BGSU scholar Sheri Wells-Jensen imagines a sightless civilization

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s safe to say that most sighted folks are in the dark about what it is to be blind. Sheri Wells-Jensen, a linguist, musician, and avocational scientist who happens to be blind, set about proving that recently at an Institute for Culture and Society lecture at Bowling Green State University. The talk was being presented in the planetarium – appropriate given it dealt with extraterrestrial life. Jensen had all the lights shut off. She let her listeners sit there. In near total darkness. She quizzed them on how they felt, how uneasy they felt. “This is not blindness,” Wells-Jensen said. “This is you not seeing when you expect to be able to see. This is your reaction to darkness. Totally blind people don’t see blackness. Blackness is a color. Blackness is something you see. … It’s mediated by culture, by all those things that go bump in the night. “What do you see out of the back of you left hand? That’s blindness.” That is not helplessness, a perception Wells-Jensen struggles with constantly. Growing up she was passionate about physics and astronomy. But in those days that was not something a “blind girl” was expected to be able to do. She became a linguist, but never lost her fascination with the stars. Among her many areas of expertise is xenolinguistics, the study of alien languages. So she was thrilled when she was invited to speak at a SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute. The talk on linguistics went well. Then with the question and answer session over, she turned to leave the podium, only to have someone immediately approach to assist her, as if she wasn’t capable. Now sighted people should they be struck blind would not be able to navigate to find their way home, and she said they do give horrible directions. “You lack about 90 percent of the skills you need. Many of you could acquire the skills to do that, but right now you don’t have those skills.” She can get around town, and around the globe. Wells-Jensen imagined, and asked her audience at the lecture to imagine, an alien species who do not have the sense of sight, named the Krikkits for creatures in Douglas  Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “only much nicer,” “Imagine a species comfortable in this natural state, comfortable in what you see in the back of your left hand,” Wells-Jensen said. “Imagine a species where the local language lacks a word for blindness because it lacks a word for sightedness.” It would be a civilization with all the capabilities to work, play, raise families, and do science. A civilization able to reach out to seek life beyond their solar system Wells-Jensen noted that it is expected some form of at least primitive extraterrestrial life,…

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BGSU Planetarium to offer eclipse viewing, Aug. 21

BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS The first day of fall classes at Bowling Green State University will feature an event that doesn’t happen often—a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the image of the sun for viewers on Earth. The BGSU Planetarium has several activities planned Aug. 21 to celebrate and acknowledge this rare occurrence. While the eclipse’s path for totality is a 70-mile swath from Oregon to South Carolina, northwest Ohio will see the eclipse at about 80 percent of totality, explained Dr. Dale Smith, professor of astronomy and director of the BGSU Planetarium. From about 1 to 3:30 p.m., weather permitting, the planetarium’s rooftop observation deck will be open for visitors to view the eclipse from telescopes equipped with safe-visual filters. Visitors should come to the planetarium lobby for escort to the observatory. To accommodate an expected large turnout, Smith has ordered special glasses for safe viewing of the eclipse that will be available for guests who want to watch from the lawn outside the planetarium. The public is reminded that proper eye protection is necessary when viewing a partial solar eclipse. Looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause serious eye damage. Additionally, there will be a live webcast of the eclipse as it crosses the country shown inside the planetarium. The webcast will be held regardless of the local weather conditions. The BGSU Planetarium is located in the Physical Sciences Laboratory Building, southeast of the corner of Merry Avenue and North College Drive. The next total eclipse visible in the U.S. will be in 2024.

Girls sink their teeth into STEM … and sharks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The slimy, smelly spiny dogfish sharks were placed on the lab tables in front of the young girls. “Ewwwww,” one girl said squeamishly. “I can never eat gummy sharks again,” another girl said. This was the moment they had been waiting for at Tech Trek week – shark dissection. They were armed with gloves, scalpels and scissors to open up the gray sharks native to Australia. Some were a little timid about slicing into the sharks. “Oh my goodness,” one girl said with apprehension. Others were ready to explore. “I call dibs on making the first cut,” another said with glee. The shark dissection class Wednesday at Bowling Green State University’s Tech Trek week was just one of several sessions to help the participants realize that their female gender should not keep them from careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The fifth annual Tech Trek, supported by the American Association of University Women, is intended to make STEM educations and careers more accessible to girls. The program is only open to girls, so they are encouraged to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and given the chance to believe in themselves. Tech Trek is based off of the research titled “Why So Few?” which shows that women enter STEM fields at much lower rates compared to their male peers.  The research also showed that the crucial time to get to girls before they give up on STEM careers is in junior high. “The most critical time to impact them is between seventh and eighth grade,” said Dr. Deborah Wooldridge, professor and director of the BGSU School of Family and Consumer Sciences, who is head of the Tech Trek week. “We expose them to all areas of STEM.” The 55 girls all came to the camp with existing interests in STEM subjects. The camp builds on those interests, and teaches them that their gender should not dampen their enthusiasm or slow their success. “There are lots of subliminal messages out there – that’s just not what women do,” Wooldridge said of STEM careers. Many STEM professions are still male-dominated. “Computer science is tough to break into,” she said. By the end of the week, the girls should have no doubt that they are mightier than the glass ceiling that may have held back earlier generations. “It’s interesting to watch the change in the girls,” Wooldridge said. In addition to core courses and workshops, the girls also go on field trips and have chances to talk to women who have made their careers in STEM professions. The girls visited Owens-Illinois, where they met with women researchers. “They have a large group of women in STEM,” Wooldridge said of O-I. “We are letting them see other women in STEM…

BG high science teacher Gloria Gajewicz finalist for national honor

Bowling Green High School teacher Gloria Kreischer Gajewicz is in the running for the Presidential Awards in Mathematics and Science Teaching.   Gajewicz, who teaches physics and geoscience, is one of four Ohio science teachers of grades 7-12 named finalists in science. Two Ohio teachers are finalists in math. All will move forward to the national competition. In the coming academic year, a panel will choose 108 teachers to receive national honors. For more information, visit:

Michael McLaughlin, Robert Snyder win BGSU classified staff awards for caring for lab animals

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Like most classified staff members, Michael McLaughlin and Robert Snyder serve the needs of students and faculty. But their responsibilities also include nonhuman clients. As the Bowling Green State University Animal Facilities technicians, they care for research subjects such as pigeons and rats. In addition, they maintain the research facilities for faculty and students in the areas of biology, forensic science and psychology. Their dedication to their wards and to enabling research to be conducted in a clean, safe and compliant situation have earned them the 2017 Classified Staff Team Award. The award was presented May 17 at the annual Classified Staff Council reception and ceremony. The team will share a $1,500 award and their names will be displayed on a commemorative plaque in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Caring for animals is a seven-day-a week job, with no holidays and no two days the same. The University has two on-campus facilities plus a satellite location. McLaughlin and Snyder work diligently to ensure that not only are the needs of the animals met, but also the needs of the faculty, staff and students who utilize the facilities in their own important work, said Jenifer Baranski, director of BGSU animal research facilities. Each research project is different, with different requirements, but all must meet strict federal guidelines for safety and the well-being of the animals. McLaughlin and Snyder are thorough and careful in maintaining these standards while making sure that researchers have what they need to conduct their studies. Dr. Jon Sprague, Bureau of Criminal Investigation Eminent Scholar and director of the Center for the Future of Forensic Science, is also now the chair of Bowling Green’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which is tasked with ensuring that the University is in compliance with all regulations. “BGSU has received and continues to receive positive inspection reports, which is due predominantly to the efforts of Mike and Rob,” he said in his letter of nomination for the Team Award. Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Lee Meserve, who spent 13 years as IACUC chair, noted that “since Rob and Mike interact with experimental animals on a daily basis, they become the de facto eyes and ears of the IACUC” and provide helpful hints about how to better care for and maintain the animals. The team’s efforts have built for BGSU a strong reputation among outside research partners as well as vendors and others who visit the labs, Baranski said. Meserve, who as a faculty member in biological sciences used laboratory animals for all his nearly 45 years at BGSU, said McLaughlin and Snyder were always more than willing to help with the difficult task of preparing his lab animals’ special diet and did so in a timely manner. They are also very diligent about keeping cages…

Children urged to honor Earth Day all year long

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Bob” the crayfish was a big hit at the eighth annual Earth Day Community Celebration on Sunday. But it was his bigger buddy “Chompers” with very active pinchers that drew shrieks from the young children. “You can touch a Maumee River crayfish and go tell your friends,” tempted Christina Kuchle, of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The annual Earth Day event on the open field next to the Montessori School in Bowling Green was focused on fun – with the hope that children and their parents would go home knowing a bit more about how to protect the environment. “It kind of ties everything together,” said Amanda Gamby, of the Wood County Solid Waste Management District. “It brings us all together for one last hurrah. It drives home the Earth Day, Every Day message.” At one booth, Jamie Sands of the Wood County Park District was pushing the message that bees are not bad. Though much maligned creatures, they are very important to humans, she said. “Ninety-five percent of what we eat is possible because of pollinators,” Sands said. “We love bees. Yeaaaaa bees.” Next to the booth, children were trying to “pollinate” towering flowers by throwing balls into the centers of the posies. “We want them to know the importance of pollinators and the importance of pollination,” Sands said. And in the process, maybe parents were learning a bit, too. Instead of spraying to kill bee hives, Sands suggested a phone call instead. “There are agencies they can call to move the nests,” she said. “We need bees.” The Bowling Green Tree Commission was also on site, encouraging folks to take note of the value of their trees. By going to people can type in a few facts about their trees and find out the environmental value of them. Partners for Clean Streams showed fishing line recycling bins. Though stray fishing line may seem harmless, the line can get wrapped around animals and cause them great harm. Plus, the plastic leachate from the lines contaminates the water. “It all ends up in Lake Erie,” said Paul Fuzinski, program coordinator for Partners for Clean Streams. By using simple pipe cleaners and beads, children at another booth were taught about the water cycle as they made bracelets with beads representing the sun, rain and soil. Students from the BGSU Environmental Sustainability Group talked the children through each stage in the water cycle. Kids also got to push around a giant earth ball, and decorate lunch bags with inked paw prints. Cinda Stutzman, of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department, quizzed the kids ask they checked out the paw prints from a bobcat, duck, wolf, deer, fox and more. “I’m just here to have fun,” Stutzman said. Sue Clanton, of United…

Earth Month events planned throughout county

(Submitted by Wood County Solid Waste Management District) April is Earth Month and multiple agencies are collaborating throughout Wood County to provide events geared toward conservation, education and family fun. The Eighth Annual Community Earth Day Celebration will be the culminating event held on Sunday, April 30th, 2017 from 2-4 pm.  This free family event is open to all and is filled with fun hands-on learning stations. Try your hand at archery hosted by the Wood County Park District, take a nature walk with the Bowling Green Parks & Rec Department, power a light bulb with the City of Bowling Green’s power generating bicycle, give the Solid Waste Management District’s giant Earth Ball a roll, and hold a crayfish at ODNR’s Scenic Rivers station.  Interactive games will be provided by the Northwestern Water & Sewer District, BGSU, and Snapology.  The City of Perrysburg, the Wood County Master Gardeners, and Partners for Clean Streams will host earth friendly activities, and the Wood County Library’s CNG bookmobile will be onsite providing earth friendly stories! The Montessori School of BG, located at 515 Sand Ridge Road, provides an ideal backdrop for this Earth Day Celebration!  Enjoy 14 acres of land, visit a Learning Lab, play on the playground and spend some time at the Black Swamp Preserve and Slippery Elm Trail. We encourage you to get involved throughout the month of April to make Earth Day every day!  For a full list of volunteer and educational activities, please visit