An Uninvited Guest: What is the “Murder Hornet”?

So far, the year 2020 has turned out to be a bust, between the coronavirus, lockdown and quarantine, and a looming recession. As if we did not have enough to be concerned about, we now have new reports of a “murder hornet” entering the United States and setting up home here.

close of up a murder hornet
Male murder hornet. Photo by Yasunori Koide. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The description of the murder hornets is quite frightening. At one-and-a-half to two inches long, the murder hornet has huge jaws that decapitate honeybees and a nasty stinger that can sting a human repeatedly. The sting to a human has been compared to feeling like a hot nail is being driven into one’s skin. And protection from their stinger is useless since even the protective suits that beekeepers wear is no match for the murder hornet: their quarter-inch stingers can drill right through it.

If this is a vision that gives you nightmares, I am here to clarify some of the facts and cut through the drama around our new — and unwelcome — guests. It seems the murder hornet is not as much of a horror show as it seems.

The murder hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is a common insect in Asia, where it is called the “giant hornet.” It is thought that a single murder hornet queen entered Canada via a cargo container from Asia and started a colony that was discovered in 2019. After the colony was spotted, scientists and government officials made efforts to destroy the colony during the winter months when the hornet hibernates. No other colonies have been discovered in the U.S. or Canada so far. Two dead murder hornets were spotted and collected in the state of Washington in December 2019, which has raised the odds that another colony may exist, but so far, none have been discovered. However, even if another colony does exist, scientists are unsure if the murder hornet will spread beyond the Pacific Northwest. It seems that the murder hornet cannot take extreme heat or cold weather. It has adapted to live in a very temperate climate, one that is common in the Pacific Northwest, but it is unlikely to thrive in other climates in North America. Therefore, the murder hornet is not likely to become a full-scale invasion.

What about the dangers to humans? Although the murder hornet can pack a nasty sting, their sting poses no more of a danger to humans than a honeybee sting. More people in the U.S. die from honeybee stings than people in Japan die from the murder hornet’s sting. The sting is painful, but the pain tends to subside in a few days. People who are allergic to bee stings should seek medical treatment if they are stung. Most importantly, it should be noted that murder hornets tend to keep to themselves and do not bother humans unless provoked. They will defend their hives from an attack like any social insect, but they are no more prone to attacking humans than any other hive insect.

full body picture of muder hornet
Male murder hornet. Photo by Yasunori Koide. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

The bigger concern is how the murder hornet will affect honeybee colonies if they take hold in the Pacific Northwest. The European honeybee, which is known for its very docile and defenseless nature, is the main bee used to pollinate crops in North America. Whereas other species of bees, particularly those in Asia that live among the murder hornet, will often kill a hornet if it enters their hive, the European Honeybee has no inclination. They are therefore vulnerable to having their hives overtaken by murder hornets that will decapitate them and keep them as a food source, so it is imperative that beekeepers use traps to protect their honeybee colonies from the hornets. Beekeepers are also taking steps to keep more defensive species of honeybees among their colonies who will defend their hives against murder hornets if they do invade the colony.

The saga of the murder hornet will continue . . .

This post was contributed by Annette Carr, Librarian at the School of Health Sciences at Bay Shore

References

Bernstein, J. (2020). Murder hornets invade headlines, not the U.S. Retrieved from https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2020/05/06/murder-hornets-invade-headlines-not-us

Embry, P. (2020). Just how dangerous is the ‘murder hornet’? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/just-how-dangerous-is-the-murder-hornet/

Fox, A. (2020). No, Americans do not need to panic about ‘murder hornets’. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/invasion-murder-hornets-180974809/

Kawahara, A. Y. (2020). What are Asian giant hornets, and are they really dangerous? 5 questions answered. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/what-are-asian-giant-hornets-and-are-they-really-dangerous-5-questions-answered-137954

eBooks for Online Instruction

Online instruction is not new. However, as “the new normal” sets in, professors at Touro and beyond have quickly switched to providing online instruction. Teaching effectively with Zoom and Canvas is becoming even more integral to successful online learning.

graphics related to online education
Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay
The Field of Online Instruction

Online instruction can be done in a few ways. Online learning can include asynchronous instruction, in which students work on their own schedule completing assignments uploaded to an online learning management system, like Canvas, by a professor. In contrast, synchronous learning is learning which occurs in “real time,” like with live classes delivered through Zoom. And, of course, online learning can occur in a “blended” manner, using a combination of the two.

Being a successful online instructor goes beyond being proficient with these technologies. There are unique theories that support effective online instruction. For those new to teaching online, it can feel like there is so much to learn. While the internet is awash with information, including freely available eBooks, they are not always written by authors qualified to write on the topic.
 
eBooks Available Through the Touro College Libraries

The good news is that the Libraries continue to provide access to quality eBooks that cover the topic of online college instruction and are written by leaders in the field. These eBooks can be accessed through the Touro College Libraries catalog by using your TouroOne username and password, allowing you to read them on your electronic devices from the comfort of your home!

A Look at Three eBooks About Online Instruction

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2016). The online teaching survival guide : Simple and practical pedagogical tips. [eBook edition]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Both Boettcher and Conrad have extensive experience setting up online programs at prestigious universities. As the title indicates, this book provides practical tips and best practices that can be used when designing course content for online courses and teaching online throughout the semester in both synchronous and asynchronous formats.

Moore, M. G. (Ed.). (2012). Handbook of distance education. [eBook edition]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

With a focus on theory, this award-winning book covers a broad range of topics, including the history of, and pedagogical theories supporting, distance learning; how to design and deliver online instruction; and issues facing academic administrators such as legal and copyright issues.

Riggs, S. (2020). Thrive online : A new approach for college educators. [eBook edition]. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

As Executive Director of Oregon State University’s eCampus, Shannon Riggs is well-qualified to write a book which describes the critical qualities online educators should possess. Questions for the reader to reflect on are interspersed throughout the book to encourage more effective teaching practices.

a baby typing on a computer
Image by Luidmila Kot from Pixabay
The Touro College Libraries have many more eBooks about online education. Simply search with keywords such as “online instruction” or “online education.”

For a visual demonstration of how to search the catalog for eBooks, watch our video tutorial.

This post was contributed by Michael Kahn, Librarian, Touro College School for Lifelong Education

Write On: Journaling During a Pandemic

What were you doing the summer you turned 13?

I was on an American President Lines cruiseship, on a 26-day trip from Manila, Philippines (where I lived from 1966-1969) back to the United States, with stopovers in Japan and Hong Kong. I remember the ship had a swimming pool, and more than one restaurant, and a lot of kids around my age. I remember that I foolishly hung my three-quarters size guitar on the wall of my stateroom, where it got cracked on the voyage.

And I remember buying my first journal at an immense toy store in Hong Kong, beginning a lifelong habit of recording my thoughts and feelings and saving my memories of people I’d met, places I’d visited, events I’d witnessed, and experiences I’d had on my travels. My mom, a’h, suggested I buy the journal, as I was already a seasoned, intercontinental traveler, experiencing different cultures all over the world. Keeping a journal has become a cherished practice.

a person journaling
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

Since we’re all living through a unique period in time, during this coronavirus pandemic, I thought I’d encourage each of you to take up journaling. Think of the stories you will have to tell your children and grandchildren! There are many ways to keep a journal, and I’ll share some ideas with you here.

Selecting a Journal

Yes, in my opinion, journaling involves writing with a pen—or sketching with a pen or pencil—on paper. What you write online requires electricity to access, and it may not be available to share the way your analog journal entries will be (although I do admit I sometimes print out letters I’ve typed and insert those loose pages into my handwritten journal). I promise you the experience will be well worth it! So, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose a journal.

fountain pen on paper
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

That first journal I bought in 1969 had a soft fabric cover in pastel plaid. The fabric cover stained easily, and I outgrew my fondness for plaids and pastels. My next journal had a plastic cover. That was even worse: it got hot and sticky. Now, I use a journal with a cover that has a pleasant feel and moves smoothly over a desk, table, or lap. My journals are always easy to carry with me, with a flexible binding, good quality paper that takes fountain-pen ink, and built-in pockets for ticket stubs or other small mementos. Some people use plain school notebooks, but I like the Moleskin Classic, lined, soft cover journals (they make unlined versions for those inclined to augment their words with pictures).

This year, I tried using an environmentally-friendly, stone paper journal. I love the idea of it, and the paper takes fountain pen ink beautifully, but it’s too heavy to lug around and has a fabric cover.

Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing a journal type, start writing!

Tips for Novice Journal Writers:

  • Keep your journal with you, so you’re ready to write or sketch at any time
  • Keep the first page blank; start writing on the second page (trust me on this)
  • Date every entry (day, month, year): you think you’ll remember later, but you won’t
  • Don’t edit your writing or feel you have to write beautifully, just jot down your thoughts
  • Write a little or a lot—it’s up to you
  • Write when you want to and don’t feel obligated to write every day (it’s not a chore)
  • If you have a hard time starting to write, just make a bullet list of the day’s events
  • Write lists of your favorite things, like books, quotes, films, or recipes
  • Although you don’t have to write everyday, try to make writing part of your routine as your get ready in the morning or wind down at night

You’re living through extraordinary times, on a personal and communal level. Consider sharing with your journal what you share in conversation with your friends and families—or the thoughts you’re thinking but not expressing.

Your journals are just for you. Don’t feel you have to make a compete record of your experiences, with photos, or pressed flowers, or theater tickets. Some days you might feel like scrapbooking; other days, you may want to use the bullet-point method of jotting down your day’s activities to use to jog your memory later. Your journal writing doesn’t have to be perfect, grammatically correct, or demonstrate your calligraphic handwriting skills.

Keeping a journal helps you articulate your thoughts and feelings and can be a therapeutic “safe space” to record your emotions, preserve your memories, and reflect honestly on how your life experiences are aligning with your life goals. The act of writing is a useful technique for self-awareness and personal growth. It’s true: sometimes you discover what you’re thinking or feeling as you write!

blank journal with flowers
Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

For inspiration, explore these diaries from famous authors and regular people, which can be found in the TCL catalog or for free online:

Happy reading—and journaling!

This post was contributed by Aviva Adler, Librarian, Touro College Israel

11 Reasons to Consider OER for Your Fall Courses

Open educational resources, or OER, are excellent materials to use for in-person, online, and hybrid classes. As you plan your courses for the fall semester, here are 11 reasons to consider OER.

neon sign that says open
CC-BY: Bill Smith

#1: OER are available on day one 

OER can be ready for students on the first day of a course, or even before. You no longer need to wait for students to acquire a textbook to get started with the material.

#2: OER are free forever 

Rather than renting a print copy of a book that needs to be returned or paying for an access code that will expire at the end of the semester, students can use an OER material for free forever. This is particularly helpful for academic programs that build on standard foundational courses; as students move to more advanced levels, they can continue to use their earlier texts for reference.

calculator with college spelled out
CC-BY: GotCredit

#3: OER can be accessed anywhere, anytime 

All students need to read an OER is a device that can connect to the internet. They can access OER materials on their phone, a tablet, or a computer, or they can print out sections or the whole text. Most OER can also be downloaded for offline access.

#4: OER can be adapted to fit your course 

If you are asking students to purchase an expensive textbook, you might be tempted to “teach to the textbook” so that students get their money’s worth. With an OER, you can teach what you want and craft your textbook to match your needs.

#5: OER can be adjusted to match a changing semester  

Whether the semester goes as planned or becomes shorter than you had planned for, OER can fit your timeline. You can adjust a textbook in the middle of the semester to remove units you will not be able to cover or to add in extra material if your class needs additional support on a topic.

smiling square with icons representing documents
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

#6: OER go beyond textbooks 

Textbooks might be the most common form of OER, but they are not the only OER. There are free, open versions of test banks, lecture slides, and even whole Canvas course templates you can import. If you can imagine a course material, it is likely that there is an OER version of it.

#7: OER support student success and retention 

Colvard, Watson, and Park (2018) found that “students tend to perform better in course settings when OER textbooks were used in place of expensive, commercial textbooks.” And librarians at Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, found that when they made the switch to online emergency teaching this semester, the retention rate for OER courses was 85%, higher than the retention rate for the college as a whole. This is consistent with retention rates for OER across the semesters there. Not only are OER contributing to keeping students in class, they are contributing to higher grades, too.

#8: OER can be made accessible for all learners

Accessible design is a central tenet of the open community, so finding or creating materials that can be used by students with different learning needs is easily done. Some OER platforms offer audio versions of the text, accessible formats that can be read by screen-readers, and fonts that can be changed to be easier to read. These aspects of good OER design benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.

#9: OER are an opportunity to publish 

Publishing an OER material can be a great way to add to your CV. For many departments, an OER project can count towards promotion, based on research, writing, or service done to contribute to your professional community.

lego figurines
CC-BY: Giulia Forsythe

#10: OER can lead to deeper learning 

Students and faculty can collaborate to publish OER, deepening the opportunity to learn. This is part of the idea behind open pedagogy, which “is the use of open educational resources (OER) to support learning, or the open sharing of teaching practices with a goal of improving education and training at the institutional, professional, and individual level” (BCCampus OpenEd). Students can engage in meaningful creation of educational matters by using OER as a jumping off point.

#11: OER connect us 

OER start a conversation between authors, faculty, students, and community users from around the world. You can use resources from South Africa and contribute materials that might be used in a classroom in Germany. The “open” community is a welcoming space for connection and collaboration.

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian

Finding Solace at an Animal Sanctuary

For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to animals, from gushing over the stray cats that my father used to bring home like some sort of Pied Piper, to having the distinct memory of rushing across the road as a teen to assist a jaywalking turtle. When, in 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to work directly with animals (many of which most people never get the chance to work with), I immediately accepted.

On my very first day volunteering, I was tasked with mucking up after a pair of alpacas, feeding over a dozen chickens, and brushing a big bovine beauty named Annabelle. While it was hard, physical work, it was also heavenly. I was completely in my element, surrounded by over fifty animals of all different shapes, sizes, and species, and learning as much as I could about them. Continue reading

I used to want to be a writer…

I used to want to be a writer,
Someone who gave knowledge and information,
Someone who built worlds,
Someone who fueled the mind.

I used to want to be a writer,
I dreamed of it,
I thrived for it,
I lived for it.

Then the words disappeared,
They dried up like a river bed in summer,
They flew my coop like a flock of birds,
They bled from my mind.

Oh how I mourned their loss,
I sought out the advice of others,
I lost my self in their knowledge and information,
I lost myself in their worlds,
I had my mind fueled and I decided I wanted to be just like them.

I used to want to give knowledge and information,
I used to want to build worlds,
I used to want to fuel minds,
So I did.

I became a librarian.

a hand writing with a quill
Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

I became a librarian by choice. I chose to go back to school to get my undergraduate degree and then go straight to graduate school. I was a non-traditional student and proud of it. My love of knowledge, discovery, and research led me to this path. My adoration of words, their meanings, and what they can accomplish fueled it.

Why did I become an academic librarian? It wasn’t for money, nor for fame. It was to help others. The dissemination of information is one of the greatest gifts — or superpowers — I have. I can help others find and discover the information they were looking for, and I can help spread knowledge. The toughest lesson I have had to learn is how to say ‘I can’t find that information, but I can suggest new avenues for trying to discover it.’

Even in this time of uncertainty, we are here for you. The academic librarians of Touro College are here. We are here to help you find your facts, support your arguments, and find new avenues of research. Above all, we are here for you — period. Reach out and talk to your librarian today.

Contact a librarian: https://www.tourolib.org/ask-a-librarian

Review our remote access guide: https://www.tourolib.org/student-remote-guide

This post was contributed by Heather Hilton, Librarian, Bay Shore