My university doesn't offer entomology every semester so when I saw it on the schedule I was excited. I went to the assistant chair and the professor for the lecture and got them to let me TA the lab. What could be better than to TA a course that deals with my own personal passion? Its a pretty straightforward intro entomology lab. We are going to cover each of the insect orders as well as a few other arthropod classes. I will teach the students the important characteristics of each group and make sure that they can key them to order or family. I will also cover collecting and curation techniques in general and the special methods needed for some groups. The collecting techniques will be taught mainly through a few field trips in the local area were we will set up malaise nets, FITs, pitfall traps, etc. The students will earn their grade with two practicals and an insect collection that is due at the end of the course.
So the first week is done and I realize that I didn't consider a few things about this course. My worst estimation was the prep time I would need for each lab. I want this to be an amazing entomology lab.... that takes a lot of time. The professor has given me a list of the orders that he wants me to cover but that is about it. This means that I have to come up with the best way to present each group and distill the most important things that my students need to know about them. I also have to find the most appropriate example of each group for keying so the students get to see variety but not too much so the important similarities are still obvious. Figuring all of that out while I work on writing papers and studying for my own courses is a challenge.. but a fun one.
In my next lab I am going to cover non-insect arthropods. Part of this will be teaching the students the basics of deep arthropod phylogeny (something I don't follow closely) which appears to be a bit of a mess. I have found a number of conflicting ideas all published within the last couple of years. Once I figure out what I think about these different takes on the data maybe I will do a post for the blog.