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Whole ‘lotta’ Science Going On

By Neal Muirhead, Technical Writer, Public Affairs Office

Photo of Las Vegas Science FairReclamation employees joined thousands of Las Vegas-area kids at the 2013 Science and Technology Expo on May 4 at the Cashman Center.

The Expo is the culmination of the Las Vegas Science and Technology Festival, a weeklong series of science events produced by Exhibit IQ and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

The event is in its third year, and Phil Aurit, an environmental awareness specialist in the Resources Management Office (RMO), said Reclamation has staffed a booth each year since the event began.
“Every year the event has gotten bigger and better, and we’ve had more kids and families visit our exhibit,” he said.

Nathan Lenon, a biologist who coordinates the outreach program for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCR MSCP), said that when Reclamation staff attended the first year’s event, they didn’t know what to expect.

“We had some simple displays the first year and thought we’d get a few kids visiting the booth, but it was pretty crazy to have thousands of people attending, and we were swamped the whole time,” Lenon said.
John Good and Marilyn Gillespie, two of the event organizers, estimated that nearly 10,000 people attended the 2013 Expo.

“The festival showcases science and engineering activities in the local community, but it’s also lots of fun for kids,” said Good.

Gillespie said that brochures went out ahead of time to kids in the Clark County School District.
“The school district is a tremendous partner for the science festival,” said Gillespie. “This is a huge event for local students, and the school board believes that the science festival really benefits the target audience of school-age kids.”

For the 2013 Expo, several Reclamation employees from the Lower Colorado Region helped Aurit and Lenon set up displays and answer questions about Reclamation activities along the lower Colorado River. When asked which display was the most popular, Lenon pointed to the aquarium holding fingerling razorback suckers from the nearby Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery, located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River downstream of Hoover Dam.

“I may be biased, because I’ve worked as a fisheries biologist, but the aquarium is like a giant magnet for kids,” said Lenon.

Lenon and the other Reclamation employees staffing the booth answered questions about the fish, which is an endangered species in the Colorado River and one of the covered species for the LCR MSCP.

At the other end of the display table, a series of objects encrusted with quagga mussels drew equally large crowds. Heidi McMaster, an environmental protection assistant also in the RMO, whose work includes monitoring quagga mussels at Lake Havasu on the Colorado River, said that kids were very inquisitive about the quagga mussel displays.

“They especially like the flip-flop sandal covered with mussels,” she said.

In addition to Aurit, Lenon and McMaster, Lower Colorado Regional Office employees assisting with this year’s Expo exhibit included Dana Anat, Diane Bangle, Neal Muirhead, Laura Sandor, Randy Thomas, and Ty Wolters.

Photo of Las Vegas Science Fair
LEFT TOP – Biologist Nathan Lenon (center) talks about razorback suckers to future fisheries biologists. The fish is one of the endangered species covered under the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program. RIGHT TOP – Quagga mussels completely cover an outboard motor housing (on loan from the National Park Service). The mussels are typically spread by watercraft, trailers and other equipment. “Don’t Move a Mussel” regulations require that boaters clean, drain and dry boats and equipment, as well as waiting at least five days (which kills residual larvae) before launching watercraft in other bodies of water. LCR photos by Neal Muirhead

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Updated: May 22, 2013