Insect Field Ecology and Natural History (16:370:520)

(3 credits)

Rutgers Instructor: Dr. Anne Nielsen

Penn State University Instructors: Dr. Mike Saunders, Dr. Shelby Fleischer, Greg Hoover

Course fieldwork in August (Academic Year - Fall Semester)

Text: Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity. 2006. Stephan A. Marshall. Firefly Books, Buffalo, N.Y. 718 pp.

Course Description

Experiential learning in field ecology to highlight insect dynamics, diversity and adaptations in terrestrial and aquatic habitats, with opportunities to augment personal collections. On-site sessions will introduce ecological processes and natural history from a variety of habitats. Students will gain experience in field sampling and collection techniques, and field notebook documentation. Course is designed for those with limited field experience with insects. One course in Entomology or Ecology is recommended. New graduate students and upper level undergrads are welcome.

Insect adaptations across multiple habitats will be observed in natural, agricultural, and forestry settings and the underlying ecological processes, anthropogenic interactions, and agro/forestry ecosystem management approaches will be introduced. Students will learn field sampling and collection methods, identification to order and major family levels, and curation techniques for arthropods collected for scientific purposes.


Sieg Conference Center of the Lock Haven University near Lamar, PA.

We will meet at 8 am on August 5 in 504 ASI Building, and be in the field for the duration of the class, including four overnight stays at the Sieg Conference Center (students that need to return to State College at night may do so and still obtain full credit). Arrive on the first day with clothing and gear for a week of learning and enjoyment in the field. Transportation and all meals will be provided. A fee of $100/student is required to cover meals and course materials. Logistical information related to personal needs will be emailed to students two weeks prior to the start of class.

Instructional Objectives

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Identify the major types of insect collection and sampling devices and explain how and where to use them in sampling insect populations, and use the proper preservation and curatorial techniques for insect reference collections.
  • Compile a field notebook for recording insect natural history information and know how to utilize this in construction of an insect specimen web-based database.
  • Recognize the major types of landscapes and geographic features of Pennsylvania, where they are located, and how to use these in locating representatives of the insect biodiversity found in the state.
  • Identify the insect orders by sight and be able to identify some of the major insect families commonly found throughout Pennsylvania either by sight or through the use of keys and selected reference material.
  • Become familiar with specific examples of insect natural history, behavioral and chemical ecology in agricultural and natural ecosystems and how these examples illustrate broader concepts in the evolutionary success and pest management of the class Insecta.
  • Increase your comfort level working in natural and agricultural settings and as a member of a problem-solving team.

Methods of Evaluation

The grade for the course in based on 100 points according to the following criteria:

  • Course participation and team problem solving (30%)
  • Field notebook (20%)
  • Insect collection (30%)
  • Collection Practical Exam (20%)