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Hi All,

 

Many thanks to the many people who responded via the listserv or in private emails to my query. Below is a brief compilation of the various suggestions, in hopes that others in the group might want to see the full range all in one place. Best wishes to all of you as we weather this COVID-19 storm.

 

-Merrill

 

Merrill A. Peterson

Professor, Chair, and Insect Collection (WWUC) Curator

Biology Department

Western Washington University

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-650-3636

 

Have students keep a field journal based on observations of insects, along the lines of Andy Deans course project, 'Discover Your Inner Darwin': https://github.com/OpenEntomology/InsectBiodiversityEvolution/blob/master/GradedExercises/discover-darwin-insect/discover-darwin-insect.pdf

The project could include vouchering and identification of the species they observe, as well as reports to the class on their observations.

 

Take advantage of the Biodiversity Heritage Library resources to support distance learning.

https://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2020/03/bhl-resources-to-support-distance-learning.html

 

Send each student a cheap collecting kit (see list in post from Mike Ferro) and have them build a collection. Or have them build their own gear (see resources on Riley Nelson’s lab page: https://nelsonlab.byu.edu/Resources/InsectCollecting.aspx). Instructor can point them to online resources on how to build a collection (see list in post from Gail Kampmeier). Can potentially send Malaise traps around to students to try out, but other traps like pan traps, pitfall traps, lights, and Berlese funnels can be made by students at low cost. Also, instructor can motivate students with low stakes competitions for finding certain taxa.

 

Have students make a ‘virtual’ collection by taking georeferenced photos of insects with smartphones, digital cameras, etc., and uploading those to BugGuide, iNaturalist, etc. If each student tells the instructor their username, it should be easy for the instructor to see that student’s contributions.

 

Have students mine existing data to analyze distribution, phenology, and changes to either. Collections-based data such as in SCAN (https://scan-bugs.org/portal/) can be very valuable for such exercises and can also teach students much about the importance of quality control regarding natural history data.

 

Have students do a forensic entomology study, seeing how long it takes for a piece of meat to decompose, what sequence of insect decomposers are involved, how long it takes them to develop, and comparing to known growth rates at temperatures similar to the time of the study (see post from Greg Dahlem).

 

Finally, in addition to trying some of these things, I’m planning on taking high-res photos of the insects I normally have them key in lab (to build keying skills across a variety of taxa before turning them loose on their own material), posting these to the course website, and having them key them out using their normal keys. That way, they don’t have to have access to microscopes to get some meaningful keying practice. By being present online during regular lab times, I will be there to guide them through the typical keying challenges (What’s a notopleural suture? Are these the hypopleural bristles? Is this antenna clubbed? Are the paraglossae and glossae equal in length? Is the first abdominal sternite of this beetle divided?) that students regularly encounter. I’m even thinking of setting up a microscope at home with a live feed to my computer so that I can show them examples of what a notopleural suture looks like if they’re keying out something that doesn’t have one, etc., as I find it’s better to show them an example of what X looks like than to just say – no, your specimen doesn’t have X.

 

 

 

 

From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Merrill Peterson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Merrill Peterson <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Saturday, March 14, 2020 at 12:24 PM
To: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: teaching general entomology (with lab) online?

 

Hi Folks,

 

I hope you’re all staying healthy!

 

I learned yesterday that because we are very near one of the U.S. epicenters of COVID-19, my university is delaying the start of spring quarter by a week and that at least the first few weeks of classes will be entirely online. To me, it seems quite likely that the entire quarter will be online by the time all is said and done. For spring quarter, I am scheduled to teach general entomology, which has one 4-hour lab each week to complement lecture. Typically, a major focus of the lab is that each student (undergraduate) develops their own collection while trying to achieve specific goals in terms of numbers of orders, families, species, and feeding guilds represented in the collection, as well as proper curation of the specimens. That’s going to be a challenge to pull off in an online course, in that students won’t have access to microscopes, I won’t be able to provide them with the collecting gear that I usually loan out to students, and I can’t expect financially disadvantaged students in the class to be able purchase their own gear. I imagine, given how rapidly campuses are shutting down in-person classes these days, that others of you are likely in a similar pickle.

 

One thought I have had is to scrap the collection-based component entirely and shift to a project-based lab in which students use existing data (e.g. online data sources) to address an ecological question. However, having witnessed the power of the collection- and keying-based course over the years, I’m reluctant to give up on that format until all hope is lost.

 

Any suggestions based on experience teaching collection-based labs such as general entomology or insect systemics online would be most appreciated. Or, if you’ve mused about how you might teach such a course if you had to, I’d love to hear your ideas. According to ESA’s website (https://www.entsoc.org/resources/education/online-courses), a number of universities offer (or at least have offered) online entomology courses or even MS programs, but many of the links on that page appear to be broken or out of date.

 

Many thanks,

-Merrill

 

Merrill A. Peterson

Professor, Chair, and Insect Collection (WWUC) Curator

Biology Department

Western Washington University

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-650-3636