For the past few years, I’ve embraced my profession as a wildlife biologist and created my own nature Halloween costumes. Why nature? I love outreach and creativity, so why not use Halloween as a means to share knowledge about our incredible world and even spread some conservation messages. Here are the tips I’ve generated for a successful nature halloween costume:
- It’s best to make your costume. This allows you to think outside the box and consider ideas or species that are not represented in your run-of-the-mill Halloween store (or online). I do not sew. Using glue, tape, and garments from your daily wardrobe creatively can result in a pretty effective and original costume.
- Pick something unique for science communication. Even on Halloween, you can have effective science communication messaging by choosing a species that people overlook or don’t even know about. This allows for a good conversation starter, a chance to talk about your species, or even opportunities to show photos or videos. Note that if you choose something really obscure, people will have no clue what you are. This is fine, but it just means that you will have to explain a lot. I try to go with something that people will at least understand a part of it. For example, one year I was a bird of paradise (Parotia lawesii species). If people can’t figure out the species, they at least know I am a bird, in which case I can tell them what species and explain the extreme displays they’ve evolved. One year I went as a pangolin and had a lot of explaining to do. Some people thought I was a pine cone.
- Look to the Internet for inspiration. Use documentaries, memes, and the Internet as inspiration. Randall’s honey badger video was a game changer. Now, most everyone knows what this animal, which was previously obscure. Other animals like blobfish and goblin sharks have popped up over the years due to their bizarre looks. My bird of paradise Halloween costume animal became “famous” through the documentary series Planet Earth by the BBC.
- Look to conservation for inspiration. Is there a species that is not doing so well that could use some attention? Dress up as it for Halloween! This is what I did last year when I dressed up as a pangolin. Pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world and I wanted to share this important information (and they are super cute and awesome!). Not only did I tell the people I went out with what I was, but I shared images on Instagram and Twitter where it received a lot of retweets and comments.
- Try to capture the essence of the idea or species. It doesn’t matter if you get the costume 100% right, you just want to highlight the interesting parts for the idea to come across. For example, in my bird of paradise costume, I made sure to have a poofy skirt (I taped wire inside of a regular one to make it stick out) and made my own colorful display feathers out of sparkly paper. For my pangolin costume, I taped on paper scales I made, and for a Harry Potter themed party, I wore all white and created my own antlers to resemble his Patronus (or an albino buck). Don’t sweat all of the details; just hit the most prominent part of the species.
Use these tips and you’ll be sure to get some attention and have some interesting conversations about nature. If you create a nature inspired halloween costume, tag me in your social media post and I will share it back to my followers. Leave your ideas for nature inspired halloween costumes below!
Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.