Professor Tom Tregenza

Fellow FHEA

Research-inspired learning

Name Professor Tom Tregenza
Email

T.Tregenza@exeter.ac.uk

Position

Professor of Evolutionary Ecology

College College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Innovative use of technology in research

Tom Tregenza is Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at the Penryn campus. His research mainly focuses on how natural and sexual selection work in the wild; “what is it that leads to some individuals leaving more offspring than others?”

Collaborating with Dr Rolando Rodríguez-Muñoz, his current project WildCrickets involves studying a population of crickets in a small field in Northern Spain. “We’re trying to see what crickets really get up to in the wild, and trying to look at how selection actually operates in natural populations” as opposed to laboratory environments. “We’ve set up a 'Big Brother house' for a whole meadow full of crickets”, with 140 digital video cameras pointed at cricket burrows to observe them. “All of the crickets we catch, as soon as they become adults, we stick a little tag on them so we can identify every individual in the field. We can actually see what they get up to, who fights with whom… No one’s ever really been able to look at what individual insects get up to in the field before.”

Through WildCrickets, Tom has been able to offer internships to students, enhancing their research capabilities beyond their university education. “The fact that [the students] have taken part in a project that they didn’t have to do, they’ve had to learn a whole new set of skills... There’s no shortcut to this kind of project, you’ve got to watch the video and do it in a very methodical and concentrated way… It’s a real process that they’ve actually done something really useful with, in science and application. I think employers recognise this.”

This type of engagement with research and technological tools within the WildCrickets project equips students with transferable attributes, such as “observational skills, careful data recording skills”, skills that are “not as easily incorporated into a curriculum that does require a lot of learning” like Biosciences.

Aim 3: Research-inspired, inquiry-led learning
To extend the opportunities for students to learn in innovative ways through their own research and inquiry

Additional resources

Research and technology in learning

"...we can ask some of these big questions, about how selection actually works in the wild, in a way we couldn't have done before."