Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Thisbe Nissen

Second Advisor

Maryann Lesert

Third Advisor

Morgan Penney Shiver


Growing up, my mom and grandma were afraid of spiders and snakes. We would pull pranks on her by hiding toy replicas in cabinets and easily discovered places or chasing her around with them just to get laughs from her expense as she ran away screaming. As a teenage girl, I suddenly found myself also afraid of snakes and spiders, and even now as an adult I get anxiety in my chest when one comes near me. With my love of the environment, I wanted to make sure my own children did not grow up with these same anxieties, but rather, love and appreciate all organisms. I have had to stifle my own fear on countless occasions as my four-year-old daughter expects me to save a spider. That is where this thesis idea was born from, I wanted to do my best to make sure my own children didn’t possess the same fears I have.

Upon doing research, it got me wondering how the fears we have as adults affect ecosystems, since theoretically someone may not want to protect a species if they have an aversion to it. I developed this research through the Western Library database. I soon found out, there is very little, in fact, no research I could find done in this exact field of study, but there were studies that discussed generational fear and disgust using some of the organisms I address. There have however been studies on people being more inclined to want to protect an animal if they’re “cute”. There are 385 mammals, 146 reptiles, 16 arachnids, 52 amphibians, as well as many birds, fish, coral, snails, etc. all totaling up to 1,481 threatened or endangered species in the United States, according to the U.S. fish and wildlife service.

When I realized I wanted to base my thesis on the idea of passing down fears, I knew the creative writer in me wanted to develop it into a children’s story that was age appropriate, educational, fun, and could potentially change behaviors of parents, or at the very least make them aware of the impacts generational fear can have on not only their children, but the biodiversity of an ecosystem. I imagine this project to grow into educating on other misunderstood creatures in the future.

Thanks to developing this idea with many different people, I realized the targeted age for my project is 5-9, meaning the word count is typically 1000-2500 words and around 30 pages. I wanted to showcase these very different organisms in a way that is accurate, but also artistically attractive since it is a children’s book and I obviously don’t want these animals to appear threatening, and yet it also needs to capture each animals’ uniqueness. Since these are such different creatures, I needed to connect them somehow, and that is where the “fly on the wall” concept was born.

The fly I am imagining is a sassy, realistic looking rendition of the insect we all know, and that drives us crazy. The fly will be traveling between each habitat, visiting, and introducing each individual species. I did not secure an illustrator for this project, so I drew a couple pencil lined examples to showcase for you. Keep in mind I am not an artist, but the intended illustrations will be in parentheses in the book I have created.

I titled this book “Misunderstood.”

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted