Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

Racing to End Stereotypes

If you’ve ever seen an episode of The Big Bang Theory, then you know that scientists aren’t usually known for their athleticism. Brains? Yes. Brawn? Not so much. But at the Sam Noble Museum, we’re all about busting stereotypes. Take Katrina Menard, for example. 

Menard is the invertebrate curator (a.k.a. bug chick) at the museum. She is also a competitive athlete and finalist in this year’s World Triathlon Grand Final in Edmonton, Canada. On Monday, Menard will face off against cyclists, swimmers and racers from across the globe for a two-hour demonstration of human strength. 

The ITU bike route 

So, what does an Olympic-distance triathlon look like? A 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. All in all, that’s about two hours of non-stop adrenaline. To prepare, Menard spent anywhere from 7 to 11 hours in training per week during the winter. How does she find the time? 

“For ExplorOlogy, I had to take my bike with me to Black Mesa,” Menard answered. “I always have to take my running shoes to the field! I work for a place that is really constructive about my races, and that’s wonderful.”

 

Menard has trained in the field in countries like Africa and Australia

 Menard joined the triathlon scene three years ago after picking up cycling around Norman. Despite running track in college, Menard didn’t run her first triathlon until 2011. After her first race, the Red Man Spring Triathlon, she was hooked.

Menard means business on the track

But the transition from athlete to scientist hasn’t always been so smooth. In high school, Menard struggled with bridging the gap between jock and science-lover. Thanks to her supporting parents, Menard realized that having two passions was a blessing—not a curse.

 “You can be athletic and scientific,” Menard explained. “You can be successful at both, and it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a girl.” 

The women’s triathlon sport is gaining ground in Norman as the University of Oklahoma works to establish a team. Menard hopes to get even more involved in racing in the future as more women enter the sport. But for Menard, it’s not about soaking in the spotlight or becoming an inspiration. It’s for the love of the sport.

 

Menard and her fellow triathletes 

“You should race because you’re passionate about it,” Menard said. “I never did it to inspire other people. I did it because I cared, because I enjoyed the sport.”

 For updates about Menard’s upcoming race, keep an eye on the ITU website. Good luck, Katrina!

Bigger Fish to Fry

Picture yourself knee-deep in the warm water of Mountain Fork River in southeast Oklahoma. The spring sun shines down on your face as golden light glistens on the river’s glassy surface. Suddenly, the water breaks. The speckled body of a brown trout springs into the air, hungrily snatching your handcrafted fly along the way. As he dives back into the river, you know you’ve got him. Hook, line and hackle.

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A brown trout and fly-fishing rod

 Thrilling, right? 

It’s easy to see why fly-fishing is one of America’s greatest pastimes, but there’s much more to this sport than meets the eye. In fact, many popular fish species can spot a fraud before ever leaving the water. According to Texas A&M entomology graduate and wetland ecologist Andy Boswell, trout use their excellent vision to identify key body parts before taking the bait.

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Boswell and his father hit the water for a little fly-fishing 

“Sometimes, making sure the presence or absence of some very specific body features can make all the difference in the big one looking at your fly and turning away, or gobbling it right up,” Boswell said. 

So, what’s a fly fisher to do? 

“Knowing small but important details about insect life cycles, their general body design and where they occur is immensely helpful when trying to target specific fish,” Boswell said.

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Boswell teaches anglers to fashion the perfect lure

Essentially, successful fly fishers must first become successful entomologists – and that’s where Boswell comes in. As a lifelong fly fisherman and entomology expert, he brings both skill and science to the table. For this reason, Boswell will be conducting beginner, intermediate and advanced fly-fishing workshops at the Sam Noble Museum on Saturday, April 5.

What can you expect to learn?

 With the help of the Sam Noble Museum’s recent invertebrate curator, Katrina Menard, the workshop will teach fly fishers how to craft their own flies that match regional ecosystems. Plus, Boswell will cover the basics of fly-fishing for beginners while assisting expert anglers in honing advanced techniques.

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A handcrafted fly

 Whether you’re stepping in the water for the first or thousandth time, we invite you to drop in and drop a line with us. The Fly-Tying Frenzy adult workshop costs $30 for museum members and $40 for non-members. So what are you waiting for? Space is limited, and April is just around the corner! To register, just click here. Remember, the deadline for this workshop is March 28.

 You have bigger fish to fry – get hooked on entomology.