Patricia Okpara holding insect collection kitPhD student Patricia Okpara has distributed insect collection kits to students in the biology class “Applied Entomology.”

Insect collection kits to ease distance learning by entomology students

Just because the COVID-19 pandemic keeps students in the fourth-year course applied entomology away from campus doesn’t mean they have to miss out, says Patricia Okpara.

As the graduate assistant for biology professor Sherah Vanlaerhoven, Okpara has assembled and distributed kits that will enable the students to complete a full collection of insects.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure the students get the most out of the experience,” says Okpara, a doctoral candidate of integrative biology.

She has already distributed more than 30 kits, both by mail and by pick-up through the Leddy Library. Each contains collection vials, pins, brushes — a full set of apparatus for students to prepare and display what they capture.

The students are graded on the variety of orders and families represented by the specimens they collect by the end of the semester, and Okpara notes that diligence pays off.

“It takes some dedication, but you have to get moving early,” she says. “It gets a lot harder to find insects once November rolls around.”

She will be available each week for an online lab to help students identify their samples, and will narrate dissections over a web camera.

“At the end of the course, the students will understand insect anatomy and their importance in ecosystems,” says Okpara. “It’s a really cool course for people who are geeked out about insects.”

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