ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Put on your best scientific hats,” Suzy Dunnum urged the 11 students in her seventh-grade gifted life science class at Jefferson Middle School. “Everybody get a pair of rubber gloves, too.”
The students took their seats, donned their gloves, bent their heads and went to work. And they were meticulous.
The eight girls and three boys were busy combing the fur on long-dead chipmunks, looking for tiny parasites. Any debris from the animals’ pelts would fall onto a white sheet of paper, and anything looking remotely like a louse would be carefully scrutinized under a microscope. If it was a louse, it would be identified and the host chipmunk would be categorized by species, where the mammal had been collected and when. Like their chipmunk hosts, the lice were dead.