A bug's life: a critical introduction to the importance of human-insect interactions

School's in for summer with a new, free online course from UAlberta: Bugs 101.

Jennifer Pascoe - 04 July 2019

As temperatures rise on another Canadian summer, many of us are already battling pesky bugs like mosquitoes and wasps. Beyond just being a general nuisance, some insect species, such as pine beetles, can wreak havoc and destruction on our forests while other pests affect agricultural and horticultural resources.

So instead of just letting the bugs bug you, what if you explored why insects matter?

This summer, the University of Alberta will launch Bugs 101, a MOOC that explores entomology to better inform citizens about human-insect interactions in the context of climate change and global biodiversity. The course is free to anyone anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

"We hope that learners will come away with a better understanding of the vast diversity of insect life and the importance of insects to many aspects of human society," said Maya Evenden, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and lead on Bugs 101.

"Insect-human interactions are likely to become even more important with a changing planet. Insects are particularly sensitive to environmental change, especially changes in temperature. Climate change will change the distributions of insects on the planet and how they interact with people. Population and biodiversity decline of insects has been a hot topic in recent media reports, and the underlying drivers of this include human actions that affect insects directly- such as pesticide use-or indirectly- like habitat modification and invasive species."

Featuring subject matter experts and a number of prominent entomologists from Western Canada, the course not only engages learners interactively, it also takes learners of all ages on virtual visits across the province, from honeybee farms to forensic investigations.

Bugs 101 is available for free on the Coursera platform. The course will also be available for credit to undergraduate students at the University of Alberta starting this fall as ENT 101.