Field trips give entomology students a hands-on learning experience with insects – News
Dr. Steven Juliano’s Introductory Entomology Course visited the ParkLands Foundation Lexington Preserve September 7 to better understand how to find, observe and collect insects.
Trips like this have been a big part of the class long before Juliano started teaching it about 10 years ago. They allow undergraduate and graduate students of the course to work in the field under the guidance of Professor Emeritus of Ecology and his teaching assistant, Kate Evans.
“My job and Kate’s on these trips is to make sure that students get to collecting and drawing their attention to things that are not as obvious when they are just starting out,” Juliano said. “You see all these pollinators on the flowers that are really obvious, but you should also take a look at the leaves to see if there is any herbivore damage on the leaf. Then you can try to find out which insect feeds on that plant.
“That’s the kind of thing instructors end up doing with students – talking about where to look, what you’re looking for, and how to handle different situations. ”
Students prepare for trips by spending time in the lab learning basic observation and collection techniques. Students then apply the classroom instruction during the trips.
Elyse McCormick, a third year master’s student in biological sciences, took three courses with Juliano. She said the trip added another dimension to the course’s insect study.
“There is nothing quite like being able to see them in their environment doing what they do,” said McCormick, “In addition to everything you learn about their natural history and ecology, there is just a level of wonder to see all these tiny little insects that have such a big impact on the world and all of our ecosystems, it’s pretty amazing to be able to come out and see it.
The trips help the students in their main project. Each should organize an independent insect collection, following a rubric that dictates what types of insects to collect and how they are to be collected. The collections incorporate photographs and physical specimens. At the end of the semester, students have the option of either keeping their collection or integrating it into the entomology educational collection so that they can be studied by future students.
This semester the class made trips to the Lexington Reservation and the nearby Franklin Research and Demonstration Farm. Juliano has reintegrated field experiences into the course this semester after their absence last school year due to the pandemic.
“There’s one thing that happens when you have the whole group there,” Juliano said. “One of the students will find something and get excited about it, and everyone will come together, and then the excitement becomes contagious.”