8-Year-Old Girl Bullied for Loving Bugs Publishes Scientific Paper on Them

Sansa Stark riding in with the Knights of the Vale, Rohan answering Gondor’s call for aid, the Clone armies arriving on Geonosis. Everybody loves a great “call in the cavalry” moment, and this time it happened for real to help protect a little Canadian girl from being bullied for her love of insects. And who were the riders who came to her rescue? None other than the scientists in the entomological community that she one day hopes to join.

The saviors came not on horses or gunships, but on the backs of beautiful insects! (Not literally, of course, as that would kill them.)

The story of eight-year-old Sophia Spencer and the entomologist army, which comes via NPR, began when Sophia’s mother, Nicole Spencer, emailed The Entomological Society of Canada to ask for help. She explained in the email that her daughter “loves to explore the world of bugs and insects” but that she’s often “teased at school by her peers.” In response, there was a massive outpouring of support from the bug studying community, as well as the birth of a new popular hashtag, #BugsR4Girls.

Not only were there hundreds of responses on social media from people championing Sophia and praising her passion, one entomology PhD candidate, Morgan Jackson, even stepped up and decided to put together a whole scientific paper on Sophia’s experience, which gave her her first byline. Which means Sophia’s now a published scientist at age eight. Bullies got nothin’ on that, do they?

The paper, which was published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, is titled “Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia’s Story and Why #BugsR4Girls,” and focuses on, according to the abstract, promoting women in science, the impact the larger scientific community can have on individuals, and the use of social media by scientific societies.

The paper tackles all three topics mainly by analyzing the reaction to Sophia’s predicament on Twitter. It’s noted that the initial #BugsR4Girls tweet associated with Sophia received over 175,000 impressions from other users, and that The Entomological Society of Canada’s own Twitter account received Direct Messages from 135 unique users outlining their support. Of those 135 Direct Messages, 73% were from women.

As far as Sophia’s current state of mind, she seems dead set on becoming an entomologist and spending her life studying bugs. In the below GMA clip, she appears to be as big of a bug-lover as ever, stating proudly that “people think that bugs may be creepy and that bugs aren’t cool, but bugs are cool.” And so is Sophia’s enthusiasm for entomology.

What  do you think about Sophia’s story and the corresponding support from the entomological community? Let us know in the comments below!

Need More Bug Stuff? (Of COURSE You Do!)

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Images: Flickr / Patrice Puig

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