Not all bones and decaying flesh on display on Halloween in Westminster were fake plastic cosmetics, not all treats available with a close inspection of the dead.
For the trick-or-treaters who happened upon the McDaniel College Campus Safety Office at 152 Pennsylvania Ave., an outdoor table was stocked with tiny animal skeletons, a dolphin skull, 3-D printed bones, boxes full of flesh eating, dermestid beetles.
“If you have a little dead animal or maybe some road kill, the beetles will clean it off and make sure there is no meat or anything else hanging off the bones,” said McDaniel College senior Anhette Palma. “Once it’s all cleaned up, you can take them out and piece them back together, to get your little skeleton.”
Palma was just one of group of McDaniel anatomy students on hand to tell children and adults alike about animal anatomy or the first ever Bones, Bugs and Treats Halloween event, part of the local kick off to the Maryland STEM Festival.
“I thought, it’s Halloween, I’m the anatomy professor, I might as well stick to my strengths,” said Katie Staab, McDaniel College professor of biology — it was her students manning the table for the night. “It’s a lot of show and tell stuff, so I thought it would be cool.”
And little trick-or-treaters did very much enjoy that show and tell, handling 3-D printed animal and dinosaur skulls, dipping their hands in containers of preserved fish, eels and frogs whose flesh had been turned translucent through the use of enzymes — and then grabbing some Swedish fish and other assorted candies on their way into the night.
“It was really pretty cool, the science stuff,” Ximena Aguirre-Araujo, 10, of Westminster, who when asked what was her favorite answered in unison with her 8-year-old sister Estafany, “The dolphin,” referring to a dolphin skull.
“It’s pretty cool; it’s big and it’s long mouth,” Estafany said. “The sharp teeth, that’s what I like about it.”
All of Staab’s anatomy students have to do a specimen preservation project, using the flesh eating beetles or turning an creature's flesh translucent, she said. The students seemed happy to share their work and passion with the people who stopped by, whether by serendipity or by plan.
“I think it’s cool that they are showing us what the applications of 3-D printing technology is in a biological field,” said McDaniel freshman Jillian Stewart, who had heard about the display in an email. “They are printing out miniature versions of dinosaur skulls, which most people would never get to handle in their lifetime.”
For Staab, she hoped people who came across the table walked away with at least a sense of wonder in this life. I mean really, to be able to look around and be amazed at life,” she said. “That’s why I study it.”