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USU Speaker To Discuss Pollutants, Children's Books

Jessica Hua

As part of Utah State University’s Ecology Center Seminars, one of the leading researchers in aquatic ecosystem pollution is coming to town virtually this week.

Jessica Hua is a professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University in New York. She thinks a lot about dragonflies, tadpoles and pollution.
“[Dragonflies are] a vicious predator of tadpoles. And these predators are affected by contaminants just as much as the tadpole." Hua said.
Contaminants like pesticides. They kill or sicken the dragonflies, who then in turn can't eat tadpoles who are also slower and sicker.
"So if you think about the cascading community effects, you look at how diverse and complex these effects of contaminants are on the whole community.” Hua said.
Hua has been looking for ways to make it easier for more people to understand the impact pollutants have on aquatic ecosystems. She and her students tried a different kind of experiment recently. They created a children’s book about a girl who has a dream about a lake and befriends a parasite.
“We talked about what should we teach them, it was like, let's see, let's give it a test.” Hua said. “Let’s teach them about something that nobody probably cares about, so we chose parasites. And so the book is about Gemma Jones and she meets Talia, the trematode.”
They created a lesson plan, brought in teachers and gathered 500 third graders to read the book and learn about aquatic ecosystems. Then they gave them a quiz.
“And then we did the assessments, and it actually worked, thank God.” Hua said.
Hua will be talking about her book and her research this Wednesday and Thursday at 4pm online at the Ecology Center. To watch the recorded seminars, visit

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.