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Study information

Applied Insect Ecology

Module titleApplied Insect Ecology
Module codeBIO2441
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Juliet Osborne (Convenor)

Professor Chris Bass (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Insects have a major impact on the ecology and economy of the world. The great diversity of insect form and function means their impact on human populations and activities can be beneficial or detrimental. During this module you will explore the complex interactions between insects and humans. For example insect pollinators provide an important service to plants, which in turn results in fruit, nuts and seed of vital nutritional importance to humans. On the other hand, insect pests of crops and livestock can significantly reduce food production, and insect vectors of disease play an important role in spread of pathogens.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will introduce you to the diversity of insects and the role they play in the environment in terms of their interactions with plants, humans and other animals. It will focus on the behaviour and functional diversity of insects in soil, on land and in the air. Key functional groups that impact on our lives will be discussed, including the pollinators, the decomposers, the pests, the predators and the parasitoids which can help control the pests. All of these functions can be considered as ecosystem services and the importance of insects in the ecosystem service framework will be the subject of discussion.

Since insects play a key role in our environment, the practical knowledge and skills acquired by taking this module are relevant to many areas of employment such as conservation, consultancy, environmental planning, agriculture, medicine and forensics. By taking part in the practicals you will learn skills of observation, accurate data recording and demonstrate critical thinking which are key to careers in fundamental and applied sciences.

The module content is updated every year to explore topical research areas, several of which are being carried out by the lecturers and are of global relevance. For example, we debate cutting edge research into pollinator declines, the impact of insecticides on pest and beneficial insect populations and review the evidence for whether insects are a solution to global food shortages. You will learn about the tools required to study such problems, and explore how such science can inform policy and practice.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Illustrate the diversity of insect function
  • 2. Describe how insects interact with humans in a variety of beneficial and detrimental ways
  • 3. Explain how insects are monitored and managed in a human-dominated environment
  • 4. Describe the principles of ecology and evolution

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in biosciences
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 9. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 14. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements

Syllabus plan

The module will be delivered using a hybrid approach of pre-recorded lectures and face-to-face discussions, workshops and practicals.

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

Lectures will cover

  • insect form and function
  • insect behavior
  • insects and plants
  • pollination
  • pest management
  • medical and veterinary entomology
  • insects as recyclers
  • insects as food
  • forensic entomology
  • insects in civilisation and culture

Practicals will cover

  • insect form and function
  • insects as pollinators
  • insect pest management

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching7Online Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching10In-person discussion sessions
Scheduled learning and teaching6Laboratory practicals – insect form and function, insects as pollinators (2 x 3 hours)
Scheduled learning and teaching3Group-based research task
Guided independent study124Additional reading and research for the factsheet assessment during term, and the essay examination

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer question sets: online and during lecturesOngoing throughout the module1-5, 10-11Oral
Discussion During practical session2-3, 6, 8-12Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay examination602 hours1-14Written
Researched factsheet401500 words1-14Written / online

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination (2 hours)1-14August reassessment period
Researched factsheetResearched factsheet (1500 words)1-14August reassessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further assessment. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Gullan, P.J. and Cranston, P.S. 2010. The Insects: An Outline of Entomology. 4th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4443-3036-6
  • McGavin G.C. (2001) Essential Entomology: An Order by Order Introduction. Oxford University Pres. ISBN 978-0-19-850002-5
  • Resh and Cardé (2009) Encyclopedia of Insects 2nd ed

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Entomology, biodiversity, ecosystem, ecology, pest control, pollinators, food production, disease vectors, decomposers, parasites

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date