The Collegian
Monday, February 26, 2024

Course Spotlight: Insects and People with Dr. Evans

Do you want bugs crawling around your classroom? Don’t answer no yet! Insects go far beyond the creepy, unwanted pests we typically view them as. They are creators, inventors and protectors. Biology professor Art Evans explores the glorious world of bugs in Biology 120: Insects and Humans. This class fulfills the Natural Science general education requirement, analyzing insects' importance and their impact on our science, technology, literature, arts and popular culture. People often don’t appreciate their connections with insects or realize how deep they go. This class accomplishes more than just relaying information. It gives students an appreciation for the tiny creatures that live all around us. 

The class has the boundless energy of Art Evans. His lectures are colorful and engaging, full of personal experiences and anecdotes. Evans has been working with insects for more than half a century. He has researched a new species of scarab beetles, was the director of an insect zoo at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles and did a local NPR segment called “What's Bugging You?” for almost ten years. Seven segments were animated, and one of those animations won an Emmy.

Students view insects through different lenses across the semester. The first month includes a crash course on insects, which teaches about their morphology, evolution, behavior and development. Students then look at insects in art and practice drawing insects themselves. They explore the science and technology inspired by insects, from LED lights to fasteners for attaching different materials to make bridges and buildings. Bee-lieve it or not, the reflectivity of the scales on butterfly wings inspired the design of smartphone screens. 

Students also look at insects in film. Bugs are represented in many movies, and “A Bug’s Life” is a class favorite to watch.  Evans also provides students with tools for identifying insects and discovering more about them. 

“Whether they like it or not, once their friends and family find out that they're taking this course, they become the de facto bug expert in their circles,” Evans said. “People will start, you know, presenting little bugs or sending them pictures and that kind of thing.”

Students dive deep into the world of bugs with interactive projects. The labs start with a brief presentation, and then the action begins. Students handle specimens, observe them through the microscopes and draw them. They get the opportunity to take time to really look at something and see an organism they have never seen before. 

“My students really get into it because they have a chance to get into something that they never thought they would be involved with,” Evans said. “And plus, they find out it's really interesting how the labs are all hands-on. We have specimens that they observe through the microscope and they do drawings and learn to identify the different structures and learn the basic classification of insects and their relatives.”

If an interest in insects is spinning its web in your mind, look out for Biology 120: Insects and People during fall 2023 registration.

Contact opinions and column writer Madison Slesinski at madison.slesinski@richmond.edu 

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