Small Insect, Big Impact

When Casey Hale ’17 was eight years old, the SUNY Corning Community College Spencer Crest Nature and Research Center introduced her to different insects. A decade later, Spencer Crest helped solidify her love for bugs and her future career.

“I spent most of my childhood playing in the woods and catching bugs,” said Casey. “I knew I wanted to be an entomologist pretty early on. I started going to Spencer Crest to collect insects and learn more about them.”

One of those bugs, an Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle, became Casey’s favorite bug to study. She even donated one to SUNY CCC, where it still sits on the second floor of Schuyler Hall.

For Casey, SUNY CCC has been the most important part of her journey thus far.

“I felt rushed after high school, and my parents suggested I go to SUNY CCC to figure out what I really wanted to do,” said Casey. I knew I was interested in insects, but I didn’t know where to go from there. The professors were absolutely vital in helping me navigate my next steps.”

After graduating from SUNY CCC with a degree in liberal arts math and science, Casey was accepted at Cornell University. She majored in entomology and was able to immediately begin working on research projects. Though she still loves beetles, Casey’s focus has switched to bees.

“At Cornell I began working in a pollinator health lab, studying the toxicity effects from pesticides on native bees,” said the Corning, N.Y. native. “I was able to do a lot of field work, such as catching bees and collecting flowers to analyze them for pesticides. It was fun to work with dozens of people who were all interested in the same things I was.”

According to Casey, bees are estimated to pollinate up to 75 percent of crops that humans rely on.

“A lot of people think honey bees do most of the pollinating, but there are actually 20,000 different species of bees,” said Casey. It’s important to figure out what bees are out there, analyze them, and research their functions. If we can figure out what they are, we can help promote their populations.”

Making small changes could make a large impact on the declining bee population, such as avoiding pesticides and planting flowers.

Casey is currently working at Cornell as a research technician. She plans to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship in a year, which would give her the opportunity to study the life history of bees in the tropics.

“I’m really excited to have this opportunity to focus solely on research,” said Casey. “Sometimes this field can be frustrating, but once you find something useful, or discover a pattern that nobody else has, it’s the best feeling in the world.”