Paper Discussion Reformatting

Hey folks. As discussed in class, some students have expressed that perhaps our paper discussions would be better served by a different format. I've laid out what I think are reasonable options below. Take the poll (totally anonymous!) and tell me what you think. We'll enact the new policy (if it gets a majority) next week, so try and vote early! I'll be tallying the votes on Saturday, so get it in by then.

Paper Discussion #5 and Twitter Assignment

Hey folks,

Sorry this is a little later than usual, I hope you'll find it worth the wait though. This is a paper that was presented at a conference I went to in January, and the biology is totally stunning - parasitoid wasps create zombie cockroach hosts that they use to feed their young!

Zombie Cockroaches and Voodoo Wasps

As I discussed last week, I think the presentations by groups has been pretty good, but I've felt like discussion has really fallen off the last couple of weeks. Let's revive that discussion that we had the first couple of papers - read actively and come with a few discussion points/questions.

Presenting Groups: Monday - Group 1 (front left), Tuesday, Group 5 (front left).

Since we're reading about parasitoids this week, the assignment is to post an example of another parasite(oid) that manipulates it's host's behavior. 


Paper Discussion #4 and Twitter Assignment

Since you guys are starting to talk about insect evolution next week, I thought it might be fun to read a short Science paper that tries to explain why Doug's favorite insect order (Coleoptera - I'm partial to hymenoptera myself) is so damn diverse! 


Inordinate Fondness Explained

The only groups who haven't presented yet will go! Group 4 on Monday (the front right table) and group 7 on Tuesday (the back right table).

This next week's Twitter/Email assignment is a simple one - We're tackling the families of Odonata and Orthoptera next week - send me the name of a cool family within each of these orders and something about it's natural history. Keep it short (140 characters or less).




Exam Statistics

Because stats are fun, right? In general - nice work - come see me after you get the quizzes back next week if you have any questions on the grading. Email to set up an appointment if you think we messed up on grading, or want to argue an answer.

Very few folks got the question about mosquito bristles correct - and I realized I didn't stress that section enough. Thus, a free point to everyone (your actual score is one point higher than written on your exam.

In general, the exam score distribution looks normally distributed.

In general, the exam score distribution looks normally distributed.

The exam scores are in fact normally distributed. 

The exam scores are in fact normally distributed. 

Tuesday did, on average, better than Monday. 

Tuesday did, on average, better than Monday. 

Third Reading Assignment - Insect Gigantism

Hey folks! Hope the exam went well - Claire and I will be working on the grading and it should be done (hopefully!) by next week's lab. 

Next week we will be working through identifying insects to order, so make sure to bring along Borror and Delong. Also, we'll be reading a fun paper that looks at why insects were so damn big historically, and why they're so small now. 

Discussion-leading groups will be Group 1 on Monday (the front left table) and Group 6 (the back left table). There will also be a Twitter assignment - up soon!

Harrison et al. 2010 - Insect Gigantism

Exam Tips and Studying

Hey all,

Hope you're enjoying the week off from no labs! This post is meant to give you guys some pointers on what will be on the lab practical next week, and some tips for studying.

First, a little about the exam. It will be a mixture of pinned specimens and diagrams, as well as a few conceptual questions. Common pin questions will be something like "What head sclerite is pin #9 pointing to?" The diagrams will be used mostly in instances where it is too difficult to pin the particular structure (think small things like galea) or for specimens we don't have (what structures make up the two bristles in the mosquito mouthpart - what about the cicada?).  There will also be a few questions from the two papers we read.

There won't be any reading for next week. Just come prepared to rock the lab practical and then you're all done!

Study tips:

1. Know the big stuff. Particularly the head sclerites, mouthparts, sutures and divisions of the thorax. The thorax divisions can be confusing - work on it though (i.e. what's the difference between the metaepimeron and metaepipleuron.

2. It's mostly memorization. I know - not the most fun or dynamic or critical thinking exam - but again, the goal here is to have a really solid foundation of external anatomy you guys can identify insects more easily later on. 

3. That being said, there are good tricks to memorization. Study with a partner, quiz each other, use mnemonics. 

4. Make your own drawings. This worked well for me when I took the class - I'm a particularly visual learner, but copying the drawings from the lab manual or from Borror and Delong and then trying to fill them in will give you a blank slate to practice with. 

5. If you have questions, feel free to ask. I'm available all this week for appointments, emails, meetings. I'm a resource. Use me.


Good luck!

Week 3 - Paper on the Evolution of Insect Flight

Hey folks,

Attached is the paper for discussion for next week. It's an oldie, but a goodie - it uses mechanical and mathematical models to discuss what the evolutionary origins of insect wings are. A caveat - this paper is MUCH more challenging that last week's. Give yourself plenty of time to sort through it - active reading is key here. Group 3 in Monday's lab (the back right table) and Group 8 in Tuesday's lab (the front right table) will be presenting. Email, comment, tweet or Facebook me any questions. 


Evolution of Insect Wings


A note on all the social media stuff...

I think a little bit of an explanation is warranted, given some of the confusion on the all of the outlets for information via various sources (Twitter, Facebook, the blog) and assignments. Here's the scoop.

1. The "Twitter" assignments stand - I'll be throwing out a fun question to respond to each week. These responses can come either over Twitter (@UEntomology) or via email. 

2. The blog and Facebook page are meant to be tools for you guys to keep up on what's happening in class, what the upcoming discussion papers are and a repository for useful electronic media related to the class (handouts, my slideshows, etc.). Joining the Facebook group isn't required. It was suggested to be a few students that this might be a convenient alternative to the blog. I agree. All content will be mirrored. 



We'll be doing some basic anatomy this week and working with preserved giant grasshoppers (lubbers). Remember to come prepared to discuss our first piece of primary literature - Doug's 1997 paper on dung beetle behavior and male-dimorphism. Looking forward to hearing presentations from the presenting groups!


And here is the additional handout for today (just a few extra notes on stuff).

External Anatomy Handout

First Paper Reading - Alternative Reproductive Strategies and Male-Dimorphism in Beetles

Hey folks,

Attached is the the reading assignment for the second week of lab (Feb 3 and 4). I'll pick groups to go first for presentation and discussion next week in lab, and we'll talk about reading and dissecting primary literature a bit this week in lab. Group 2 from Monday's lab - (Kala, Chris, Melanie, Molly and Harrison) and Group 5 (Dylan, Angela, Sarah, Alan, John, Brian and Katie) will be presenting next week! Let me know if you have any questions.

Beetle Horn Paper

Additionally, here is a grading rubric for the what I'm looking for in the paper summaries/presentations. 

5 = all members participated and had something insightful to discuss. Clear understanding and explanation of concepts and ideas in the paper. Excellent questions and discussion. 4 = most group members participated in discussion. Adequate comprehension of paper. 3 = only some group members contributed to discussion. Group didn’t understand the paper or explain relevant sections concisely and clearly. 2 = little to no discussion of paper and concepts. Discussion dominated by one or two group members.  1 = No discussion. Clearly did not read the majority of the paper. No comprehension of relevant topics or concepts. 0 = Didn’t read the paper and/or refuses to participate in discussion.

Entomology Spring 2014 Beginnings - Week 1

Hi all - as discussed in lab and class today, I'll be using this blog as a repository of helpful stuff for all of my students. Electronic versions of handouts, tips on primary literature, links to the readings for each weeks and other useful tidbits will be found here and on the course's Twitter feed (@UEntomology). 

Here are some useful bits:

1. 2014 Syllabus

2. Presentation for First Week of Lab

3. Twitter assignment 1 - Sign up for Twitter, follow @UEntomology and Tweet a photo of yourself (it helps me learn all your names!) along with your first name, favorite insect and the hashtag #Ento2014. 

Also, a note about Twitter assignments - some of you have expressed some distaste for signing up for a social-media service for University-related assignments. I get that - and for those of you who want to go this route, Twitter assignments will always be posted here on the blog as well. Just follow them as best you can and send them to me via email. However, I would strongly encourage everyone to sign up and do the Twitter assignments on Twitter - it fosters a sense of community among your fellow classmates in entomology and allows you to communicate with them quickly and ask pertinent questions about lecture and lab. It's also amusing. :)


Michael Pollan talks Talking-Thinking Plants

A really lovely article (and video as well - see below) by Michael Pollan about re-thinking whether or not plants are a little complicated than we give them credit for. I won't spoil it, but there's lots of juicy tidbits about chemical communication, as well as a fun discussion of the rancorous debate about the term 'plant neurobiology'.


The warm embrace of the field season in Arizona has passed, and it's into the icy clutch of Montana's winter. Just a few updates to share. First, I'm attending the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology conference in January. This will be my third attendance of this particular conference and it's always been good fun - lots of really interesting biologists doing fantastic work. I'm presenting a talk on some of the behavioral work from this summer, and am co-authoring a poster with my advisor Art Woods on caterpillar defenses against parasitoids. If you're attending SICB and are interested in these presentations, check out the schedule to find us, or shoot me a note. I'd be happy to give you dates and times.

Also, I'm working a symposium called "How to Make a Zombie: parasite host control". In a word: amazeballs.