U of G Researcher, 8-Year-Old Team up to Fight ‘Bug’ Bullies, Publish Paper

When Sophia Spencer was bullied at school for her love of bugs, the eight-year-old couldn’t have imagined that she would gain international attention and a credit along with U of G researcher Morgan Jackson as a co-author and subject of a journal article.

Spencer and Jackson, a PhD candidate in the School of Environmental Sciences and an entomologist with the U of G Insect Collection, co-wrote “Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia’s Story and Why #BugsR4Girls.”

Published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, their article was one of the most read papers on the publication’s website.

At school, Sophia had been bullied for befriending caterpillars, grasshoppers and insects of all sorts – even letting them ride on her shoulder or head. Her mother, Nicole Spencer, emailed the Entomological Society of Canada looking for an insect expert who could encourage her daughter’s interest.

Jackson, the society’s social media coordinator, tweeted to the entomological universe: “A young girl who loves insects is being bullied & needs our support.”

That tweet reached more than 175,000 Twitter users, attracted dozens of offers to become the girl’s pen pal, and sparked numerous calls for the advancement of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

International media attention about the duo included reports on Good Morning America, National Public Radio, Global News, Redbook magazine, Yahoo!, MSN, the Miami Herald and ABC News.

“Sophia is a very enthusiastic young girl who really likes bugs, and who is fun and full of joy,” says Jackson.