Alina Avanesyan
Among the redwoods -- Muir Woods

Insect Biodiversity

As a teaching assistant at the University of Maryland, during Spring 2018, I taught Honors Seminar Insect Biodiversity: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird for non-majors. This course included lectures, wet labs, seminars, and field trips. I also taught a guest lecture on ecology of invasive species.

My students learned and practiced in aquatic insect collection, microscopy, identifying major insect groups and linking insect species to their ecological functions. The students also developed and presented “insect portraits” (fact sheets of good, bad, or weird insects), and actively participated in guided in-class and online discussions on pollination, plant-insect coevolution, and conservation issues.

Also, various arthropods from our departmental insect petting zoo occasionally visited us in class.


Guest lectures


Topics covered

WEEK 1. INSECTS GOOD, BAD, AND WEIRD

  • Course details, definitions, introduction to insects and related arthropods, case examples of good, bad, and weird, course policies and procedures

WEEK 2. LIFE HISTORY OF EARTH

  • Lecture: Origin of Earth as the water planet, insect evolution and diversity
  • Lab: Exposure to insect diversity (hemimetabolous orders)

WEEK 3. ALL THE INSECTS ARE MERELY PLAYERS

  • Lecture: Ecosystem structure and function, ecosystem services, biodiversity
  • Lab: Exposure to insect diversity (holometabolous orders)

WEEK 4. LIFE BENEATH FLOWING WATERS

  • Lecture: Streams as habitats for species
  • Lab: Collection of stream-inhabiting insects, provided by instructor

WEEK 5. SCIENCE IS A VERB

  • Lecture: Science methodology applied to Nakano et al. (1999)
  • Lab: Identify morphospecies, assign to ecological roles

WEEK 6. BENEFICIAL INSECTS

  • Lecture: Overview of beneficial roles
  • Lab: Linking species to ecological functions

WEEK 7. ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION: MEANS TO AN END

  • Lecture: Evidence for insect declines
  • Seminar: The roles of conservation and restoration.

WEEK 8. COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER: A SIGN FOR THE FUTURE?

  • Coevolution of plants and insects: pollinators

WEEK 9. SCIENCE COMMUNICATION ON BIODIVERSITY

WEEK 10. HUMANS CREATE PESTS – HUMANS CAN SOLVE PEST PROBLEMS

  • Overview of harmful species, examples of pests and their damage

WEEK 11. INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT

  • History of pest management, development of IPM

WEEK 12. SHOULD WE STOP GENETIC ENGINEERING?

  • Lecture: History and process, benefits and issues, evidence of harm
  • Middle Patuxent River field trip

WEEK 13. STRANGE DISCOVERIES, NATURAL SELECTION?

  • Lecture: The Weird: Evolutionary surprises
  • Lab: Curate collection from Middle Patuxent

WEEK 14. ONE PLANET, NO BOUNDARIES

  • Lecture: Ecology of invasive species, consequences on society: Dr. Alina Avanesyan

WEEK 15. THE FUTURE OF INSECT LIFE IS OUR FUTURE

  • Conservation and restoration, ecological theory versus practice, societal roles
  • Course conclusions