library carts that deliver books to communities without libraries of their own.

The organization was founded in 1990 with the mission of bringing libraries to rural parts of Zimbabwe. Five years later, they started hitching up donkeys to carts packed with books. Each mobile library can hold about 1200 titles, and 12 of the 15 carts are filled exclusively with books for kids. The donkeys can transport more than just paperbacks: Each two-wheeled cart has space for a few riders, and three of them are outfitted with solar panels that power onboard computers. While browsing the internet or printing documents, visitors to the library can use the solar energy to charge their phones.

Donkeys pulling a cart

Carts usually spend a day in the villages they serve, and that short amount of time is enough to make a lasting impact. RLRDP founder Dr. Obadiah Moyo wrote in a blog post, “The children explore the books, sharing what they’ve read, and local storytellers from the community come to bring stories to life. It really is a day to spread the concept of reading and to develop the reading culture we are all working towards.”

Kids getting books from a cart.

About 1600 individuals benefit from each cart, and Moyo says schools in the areas they visit see improvement in students. The donkey-pulled libraries are only part of what RLRDP does: The organization also trains rural librarians, installs computers in places without them, and delivers books around Zimbabwe via bicycle—but the pack animals are hard to top. Moyo writes, “When the cart is approaching a school, the excitement from the children is wonderful to see as they rush out to greet it.”

[h/t inhabitat]

All images courtesy of Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program

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