In Fall 2019, I enhanced Entomology.
This course was an introduction to the field of entomology, the study of insects. In the lecture portion, we explored anatomical features, species identification, literature interpretation, connections to human life, real world entomology careers, and more. In the lab portion, we were hands-on in field sampling and insect preservation and pinning.
I decided to enhance this elective because it was the most unique class I have taken so far at Longwood. The most compelling part of the course was the insect box; each student had to collect and preserve at least 15 insects to display in an insect box. While it seems easy to pin a bug to a box, there is a level of precision and organization that is required for a successful box. During lab each week, we would hunt for insects in different environments such as forests, industrial areas, grasslands, aquatic areas, and more. With several provided tools such as nets or sifters, we would have to collect as many insects as we could. After capture, we would ethically kill them by either freezing the insects or fumigating them. Once dead, we would have to pin them in particular places, depending on the insect. After they dried in the position, the insects were organized taxinomically in the box. Not only was this an educational experience, but it was cathartic to have weekly field trips.
My Honors enhancement idea came from the insect box requirement. In class, Dr. Ludwar discussed how there is a movement for digital insect boxes in museums and universities. This interested me because I was curious how digital insect collections compared to real insect boxes as an education tool. In my research, I compared insect boxes and digital insect collections, evaluated how insect boxes meet the course objectives for BIOL 374, and compared them to digital insect collections as an alternative. Then, I determined if digitized insect collections can be realistically integrated in BIOL 374 curriculum, and I synthesized a baseline for future directions. I concluded that both digital and real insect collections would be equally as effective as educational tools in BIOL 374, but digital collections could offer innovative benefits to the course. While digital insect collections are easier to access and there is potential for students to contribute insects over many semesters, it comes with a large financial cost.
My favorite aspect about the course was not only the fun field work, but the attitude Dr. Ludwar had. He did not want us to simply memorize every small detail about insect anatomy and study the textbook word for word. He said that information is easy to look up on Google at any moment. Instead, he encouraged curiosity and discussion on real world applications of entomology. He fostered a genuine interest in the subject among the class, which is so special to Longwood.