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Students learn more about a bug’s life

Creepy and crawley

By Kelly Foss

Students enrolled in Dr. Tom Chapman’s Introduction to Entomology class are given an interesting choice for their class project – collect 50 different insects and then euthanize, pin, preserve and identify them or make a contribution to a Department of Biology website called Bug Promoters.

The website is a student project which began in 2007. Participating students get to choose a subject, research it and present their information online. The goal of the site is to provide entomological resources to the general public on matters of local interest.

Rebecca Mattinson, a fourth-year biology major, was involved in the project during the fall 2008 semester and said the website can become a valuable resource for residents of the province.

“Dr. Chapman gave us a lot of freedom, but he did specify that our project had to be about Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “There is no other entomological resource of this sort available to the public. It’s something that is just not out there.”

Her individual project involved surveying individuals to determine Newfoundland’s attitude towards insects. She found the lessons she learned in completing the task were applicable far beyond the classroom.

“It certainly changed my opinion on entomology as a field,” she said. “Going into it I would have been one of the people on my survey that said yes, I have a fear of insects. I probably still do to some extent. But previous research has showed that the more knowledge people have about insects the less fear they have.

“I also learned a lot about dealing with people, how to approach them and get them interested in doing the survey,” she added. “This is the most interesting and interactive lab project I’ve ever done. You really have to learn and apply a lot of skills to succeed.”

Those skills also involved the creation of the web pages.

Dr. Chapman gets a lot of visits from people bringing in insects in little pill jars and they want to know what it is. This website will allow them to take a photograph and email it to the website.”

Laura Hardy also participated in the website project last semester. Her project involved researching silverfish and providing information to people on what they should do if they find them in their homes.

Joining the pair in their project were students April Wareham, who completed her web pages on the topic of lice, and Kristin Myette, whose project revolved around ticks.

“This project was a lot more interactive than most projects we get to do at school,” said Ms. Hardy. “Even though the course is over, the website is something we voluntarily continue to be involved in. There are not many courses students would do that for.”

“It’s something you can be proud of and know that people will get use out of,” added Ms. Mattinson.” It’s not just writing a paper for a professor that will go on a shelf or get thrown in the garbage. Future classes will keep building on it and we will know that we played a part in it.”

The Bug Promoters website can be found at