Kids and adults all invited to Pacific University campus in Forest Grove for Biotopia

COURTESY PHOTO: PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - Dr. Gyorgyi Nyerges and Layla Khoja-Herr looking at a model of DNA.Last year, Pacific University biology professor David Scholnick started thinking about how little he interacts with the wider Forest Grove community, even though the college campus sits right in the center of town.

Historically, science in all settings across the country has been mostly studied behind closed doors, Scholnick said.

"But I don't know why that ever started."

So he and the rest of Pacific's biology department decided to host "Biotopia" last December on the same day as Holiday in the Grove, hoping to draw visitors from the crowds that head downtown.

It worked. Adults and children explored the university's new science labs, discovered what's in local water, played an insect guessing game and more.

The second annual Biotopia will let visitors enjoy ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen, exercise a crayfish and extract DNA from a strawberry (both very popular last year) and meet a baby cockroach. The event will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, on the second and third floors of Strain Hall.

People can also take a look at their own personal microbes and carry home a photo of the bacteria on their hands. COURTESY PHOTO: PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - Pacific students and Layla Khoja-Herr inoculating bacterial plate.

New this year, a professor specializing in animal communication will demonstrate birdcalls for different species.

Attendees will also have the chance to learn about faculty and student research projects and can tour remodeled facilities.

Besides being just plain fun, Biotopia introduces the larger community to Pacific and its science programs, Scholnick said. "We want to involve the public and let them see what we do here."

The science community is seeing a shift away from keeping research and data under wraps and toward sharing it with the public, he said.

Science journals that were once only for professionals are now available to all, published online.COURTESY PHOTO: PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - Children will have the chance to extract strawberry DNA at Biotopia.

Scholnick said he hopes the event will provoke an interest in science and Pacific. "I'm hoping parents and future students will come through."

By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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