#5: Eddie Dunbar on Getting People Excited about Insects, and Building an Online Community

#5: Eddie Dunbar on Getting People Excited about Insects, and Building an Online Community Nature's Archive


Eddie Dunbar, MBA, is an entomologist, the Founder and President of the Insect Sciences Museum of California, and Adjunct Professor at Merritt College. With 38,000 species of insects in California alone, we need people like Eddie to help make sense of it all.

Eddie’s passion is to engage the public with insects so they can understand how they fit in our environment. Through the Insect Sciences Museum of California, Eddie promotes this engagement through numerous events such as “Bug Camps” and bioblitzes, and online through a popular Facebook group. The museum has portable displays, a large insect collection, and provides thorough field guides to parks of the Bay Area at bugpeople.org. In fact, Eddie and his volunteers have embarked on an immense project – creating an Insects of the San Francisco Bay Area virtual field guide.

Eddie’s unique background, including working with the UC Berkeley cooperative extension and researching pesticides, allows him to uniquely engage the public, who often see insects through the lens of pest control. Eddie has years of experience helping people change their views and understand the wide array of ecosystem services insects provide.

In this episode we talk about Eddie’s unique journey that led to the founding of the museum, his methods and tactics for engaging people online and in person, methods to create virtual field trips using Google Earth, ISMC’s projects, and how others can participate in ISMC or launch similar projects of their own.

Eddie Dunbar leading a group. Photo by Jack Owicki

Show Timeline

2:15 – The Insect Sciences Museum of California – overview

3:30 – A bit about the ISMC “bug” collection, including the virtual field guides

5:15 – The 1800 page PDF Leaf Miner field guide by Charley Eiseman

6:08 – Who does Eddie tend to engage with about insects?

7:15 – The stressful life of a butterfly

8:35 – Tips to improve backyard habitat – native plants, pesticide reduction or improved targeting

9:42 – Eddie’s origin story – starting at 8 years old, with the help from a Cub Scouts den mother

11:40 – Eddie’s time at UC Berkeley and how a negative event led to the formation of the Insect Sciences Museum

12:50 – Eddie’s work at the Clorox Insecticides division, traumatically raising mosquitoes and cockroaches

14:05 – Reconciling working with insecticides and being an insect advocate, and the positive take-aways of the experience

15:20 – Eddie’s time working with the UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension and the Insect Hotline

15:40 – Insect propaganda – fear campaigns and misinformation driving pest control

17:35 – Spider hysteria, and a great tip on getting better search engine results

18:35 – Eddie’s Insect Identification and Management course at Merrit College in Oakland, CA – and the challenges of entomology online coursework

20:16 – ISMC’s funding, operation, and importance of volunteers and donations (bugpeople.org).

21:10 – ISMC’s Facebook group – and its rapid growth, and mix of experts and amateurs

23:30 – The divisive Brown Recluse Spider

24:19 – Eddie’s inclusive and encouraging approach to helping people – and the difficulty of identifying to species level (easy for birds, hard if not impossible for insects)

25:55 – More on Eddie’s nurturing approach to helping people

27:00 – Tell Me Your Insect Story – a great way to engage people

27:35 – Keeping people on the learning curve – becoming the “Family Entomologist”

28:45 – Adapting to life with COVID-19 – finding balance among multiple responsibilities

30:41 – How will ISMC evolve? Recruiting more experts for the Board, supporting more groups, online presentations, Google Earth field trips

32:40 – iNaturalist, how it helps and how to use it (reference: getting started blog)

34:30 – How ISMC uses photographs to create field guides

35:42 – Helping others create field guides

37:33 – The importance of backyard habitat, and what should we consider to help our backyard habitats at this time of the year (summer/entering autumn)

39:55 – Bee The Beauty – 10 tips for helping bees

40:10 – Parallels between insect habitat and human homelessness

40:40 – Eddie’s book recommendations – be specific. Focus on taxa and regions.

42:25 – Pros and Cons of broad field guides, like “Insects of North America”

43:50 – Other media that engages people in insects – what to look for on YouTube, including “The Insect Hunter”

45:05 – In Defense of Plants had an interesting recent podcast about insects in Hollow Trees



The Insect Hunter – an engaging You Tube entomologist

In Defense of Plants recent podcast on insect ecology in hollow trees

Places – Virtual and Physical

Sagehen Creek – location of the annual ISMC Bug Camp

The Insect Sciences Museum Facebook Group

Anza Borrgeo State Park (mis-stated as Ano Borrego)

Books and Things

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Leafminers of North America – Charley Eiseman, a PDF guide

Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates – a wonderful guide book to insect behavior.

The Dangerous World of Butterflies – Peter Laufer

The Bay Nature Article featuring Eddie Dunbar

A Newbies Guide to iNaturalist

Bee The Beauty – 10 Tips for Helping Bees

Insects of the Pacific Northwest – a regional field guide Eddie recommends, that includes good California coverage, too.

Moths of Western North America – Jerry Powell

Field Guide to California Insects – Jerry Powell, Joyce Gross

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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