cod. 1011607

Academic year 2023/24
2° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Zoologia (BIO/05)
A scelta dello studente
Type of training activity
Student's choice
36 hours
of face-to-face activities
3 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

The course aims to provide theoretical and practical knowledge about the biodiversity and ecology of invertebrates, with a particular focus on insects, in order to equip students with the basic competencies necessary for the development of appropriate conservation plans for their populations and the associated ecosystem services, both in natural and human-altered environments. There will also be a critical analysis of the disservices resulting from the actions of invertebrate fauna and potential eco-friendly methods for their control. To achieve this goal, the 2 credits of classroom lectures aim to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the fundamental knowledge about the biology, ecology, and adaptations of major taxa. Knowledge related to the impact and role of these animals in Mediterranean habitats and the ecosystem services provided to the environment and humans will also be conveyed. Finally, aspects related to their conservation will be addressed, including discussion of the main national and international directives for their protection, case studies, and possible projects for safeguarding and restoration in impacted environments. Field trips and classroom exercises will be aimed at developing the skills necessary to design an experimental data collection plan based on experimental questions related to the conservation needs of biodiversity and associated services.

At the end of the course, students will have acquired the following knowledge and skills:
- A knowledge of the biological and ecological characteristics of major groups of invertebrates, with particular attention to those threatened with extinction.
- The role of invertebrates in ecosystems and their value. Understanding of the main threats to invertebrates.
- Knowledge of the principles of animal conservation applied to invertebrates.
- Ability to plan and implement conservation projects for invertebrate species.
- Ability to apply different monitoring techniques and the use of new technologies in the field.
- Ability to apply acquired knowledge in various fields of study and work, especially in the context of animal biodiversity conservation and environmental management.
- Autonomy of judgment, enhanced by encouraging students to contribute with personal insights and considerations during the course.
- Ability to retrieve data from appropriate sources, process information, and communicate their specific knowledge clearly and sufficiently in-depth, providing concrete examples to support theories or general concepts.


Basic concepts of Zoology and Ecology

Course unit content

It is globally recognized that human activities are causing a rapid decline in levels of animal and plant biodiversity, at alarming rates, despite this biodiversity paradoxically representing the foundation of essential ecosystem services for human survival. In the animal kingdom, most of the information we have about past and present trends in biodiversity variation and the effects it can have on ecosystems is based on charismatic species, primarily vertebrates. However, out of 32 animal phyla, 31 are composed of invertebrates, encompassing approximately 95% of known animal species. Evolution has not only produced astonishing taxonomic diversity but also morphological and functional diversity that has led invertebrates to colonize the majority of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments, playing a fundamental role in the dynamics of all the ecosystems they inhabit. Invertebrates are also responsible for ecosystem services that form the basis of human survival, making the conservation of these animals one of the top priorities for future scientific research and government policies worldwide.
Given the crucial importance of these issues, both in relation to European and global policies and calls for intervention, this course aims to introduce students to invertebrate biodiversity with a particular focus on insects, which, with approximately 1 million species, constitute the largest fraction. The course will also explore their functional roles in ecosystem dynamics and the actions necessary for their management and conservation. By the end of the course, students will: i) have acquired fundamental information about the biology and ecology of major invertebrate fauna taxa, their distinctive functional aspects, and the primary ecosystem services they provide; ii) be familiar with the main threats to their conservation and will be able to critically analyze and identify anthropogenic factors (current and potential) detrimental to the maintenance and stability of their populations; iii) know how to design an experimental data collection plan focused on monitoring invertebrate fauna biodiversity and the environmental factors impacting it, as well as the management and/or restoration of habitats favorable to them.

Full programme

During the first class, information about the programm, the aims of the Course and the examination methods (oral examination) will be provided. Information on the teaching materials available for the students as well as a list of suggested text books will be provided.
The following topics will be covered with a particular focus on terrestrial arthropods and, in particular, insects:

- Introduction to the morphological and functional biodiversity of invertebrates, ecology, and adaptations to different environments, with a special emphasis on the Mediterranean area.

- Relationships and coevolution between invertebrates and other components of biocenoses, especially plants. The ecological, economic, and conservation importance of these relationships.

- Ecosystem services and disservices mediated by invertebrates. The role of anthropogenic impact in balancing the relationship between services and disservices. Enhancement of invertebrate fauna.

- Invertebrates as monitoring tools and bioindicators of environmental quality.

- The decline of invertebrates: causes, consequences, and possible solutions. The need for their protection and conservation.

- Endangered species and an overview of European directives for their protection.

- Invasive species: management, and case studies.

- Habitat management for invertebrate conservation: basic principles and analysis of case studies in different environments.

During these field activity, monitoring activities will be planned and carried out using various sampling techniques, with a particular focus on new technologies such as photo/video traps, thermal cameras, rovers, and drones applied to invertebrate monitoring. Data collected will then be analyzed based on experimental questions identified within the context of biodiversity conservation and/or restoration needs in the studied environments.


Kirby P. (2013) Habitat Management for Invertebrates. Pelagic Publishing.

New, T. (2005). Invertebrate Conservation and Agricultural Ecosystems (Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Samways M.J. (2010). Insect Diversity Conservation. Cambridge University Press

Educational materials (slides, scientific articles, and links to relevant websites) will be made available to students on the Elly portal and may be periodically updated throughout the course

Teaching methods

The educational activities will be conducted, favoring an active learning approach alternating with frontal lectures. During practical activities in the field, students will have the opportunity to learn through direct experience the use of sampling methods and different types of monitoring tools such as drones, rovers, and detection sensors.

The slides used to support the lectures will be uploaded on the Elly platform on a weekly basis. To download the slides, it is necessary to enroll in the online course.

The slides do not replace the course or textbooks but are considered an integral part of the educational material. Attendees and non-attendees are reminded to check the available educational material and other indications provided by the instructor through the Elly platform.

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination aimed to verify the capacity by student to discuss about the topics covered in the course will be discussed, including the analysis of case studies and field-collected data; followed by a grading on a thirty-point scale (Grade: 0-30), which will be communicated to the student immediately after the test. The examination is considered passed with a grade equal to or higher than 18.

Other information

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