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This illustration shows a tardigrade, also known as a water bear.

CARBONDALE — This week’s Science in the South conference at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is asking K-12 educators to think small.

The two-day event kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday at the SIU Student Center and is themed around microscopy and tardigrades — eight-legged micro-animals also known as “water bears.”

“We focused on the eclipse for the past two years, because we had the large eclipse in 2017, and they wanted to bring it back down to the ground. So we went from telescopes to microscopes this year,” said Conference Coordinator Leslie Brock.

The annual science-teacher conference features 60 presenters and 15 exhibitors this year.

On Friday, there will be a luncheon featuring keynote speaker Diane R. Nelson, professor emerita of East Tennessee State University’s Department of Biological Sciences. Nelson has studied tardigrades since 1970 and continues to research, write, lecture and publish on them.

Nelson will also lead a hands-on water-bear hunting workshop on Saturday. Participants will get a chance to learn how to find tardigrades by making a screen to separate them from mosses and lichens. They’ll use a dissecting microscope to watch their behavior and make a permanent slide of the tardigrade to take home with them.

Registration is available at the door, or by calling Conference and Scheduling Services at 618-536-7751.

Fees are $95 and include conference materials, exhibit viewing, refreshments, lunch, parking pass and ISTA 2018 annual membership. The student registration fee is $22.

“It’s open to everybody. So any teacher who wants to come, there is professional development opportunities — they do gain Professional Development Hours for participating, which can help them out some,” Brock said.

More information is available at

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On Twitter: @janis_eschSI



Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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