Aaron Curry

Spiders under the influence

Contributed by: Aaron Curry



Animals, Aquatic, Black, Chemical ecology, Ecology, Environmental change, Field, Freshwater, Fundamental research, Lab, North America, Observational, Physiological/organismal ecology, Race/ethnicity, Restoration, Sensory organs



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View and download in google slides here



Spiders under the influence http://datanuggets.org/raising-nemo/



Slide 1: Researcher’s Background

Aaron is a high school science teacher and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Fellow at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study who conducted research on the effects of pharmaceuticals and personal care products on riparian spider food webs.

PB: Why did you become a biologist?
AC: I find bugs, trees, aquatic organisms, and just the great outdoors as a whole very interesting. There is so much science literally in our yards, neighborhoods, and homes. Biology is everywhere.

PB: What is your favorite part about your job?
AC: One of the best parts of the research was the field work. We went to some really cool, weird sites to catch and look at spiders. We had the chance to wear waders and walk in many streams, climb up and down large boulders, and just maneuver in some locations with rough terrain. I felt like Indiana Jones.

PB: What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are?
AC: Coming from the inner city, there was an education quality gap that I had to overcome. In college, I had to study for longer amounts of time to “catch up” to my peers. Overtime though, I caught up AND surpassed them. Not to say that it was a competition or anything, but it did feel good to see my hard work and hours of studying prove to be very fruitful in my education.

PB: What advice do you have for aspiring biologists?
AC: Go outside and observe. Ask questions about what you see (Examples: Why do these organisms only come out at this time? How did these trees get bark like this, but these other trees don’t? Why do these organisms live in this kind of habitat? Can they survive somewhere else? etc.). Go to Youtube and type in “Life of a Biologist” and see what pops up. Look for and apply for internships early (December, January, etc.).

PB: Do you feel that any dimension of your identity is invisible or under-represented/marginalized in STEM?
AC: Yes

PB: Can you elaborate on your answer above?
AC: As an African American male, I don’t see many biologists that look like me. African Americans as a whole are underrepresented in STEM fields. However, this is changing, and that is really exciting.


Slide 2: Research Overview

Take home message of study

When spiders are exposed to drugs in streams, they create irregular webs. Webs in rural areas were more irregular than webs in urban areas.

Study system

Web of a spider that was heavily under the influence of drugs


Slide 3: Key Research Points

Main figure

The figure shows the average number of cells per web (y-axis) at Gwynns Run, an urban location, and Baisman Run, a rural location (x-axis).


Societal Relevance

Seeing the effects of drugs on spider cognition through looking at their webs can lead us to better water treatment practices. The research done in this study was conducted by applying the scientific method, so it can strengthen students’ understanding of research practices used by scientists.


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