When Dr. Derek Rosenberger was hired to Olivet’s biology department, he realized that the school hadn’t done an insect collection since the 1940s—a fact that bugged him.
Rosenberger’s class assignments in his invertebrate zoology class include updating the Olivet’s campus insect collection and the butterfly and bumblebee collection for the Kankakee Park District.
“He is a great teacher, I love his teaching methods … I enjoy his hands on approach,” senior Kassey Trahanas said.
The students’ first assignment is to collect 30 different species from the area by the end of October. These insects will then be added to the university’s collection. The students are simultaneously creating either a butterfly or bumblebee collection, depending on which they were assigned, for the use of the Park District.
Nets in hand, students have been searching for bugs all over campus, Perry Farm and Willohaven Nature Center.
After catching insects, students place them in a jar, commonly referred to as the “kill jar,” filled with ethyl acetate ending the bug’s life. They then identify the specimen’s species and add it to the collection. Their collection displays the insects in neat rows, pinned down at different sections of the insects body, with a tag showing when the bug was caught and its species.
Concerning the bumblebee and butterfly collections, students were assigned groups and each group was responsible for doing either a survey of the different species or creating a collection to be used by the Park District.
Those groups assigned to the butterflies only caught those that could be found at Willowhaven Nature Center. Those assigned to the bumblebees could catch them at both Willowhaven and Perry Farms. All of the information the students gather about the diversity and concentration of species in the area will aid the Park District in further developing Willohaven.
The liaison for the park district and manager of Willohaven, Nicole Jenkins, is working with Rosenberger as the students go about their projects. She is waiting in great anticipation for the collection to come in, and what the students’ studies will reveal, especially about Willohavens insect species.
“Sixty of the 120 acres of [Willohaven] is undeveloped agriculture,” Jenkins said. “As we develop the park into a more natural area [we want to know] what will happen to our insect population.”
Jenkins is on track to have major construction on Willohaven into a “true nature center,” by Oct. 2017. Jenkins goal of remodeling and adding to Willohaven will depend on the information students’ collections provide. The students themselves are excited by the fact that they are not only learning, but also contributing to something that will heavily impact the community for generations to come.
“We aren’t just conducting research for our own benefit, but Willowhaven Nature Center will be able to use our study as a base of the diversity of insects in their nature preserve,” junior Emily McCann said.
Rosenberger feels strongly that Olivet needs to be a resource for the community, and this class is one of the ways he sees them contributing. “[Willowhaven needs to know] How many different kinds of species are here, what are the abundance of these species, because … by having it they have a baseline. If they want to increase the quality of this park, they know which plants to have to draw certain insects in.” Rosenberger said.
— Jeremy McGrath, Contributing Writer