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Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2000

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

»зучение лесных беспозвоночных (часть 1: подстилка, древесина)In this manual we have included a description of the structure and sequence for this field study activity, determining the main characteristics of invertebrate populations in different habitats and environments and a description of techniques for collection and census of invertebrates within the forest litter and wood.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


This study of forest invertebrates is primarily concerned with two objectives: revealing patterns of invertebrate community structures (content) and collection techniques (skills). Recently the strategy of invertebrate collections (especially insects) has been criticized due to conservation issues and nature protection. In particular, this applies to people (many of them children) who are fond of nature, collecting butterflies. One way to limit invertebrate collecting is to study insect populations using specific scientific techniques.

The study of diversity of species and numbers of animals is one of the main objectives of ecological investigations. We consider the size of the population (numbers of organisms) to be the most important characteristic of the species in a given community. A number of other ecological indicators can be analyzed on the basis of numbers of organisms, including the temporal and spatial diversity of faunas, since their level is often regarded as an indicator of the state of an ecosystem.

The aim of this first forest invertebrate activity is the study of the main characteristics of invertebrate populations in different habitats and environments, and it is devoted to the study of forest litter and wood. The second activity is devoted to insects found in the grass layer and tree crowns as well as flying insects.

Some ethical considerations

Identification of species is an essential part of all zoological studies. At the same time it is often quite difficult to accurately identify living subjects. In the case of invertebrate organisms, it is necessary to analyze small moving parts such as number of segments, hair, peculiarities of genital structure and location of ribs on wings, etc.)

Unfortunately, when researchers conduct serious scientific studies, animals are sometimes killed. Moreover, it is often essential to carry out multiple collections of several specimens representing the same taxon or sex. This is necessary in order to accurately determine the species, as the main diagnostic parameters are often subject to significant variability. Multiple collections are necessary as well when conducting a number of specific ecological studies: study of population dynamics and density of insect populations, influence of environmental factors on the morphological features of individualТs structure, in assessment of biotopic or substrate diversity of species, etc.

According to the Law of the Russian Federation УOn protection and conservation of faunaФ (Article 42) collection and Уreplenishment of zoological collections, which are found in personal property of citizens Е is prohibited, excepting collections, which consist of hunting or fishing trophiesЕФ.

Thus, at least in Russia, all zoological materials that are collected by students in order to be stored at home or at school fall under this jurisdiction and are considered illegal. Withdrawal of animals from nature is allowed only for specialized scientific research establishments and public associations, which can ensure correct collection and storage of zoological objects.

When performing educational research work with students, they should be limited to methods of vital studies of invertebrates, ideally, without catching animals. If catching of organisms is necessary for a specific study, then it is essential to comply with the following rules:

Do not kill animals if it is not necessary;

Do not take organisms outside of the habitats in which they have been caught. If they are taken outside the boundaries of the habitat, they should be returned later;

Leave the sample site undamaged (put the upturned litter back, as well as stones, logs, boards, etc.).

General procedures for collection and census of invertebrates

While carrying out this activity, students will have to deal with catching and censusing of invertebrates. There is a specific technique for each ecological group of invertebrates and, correspondingly, for each of their habitats.

However, not every technique for collecting is a technique for censusing. There are several procedures for collection, which cannot be used for determination of the density of invertebrate populations, - i.e. for estimation of a number of specimens per unit area or unit of habitat volume. So, techniques of invertebrate collection such as catching insects using food as bait or catching migrating animals are not techniques of censusing. At best, some techniques for...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write to in a free form.

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple УEyeФ Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of BirdsТ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on LeavesТ Asymmetry

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© Ёкологический центр "Ёкосистема"Щ, ј.—. Ѕоголюбов / © Field Ecology Center "Ecosystem"Щ, Alexander Bogolyubov, 2001-2017