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Dirty dancing spider

This article appeared in the May 4th 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Dirty dancing spider

This jumping spider fella knows how to "bust a move" to impress the ladies. Explorit Science Center is launching a "Spiders in Your World" project, which hopes to engage people of all ages in looking at the spiders in our community. Kathy Keatley Garvey/C

By Sarah Thomas

Special to the Enterprise

The audience had a collective look of shock on their faces. Had they really just seen a spider build an underwater cave with its silk? Did that spider really just use a single strand of its silk to “lasso” a moth?

The tremendously comical courtship dances of the jumping spider got everyone laughing, but more importantly, these creatures that are often passed by without notice (or squished!) intrigued participants both young and old.

On Tuesday, Rosemary Gillespie was the featured guest speaker at the launch of Explorit Science Center’s “Spiders in Your World” project. The project is the first community science project of its kind, and hopes to engage people of all ages in looking at the spiders in our community.

And that is exactly what Gillespie did at her lecture.

Born and raised in Scotland, Gillespie is a professor at UC Berkeley and the director of the Essig Museum of Entomology. She enthusiastically shared her love of spiders, and reviewed their unique anatomy, silk production and the research she has done on spiders and how they’ve evolved. It was a fascinating look into a spider’s world.

The lecture was prefaced with an introduction on citizen science and public participation in scientific research from Heidi Ballard, assistant professor of environmental science education at UC Davis. She helped reassure the audience that you don’t need a degree in biology to be involved in scientific projects that positively affect our communities and increase environmental stewardship.

Support from Alan and Madaline Brattesani, Strelitzia Flower Company and Mori Seiki made the event a huge success and Explorit would like to thank everyone who attended the event, and urge them and others to sign up to receive updates on the project or check the website for updates at

Other sponsors of the Explorit Science Center Community Science Project include Davis Waste Removal and Novozymes. If you would like to make a donation to support Explorit, visit

Are you ready to conduct experiments with spiders, identify and report spiders in your world, attend exciting public events at Explorit and submit photographs of spiders for display at the Davis Art Center? Events and opportunities to participate in the Community Science Project will be happening throughout the year.

Visit and get tangled up in our web as we explore spiders!

Explorit’s events

* Sign up for Explorit Summer Camp 2012 at Camp begins June 11 and runs through Aug. 17.

* Explorit’s exhibition, “Forces of Nature,” will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, May 5-6 and June 2-3, from 1 to 5 p.m.

— Explorit Science Center is at 3141 Fifth St. For information, call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” the center on Facebook at

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