September 2017 – Insect Identification Course in Sumatra, Indonesia

A blog post by BEFTA Programme and Insect Ecology Group postdoc Amy Eycott. Also posted at

We ran an insect identification and curation course!

This August, Insect Ecology Group members Ed Turner, Amy Eycott, Sarah Luke and Amelia Hood, and Eleanor Slade, from the University of Oxford, ran an insect identification course titled “An Introduction to Insects”. We ran the five-day course in Sumatra, Indonesia, with our collaborators at SMART Research Institute. There were eighteen participants, from SMARTRI, the Center for Natural Resources Conservation, and the State Quarantine in Riau. We started by looking at the insect orders, then more closely at dung beetles and ants, which are both really important groups for ecosystem function in oil palm plantations. Eleanor Slade explained just how the world would look without dung beetles (clue: not pleasant….). Then Millie Hood talked about the diversity and importance of ants, which are the subject of her PhD research. We also demonstrated sampling methods: pitfall traps, bowl traps to attract pollinators, beating (the palms not the insects!), soil searching, transect walks, and the use of baits for ants and for dung beetles. Everyone on the course had a go at learning to pin a specimen and at pointing, which is mounting an insect on a tiny piece of card when it is too small for pinning. It was great fun and everyone learned something, even the teachers. We hope to do more of this capacity-building work in the future.

Millie helping with ant identifications.

Amy demonstrating the beating technique for sampling insects on palm fronds.


A group photo of everyone involved in the course.

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