Honors College Alumna Maggie Deely Creates Exhibit of Insects


“Bugs are a key component of our ecosystem. So many creatures on Earth depend on them - and we do, too."

Step into Exploratory Hall and venture to the bottom floor and you will find dozens of pinned butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, dragonflies, crickets, and many more insect specimens displayed in wooden frames behind one of the glass exhibits lining the hall.

Maggie Deely portrait, holding plant

Although it is currently missing a nameplate, the exhibit was created and curated by Honors College alumna Marguerite "Maggie" Deely (2020). Maggie developed this exhibit as a result of her work in HNRS 361: Research & Creative Projects Seminar and at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

Describing how the exhibit met a goal she had developed in her first year at Mason, Deely explains: “In my freshman year, I had seen all those empty display cases in Exploratory [Hall], and…I was like, ‘Wow, I want to figure out, how can I get something in one of these display cases?”’

Her answer to this question finally took shape during her senior year, when she took HNRS 361: Research & Creative Projects Seminar, a course dedicated to developing an individually designed research or creative project taught by Honors College Director of Communications Richard Todd Stafford. In this course, Deely chose a creative project where she was able to assemble her insect exhibit and make it come to life. "I had always wanted to take on this project since my freshman year, so I was really happy that I was given a class with the freedom to be able to do that—you know, creative projects outside of the box.” 

“There’s been a lot of research showing significant decline in insect populations. It’s a topic that needs more attention, and it’s a group of animals that need more attention...We need to start caring about them and work on conserving important bug species,” she explained. 

However, Deely’s passion for insect conservation and awareness does not stop here. She also serves as a shining example of someone making a difference and spreading awareness in her everyday life. 

“I’m a teacher right now [for students with] learning disabilities. One of my students is obsessed with insects, and so we talk about insects every day.” She paused and smiled after recalling a fond memory.  

Display case

“I get to use my knowledge to show this kid that I know what I’m talking about…He asked me the other day, ‘What’s your favorite type of ant?’ and I was like, ‘Actually, that’s a great question!’ And, it’s just funny. Somehow, I still get to use that knowledge and even he teaches me stuff about insects.” 

Deely plans to continue working on her exhibit next semester, adding her name to the project she put her heart into and expanding on her message of insect conservation. She hopes to one day make exhibits for Smithsonian museums and continue spreading the message of how insects are fascinating building blocks for the foundations of our Earth.