Ask the alumni – Sam Deane!

Ask the alumni is a new series for the Mastering Entomology blog, inviting Harper Adams’ MSc Entomology and IPM alumni to share their journey, successes and advice with us since graduating from their studies.

Our next alumni braving the blog is the great Sam Deane!

– Sam Deane

Q: Please introduce yourself!

A: Sam Deane, currently working as an agronomist for New Gen Agri in Ireland. Grew up on a family farm in county Cork where from a young age I followed the agronomist around on his visits ,I recall him explaining the difference between Chickweed  (Stellaria media) and Fathen (Chenopodium album). I should point out that while I wanted to be an agronomist from a young age, the term was not used locally, rather “cropwalker”.

Q: What post-graduate course did you study at Harper Adams and what year did you study?

A: Studied the IPM Msc, full-time, entering in 2014.

Q: Can you remember why you chose to study the course/what your future career goals were at the time?

A: In 2013 I graduated from UCD with a BAgSci in Agri-Environmental Science. This gave me a great foundation for a career in crop protection. I did my final exams in May and the following Monday morning I was employed as an agronomist or “cropwalker” for a local pesticides and fertilizer sales firm. In the two seasons (In Ireland from March to July is referred to as the “season” as this is the most important growing season for cereal crops) I learned a lot but still had questions that couldn’t be answered by anyone in my network so I applied for the IPM MSc at Harper Adams. IPM was becoming a real buzzword in crop protection at the time but most people didn’t really know what it meant, I felt it was important to get a true understanding of the principles if I was to be the best agronomist I could be.

Q: Has your career path since graduating followed that of the one you imagined?

Prior to entering the masters course my plan was to do the masters go straight back to Ireland and set myself up as a private crop consultant (paid for advise rather than sales of product). Instead I got a role in the UK with Premium Crops who offer seed contracts in niche cereals like Linseed, canary seed, naked oats and Millet. They needed an agronomist to build crop production programmes that could be then rolled out to farmers growing the crops. This involved research and trials and working with farmers in a handful of crops that very few people in the UK knew anything about. The IPM course really came into its own there as I had a framework on which to build my programmes for each crop and the challenges they met. Also due to the IPM course I could see how specific pests or diseases or weed control strategies might impact on each other and how to work around this. In this role I was nominated for the UK Agronomist of the Year award in 2017 which I got runner up, the winner had over 30 years’ experience! It is without doubt that the IPM MSc and the approach it taught was key to getting me so far in the awards process.

Q: What is your job now?

A: I currently work for New Gen Agri who are the UK and Irish distributor for Nutri-tech Solutions who have a range of biostimulant and trace mineral products. While pest management is not central to this role, we (the crop production sector) are finding that getting crop nutrition right and helping crops cope with abiotic stresses is having an positive impact on how we manage pests. Building strong healthy plants is key to fighting pest and disease attack, particularly in an era of every tightening pesticide regulation.

Q: What is your biggest success/proudest moment since graduating?

A: Life is made of small moments that can be made important. Getting to harvest and climbing on a combine to talk to a farmer and have him say thank you for all the help to get the crop to harvest always humbles me. Its about been part of a team and having solid partnerships.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I have recently established a hazelnut orchard on the family farm. This is a crop that has no modern experience in Ireland so the future is exciting looking at adapting crop management strategies from around the world and building a market for native hazelnuts. 

Q: How did the Harper Adams post-graduate course help you to get to where you are today?

A: The IPM course was key to getting my first role upon graduation, however it has been at the back of every role I have done since, it has sharpened and focused my natural curiosity around crop production to not only as “how” but also “why” and “why not” and not be afraid to push things a little bit.  

Q: Do you have any advice for the current Entomology and IPM students?

A: Never give up on what you believe.

“you think you know something, you know nothing” (a kinder person would have told me to stay humble and curious, but that had a more lasting effect).

Find the positive in every situation.

Ask the alumni – Max Tercel!

Ask the alumni is a new series for the Mastering Entomology blog, inviting Harper Adams’ MSc Entomology and IPM alumni to share their journey, successes and advice with us since graduating from their studies.

Our first alumni braving the blog is the wonderful Max Tercel!

Max Tercel

Q: Please introduce yourself!

A: Hello! I’m Max and I’m now, officially, an entomologist! I grew up in Exeter and have been interested in insects and other invertebrates for as long as I can remember. I never excelled hugely at school/college but was nevertheless able to get a spot to study Zoology at Bangor University where I was awarded a First Class degree. In my final year of Bangor, I discovered that Harper Adams University were running an entomology MSc, so I decided to apply hoping that I would be awarded the RES scholarship to study. Thankfully, I did win the scholarship and without it I wouldn’t have been able to financially support myself during the MSc. I therefore owe huge thanks to the Royal Entomological Society (and am now trying to repay this in-kind by being the post-graduate student representative).

Q: What post-graduate course did you study at Harper Adams and what year did you study?

A: I studied Entomology in 2016/17.

Q: Can you remember why you chose to study the course/what your future career goals were at the time?

A: Harper Adams was, at the time, the only UK institution offering a course in entomology. I couldn’t imagine (or justify) studying anything else at masters-level, so there was really no choice to be made! I’m incredibly glad it worked out this way because I knew I had to put everything into my application to win the scholarship.

Q: Was the MSc in Entomology at Harper Adams your first foray into entomology?

A: Not really. Entomology had been one of my main passions since very early on, so I’d been immersing myself in “all things insect” for a while. At Bangor University, we also had two modules that had large entomology components, “Invertebrates” and “Animal Design”, the latter of which was a biomechanics module that frequently used insects as case studies. 

Scloropendra abnormis

Q: Has your career path since graduating followed that of the one you imagined?

A: Yes and no. I never expected to actually be offered a PhD studentship on the first attempt. However, I did realise that the entomology MSc already put me far ahead of many competitors I may have had when applying for entomology PhDs. Not only does the excellent taught aspects come across in applications you send off as someone that’s studied there, but the course is quite well known and prestigious more generally. I’m not entirely sure what I would have done if I didn’t proceed on the academic path – it just seems a natural fit for me. That and unskilled labouring work… which isn’t quite as uplifting.

Q: What is your job now?

A: I’m currently studying for a PhD at Cardiff University looking into the diet, wider ecology, and invasion biology of introduced ants on Round Island, Mauritius. It has a really nice mix of field, lab, and office work, which is great for me! I’m currently in my 3rd year of study.

Sunset at Round Island, Mauritius

Q: What has been your experience of doing a PhD?

A: It’s been a dream. It can be stressful and tough at times, but I have near total freedom to research how I want within the boundaries of my research question. It’s a great environment to be in and it’s fantastic to be learning new techniques and methodologies aside from the classical ecological dimensions. For example, I’m using advanced molecular tools to identify what a community of ants are consuming. It’s great fun and cutting-edge.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your travels to Round Island?

 A: My word. Where do I start? Without going into too much detail, Round Island is a small uninhabited island 21-km North-East of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. There is a huge level of endemicity there and the entomofauna is poorly known. This is simultaneously exciting and frustrating because it’s very difficult to identify anything to species level. You may well be looking at undescribed species on a daily basis. My project revolves around analysing invertebrate communities in parallel to introduced ants within quadrats spaced all over the island in every habitat type. This is physically gruelling in the 40o+ African sun carrying a suction sampler and large backpack around up a mountain every day. You get to the island either by boat, in which you need to precariously jump from the boat onto a slippery rock, or (far more glamorously) by helicopter. There is a field station for the wardens but I opted for a tent, and did so very comfortably for 4 months. Life on the island is necessarily co-operative because it is so environmentally harsh. Cooking and cleaning duties are shared and you live quite closely with whoever else happens to be on the island. It is a glorious existence and one of my favourite places on Earth.

Max’s tent on Round Island, Mauritius

Q: What is your biggest success/proudest moment since graduating?

A: Designing and implementing my field surveys in Mauritius was certainly one. It was physically demanding to do in the scorching tropical heat, but it really hammered home that the quality and potential of an ecological project often depends on the quality of the sampling design. Almost all of what I know about entomological sampling came from my time at Harper Adams! Another high point is having an opinion article recently published in Molecular Ecology.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I’d really love to continue entomological research. My main specialism is in ants, so really anything to do with them would keep me happy, but I’d love to continue my work on introduced ant ecology and using molecular tools to answer fundamental ecological questions.

Slab at Round Island, Mauritius

Q: How did the Harper Adams post-graduate course help you to get to where you are today?

A: The entomology MSc is the single greatest academic experience of my life so far (which is impressive, considering I’m now in the 3rd year of my PhD!). Though I have been reading, catching, observing and generally learning about insects from a very early age, it supercharged my understanding of the entomological realm. A big part of me getting the PhD position was that I was able to publish my MSc project with the help of the lovely and far too humble Tom Pope. Without the entomology MSc, I certainly wouldn’t be doing this PhD. Moreover, the MSc, even in a vacuum, has just taught me how to be a better scientist and more well-rounded entomologist, so even if I didn’t get the PhD it still would have been the best step for me to take personally.

Q: Do you have any advice for the current and prospective Entomology and IPM students?

A: Study hard and try to come at the assignments from first principles, but really don’t get too worked up if you don’t know everything completely. Entomology is such a vast field and there are so many unknowns. For me, that meant having a good grounding of everything, but really focussing on the things that got me incredibly excited. Perhaps most importantly, have fun and do what makes you happy.

Pandemic Academic

The academic year of 2020/21 has certainly been a unique one. It is an experience that we will undoubtedly all remember, but one we will hopefully never relive.

After many months of undertaking my degree from behind a computer screen, I, alongside many fellow students, have started to feel the upcoming pressure of entering the ‘real world’ knowing we will likely graduate  amidst a global pandemic. Having barely met one another – certainly never hugged nor shared a drink – the feeling of isolation can be particularly hard. We feel scared, unprepared, and alone. But, as we move toward the UK ‘reopening’ I think it is finally time for me to return to this blog as a reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for us all.

Last day on campus… Little did I know!

Over the next few months we will be joined by some of the wonderful HAU MSc Entomology and IPM alumni, sharing with us their successes and progression since graduation. Whilst this year is particularly challenging for us all – the future is bright. So, I hope by reflecting on the success of our predecessors, we can bring encouragement and remind us all that despite currently being apart, we are not alone. Success is just around the corner.

It turns out that that distance from head to hand, from wafting butterfly to entomological specimen, is achieved through regular practice. What begins as something like a dream will in fact stay a dream forever unless you have the tools and the discipline to bring it out.’ – Ann Patchett.

You have the dream. You now have the tools. Together, we will be brave enough to conquer the discipline.

Pandemic Academics – keep your chin up. You are not alone.

Aimee (@tonks_aimee)

I. P. (umm)M?

IPM (or Integrated Pest Management as it is formally known) is one aspect of entomological studies that many students don’t seem consider when applying to study for their MSc. Why? Well, it turns out that when first embarking on your insect adventure, not many people seem to actually know what IPM is and what it entails… Not to fear! Your resident IPM student is here to save you from this tragedy and introduce you to the wonderful world that comes with studying toward Entomology’s sister course: Integrated Pest Management.

Firstly, what is IPM?

There are a number of existing definitions for IPM, but largely it is considered to be a sustainable approach to pest management implementing a range of tools and techniques. IPM programmes are used within a range of plant production industries, however play a very important role in aiding the future of food security.

What does IPM have to do with Entomology?

As we know, pests can take a number of different forms. Okay… this does include weeds and diseases here. But hear me out! Those pesky insects are major players too. Whilst many insects are extremely beneficial, insect pests can cause major problems for a range of crops. From direct damage (including feeding), to indirect damage (such as disease vectors), growers of crops in all parts of the world often need to reduce the populations of these economically harmful species so that they can produce a crop profitably and meet the nutritional demands of a growing population. Not only this (and this is the cool bit…), but many insect species can actually be used as the heroes of this story – often in the form of biological control!

Predatory behaviours of Phytoseiulus persimilis toward the Two-spotted Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae, used in biological control.

Why is IPM important?

Pest management can take a number of different forms, with historic reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides being one of the most well known. However, greater environmental awareness and genetic resistance to synthetic chemical pesticides in many pest populations in recent years has contributed toward a push toward a more holistic and sustainable approach to pest management. IPM is a philosophy – developing and/or bringing together tools for use in a programme. So, it is of no surprise that interest in this philosophy and the development of potential compatible tools is of great interest to many researchers and companies alike.

What does the IPM MSc cover?

As you will all already know from my second blog post Beetles, Bugs and Beyond (and if you don’t, then get to know!), as an IPM student you get to start of the year on the wonderful Biology and Taxonomy of Insects. This module is essential for gaining the base of your insect knowledge: what they are, what they can do and what on earth they belong to! Once you have learnt these base principles, you can begin to apply your insect knowledge to the techniques used in integrated pest management programmes. But, Biology and Taxonomy… You already knew we studied that. So where have I been since? A big part of IPM is the management of pests for plant health. Therefore, an understanding of plant health threats, plant health management and plant production is always beneficial!

I started my third module, Plant Health Principles, looking at the first couple of those topics. We covered the three main threats to plant health: insect pests, weeds and diseases and the ways in which these problems affect the plant crop. This was a fascinating week, learning the intricacies of plant health management and roles in which insects play.

Module four was Principles and Practices of Crop Production – one of three optional modules on the IPM course. This module covered, funnily enough, the ways in which crops are produced. I selected this module as I felt it important to understand the systems in which I would be working alongside. What authority do I have to recommend crop pest management programmes if I don’t know my sugar beet from my swede, hey? But, if crop production is not tickling your fancy, do not close your browser just yet! Perhaps Fundamentals of Agroecology is more up your street? Or maybe entomology in its strictest sense is the only reason you are here – in which case perhaps I can tempt you back with the aptly titled: Insect Physiology and Behaviour module. Regardless of which optional module you take, by this stage you are well on your way to becoming an Integrated Pest Manager (If nothing else about this blog post has tempted you to consider the IPM MSc, at least admit that you do get a pretty cool title at the end of it).

All joking aside, Integrated Pest Management is an incredible and diverse field of work. We are IPM practitioners… Applied Ecologists! Regardless of name, our skill sets are the same. From research and innovation to implementation, the opportunities are endless. And, it needs budding entomologists! People with an interest in the wider role of insects within our environment. People looking to make a difference. That means people like YOU.

So do me a favour. Before you apply for your Ento Masters – don’t forget the Pest Club. Ok, the name needs work… but if its applied entomology you’re after, you know where to look!

– Aimee (@tonks_aimee)

For more information on IPM Courses available at Harper Adams University, visit the website:

Student Takeover! – Lucy Pocock

Sharing insight into the world of MSc Entomology courses at Harper Adams University doesn’t just stop at module related tales. A major part of our journey is the people we spend it with. As promised, I would like to introduce you to some of the wonderful students studying Entomology with us this year. We have come from a range of backgrounds, knowledge and expertise – none of us quite the same. So, I hope you find comfort (or simply enjoyment!) in learning about the diversity of Entomology.

Today the Mastering Entomology blog is taken over by the lovely Lucy Pocock (@Lucy_Pocock_).

“I am currently an Ecologist looking to specialise in Entomology. My path to entomological enthusiasm started in 2015, with a trip as a conservation research volunteer to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. I contributed to many surveys, but it was butterfly surveys I enjoyed the most, the sheer quantity and diversity of insects caught in the traps amazed me, as did the botfly larvae many people received from mosquito bites. Upon learning about the host specificity, multiple life stages and morphological forms that botfly’s and other insects have, I evolved a strong desire to delve further into entomology. When I returned from my time abroad, I applied for a Wildlife Conservation degree at Liverpool John Moores University and decided to keep some insects to expand my knowledge. I graduated in 2020, with a 1st class degree.”

“The lack of habitat information for many rare (or simply under recorded) insect species, is what driven me to define the habitat characteristics of the bog bush cricket Metrioptera brachyptera, on behalf of Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT)for my dissertation project. With species rapidly declining and extinction rates estimated to outweigh discovery by around 50%, defining such conditions has proved vital for the conservation of many species. The information from my study, has provided LWT with invaluable information to aid a reintroduction strategy of M. brachyptera to one of their regenerating peat bog sites. I am now part of the LWT species reintroduction group, where I breed M. brachyptera in my spare time. This has proven a tricky species to breed in past efforts, with species specific information really lacking. So far, the project is going well and the small population of 3 pairs has produced almost 330 eggs. However, this species has diapause of two years and must be subject to specific incubation cycles, so the hard part isn’t over yet! The (hopefully) resulting population, will be used to populate the bog bush cricket reintroduction project, which is part of a much larger project to restore peat bogs in the Manchester Mosslands. The lack of information available for the bog bush cricket brought up many more questions than answers in my dissertation project and breeding programme, and I hope to continue studying the species for my MSc research module.”

“I also currently keep two species of Phasmid (Sipyloidea sipylus and Phobaeticus magnus)and have one Hymenopus coronatus individual, the latter of which also requires me to keep many insect feeders too.”

Keep your eyes peeled for more student takeovers in the next few weeks as well as updates from a range of Entomology modules!

Beetles, Bugs and Beyond

Last week drew to a close the first MSc Entomology module – The Biology and Taxonomy of Insects – and WOW, what a fortnight it was! From Dictyoptera to Hymenoptera and Hemiptera to Diptera, we covered it all*. Spending our mornings in lectures, we were introduced to the Orders learning about their morphology and behaviours as well as taxonomic importance. After learning the theory, we were soon let loose in the afternoon to don our lab-coats and get close and personal with these Orders under the microscope. (Well, that’s the only thing any of us are getting close and personal with this year!). We were encouraged to key out each Order to either Family or Species level, aided by the support of leading specialists from the Natural History Museum and the Royal Entomological Society.

Our first visit saw the incredible ‘Fly Girl’, Erica McAllister (@flygirlNHM), unsurprisingly share with us a fascinating insight into the world of flies. We learnt about their ecological diversity, life stages and the complexities surrounding Dipteran ID. Soon after she joined us in the lab for all I can surmise as ‘bristles, bristles and a few more bristles”! All joking aside, our time with Erica was both immensely informative and jam packed with energy.

Lecture and Laboratory sessions with Erica McAlister (@flygirlNHM) learning all things Diptera. Entomology student George Ryley (@GRyley99) sharing his findings with Erica (on right).

Next up, we had the pleasure of a virtual Dictyoptera Q&A session with the lovely Paul Eggleton. We were honoured to be able to talk to Paul about his research into termite ecology, as well as clarifying our understanding surrounding the taxonomy of Dictyoptera. It is safe to say that for a Monday morning, we all couldn’t have been more engaged if we tried!

In the afternoon, we were graced with the presence of the delightful Fran Sconce (@FranciscaSconce) from the Royal Entomological Society. Fran talked us through the importance of correct insect collection and preservation in aid of understanding global biodiversity. She also shared with us pinning and carding techniques as well as how to correctly label preserved specimens. For many of us, this was our first insight into the world of insect curation and shaky hands were, indeed, a common sight!

Practicing collection techniques with Fran Sconce (@FrancescaSconce).

Hymenoptera was on Tuesday, led by the engaging Andy Polazsek. In the morning Andy was virtually ‘beamed’ to us all to share his wisdom with us live-time on the fascinating world of Hymenoptera. He broke down Hymenopteran morphology into a series of diagrams, turning us all into artists before the morning was over! In the afternoon, we were left to determine “is it an insect or a speck of dirt?” as we identified a range of specimens down to the Superfamily level. Never have I seen so much pride in a room as we successfully identified even the smallest of specimens!

Identifying a range of Hymenoptera with Andy Polazsek.

Thursday brought us a day of mystery with the enthralling Amoret Whitaker (@AmoretWhitaker). We learnt all about the applications of entomology in forensics and how important correct species identification really can be. In the labs, we were back to identifying flies but this time focussing on their larval forms. Our day with Amoret really left our skin crawling for more!

Last, but certainly not least, was Coleoptera day with the captivating Max Barclay. Having the last spot on the module Max had a lot to live up to and, my goodness, he certainly succeeded. The day was jam packed with beetle facts including their global economic importance. We learnt why beetles are so well studied, as well as the need for this study to continue! After the lectures, Max joined us for a final lab session equipping us with knowledge on how to best identify beetles. The labs were a mixture of silent with concentration and a-buzz with celebration as we managed to successfully complete our IDs.

Laboratory session looking at Diptera larvae with Amoret Whitaker (@AmoretWhitaker; on left) and Lecture covering all things Coleoptera with Max Barclay (on right).

The Biology and Taxonomy of Insects has been one monumental module and I am sure it will remain one that we Masters students (@EntoMasters) remember for years to come. We have had the honour of meeting, talking to and learning from some incredible people and I hope you have enjoyed this first insight into studying an MSc Entomology course at Harper Adams University (@HarperAdamsUni).

Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming blog posts exploring a few more topics covered in The Biology and Taxonomy of Insects!

– Aimee (@tonks_aimee)

*Well… we covered everything you can possibly cover in the space of only two weeks!

Welcome to the 2020/2021 blog!

Hello everyone and welcome to the 2020/2021 MSc Entomology blog! Firstly, sorry for the delayed introductions. As we all know, 2020 has been a bit of an unusual year so far. We are all taking new steps and precautions to help keep ourselves and each other safe during these uncertain times. So, as you can imagine when starting a new degree course, things have been a little more challenging than usual this year. Nonetheless, here we all are and we are ready to share our MSc journeys with the world! So buckle up, grab a cup of something warm and get ready for the quirky content that comes with studying an MSc Entomology course in 2020!

Firstly, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Aimee and for some reason unknown to me, I have been entrusted with the sacred role of managing this year’s Entomology blog. So, fortunately for you lovely readers (or unfortunately I suppose… can’t win them all!) you will be hearing from me quite a lot over the next 11 months. A bit about me: Well, I am not exactly new to Harper Adams. I completed my undergrad in Wildlife Conservation here before deciding that there is no where I would rather be for my MSc. I have always been interested in pest and disease management, but up until last year I had no idea what kind of careers were possible. The opportunity to study the abundance, distribution and movement of slugs in domestic gardens for my undergraduate project introduced me to the entomology team at Harper. I was lucky enough to work closely with some incredible members of staff, building a project that got me well and truly hooked. From that moment, I knew that this was a group of people that I would love nothing more than to learn from. I am now studying for an MSc in Integrated Pest Management, learning all about insects (but my love for slugs will always pull through!). I have a terrible sense of humour, as I am sure this blog will reveal, and perhaps spend way too much time on Twitter. P.S. be sure to follow the @entomasters for live MSc updates!

Aimee using RFID technology to relocate tagged slugs. (@tonks_aimee)

Anyway, that is enough about me! I am sure you are far more interested to know about the on-goings of the Entomology MSc so far. We have all officially been enrolled, inducted, sanitised and have online checked in to more desks than, before 2020, we ever thought we would. We are settling in and are getting pretty good at playing the ‘can I recognise you behind your mask’ game! Jokes aside, it has been a steep learning curve – but Harper is feeling like one of the safest places to be right now. We have successfully completed the teaching for our first two modules: Research and Information Skills and The Biology and Taxonomy of Insects (blog post to come!). Despite the challenges, we have learnt so much and have achieved in-person learning thanks to the tremendous work of all of the Harper Adams Entomology team. This may be a strange year for us all, but it is clear that the standard of teaching at Harper Adams is unshakable and I look forward to updating you all on our journey.

For now, take care, stay safe and keep your eyes peeled for more student introductions and module posts to come!


Meet another of our awesome Entomasters – Graham Smith alias @Ento_bento

Harper Adams University has a great blog, which they use to highlight what is happening on and around campus.  Recently they highlighted one of us – Graham Smith .

“Pursuing a Masters’ degree is often born of a particular passion that a student wants to explore more in depth than an undergraduate degree can offer. This was true for Graham Smith, who studied biology before deciding to specialise in the world of entomology at Harper.”

To read the full story click here 


Proactive or Reactive?

We find ourselves in crazy times with the current pandemic situation. All lectures and assignments are taking place online, people have moved home, and MRPs are now either postponed or desk-based. Despite this chaos, I’ve found myself with more time on my hands than usual, and have been hitting the podcasts hard…

One episode of The Wooden Spoon resonated with me, and I thought I’d share my subsequent research with you. The podcast outlined the various approaches to work, namely Proactive and Reactive, and it made me stop and think. Since coming to university, I’ve always put as much effort in as possible to get the top grades, achieving one of four First Class Honours degrees that year in Bioveterinary Science. I achieved 73%, got onto my Masters course, and was over the moon. I would always describe myself as a busy and productive person And probably would have continued this year in much the same way had I not stopped to think about this. Despite my hours of work, days on end revising or writing assignments, the 16 months it took me to complete my honours research project; it was all REACTIVE.


One of the photos that didn’t make it to the grandaparents’ wall…

Reactive learning is the norm, we get set work by teachers or lecturers, we do the work, submit it and largely forget about it. Or we study for an exam, and the day it’s over put our work to the back of the pile. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s how we were mostly taught. I always describe myself as a busy person, with training and competing for my university rowing and polo teams as well as a full commitment to a bird of prey and trying to achieve good grades, get 9 hours of sleep and be social. However, after podcasts and this video I realised perhaps there’s more to the learning than I currently do.

Now, I searched for a definition of proactive working that I could coherently explain in a small blog post, and this is the closest I could find: Proactive tasks are aligned with your long term-goals, and have a strong long-term benefit. These may not directly relate to academic or other work. In short, proactive work is that for bettering yourself, for your life and not just for the immediate future. Of course in my current state, reactive work is important to get a degree. But also, if I could put aside some time for something which doesn’t relate to my degree, which would benefit my life in some way for the future, that is proactive working. With the current lockdown situation, I’ve settled on spending more time outside photographing insects in my local area, and teaching myself to code. I highly recommend the podcast and video I’ve linked, and perhaps a wider search for something that explains it to you better than I’ve managed in this word-vomit blog post. But hey, even this is proactive working! To conclude, the weirdest quote I found in my whole trawl of podcasts, videos, and literature about the subject:

“If you feel like a rudderless boat which is in chaotic motion without you taking charge at the helm, remind yourself that you can take the helm and can be the captain of your ship.”

(More entomology blog posts coming soon I promise…)


Trips, thrips, and spills

Okay so not so many spills (even after some wine at the RES yesterday), and no thrips… basically this is a post about the fabulous trips we’ve been on recently and I wanted an insect pun in the title.

Back in February we were treated to a day at the Natural History Museum in London, and had a fabulous day of ‘behind the scenes’ tours led by Erica McAlister. We learned so much about the collections and the value of having museum specimens, we heard about the science and research happening and even saw specimens collected by Darwin and Wallace!


The EntoMasters and IMP cohort plus some lovely undergrads- photo credit Heather Campbell

We then had some very busy lecture weeks with lots of group work to keep us out of trouble, but more importantly on Monday 9th March we were bundled back on an early morning coach to head to the headquarters of the Royal Entomological Society for some talks, staring at lovely old books, and a walk in their gardens. We spent much of the time trying to photograph the weevils in the garden and helped a B. terrestris on her way.

Perhaps I should include some lecture work (and somehow link it to thrips as the title says…). Since Christmas we’ve had Pesticide Technology, Biodiversity and Ecosystem services (this is how our farm trip ended), and Ecological Entomology, which rounds up the modules for the year and leaves us with assignments to write, exams to prepare for, and MRPs to plan. Exciting! We also handed in assignments for Insect Physiology and Behaviour, and Commercial and Practical Biological Control (where we learned about Thrips!! See, knew I’d find a way to mention it and validate the title!).

I have a few more posts lined up about exciting MRPs and the results of the RES Student Essay competition (we’ll have to wait until Antenna is published to read them though!) but importantly, I’ll be spending the next 2 weeks with my head in my revision notes prepping for the exams.


The EntoMasters cohort, lecturers, and one sneaky undergrad! (Simon tweeted this photo but I don’t remember who took it!)