Entomology is a branch of zoology that only studies insects. The field of entomology often interacts with a wide range of scientific activities, ranging from ecology to biochemistry to anthropology to developmental biology.
Entomologists are scientists who study insects and how they interact with other species, humans and the environment. The scientific classification of an insect is an animal that has segmented body parts. There are over one million identified species with most entomologists estimating there to be an additional six to eight more unidentified species. There are actually many sub-branches of this fascinating field of zoology.
There is insect ecology, which studies only insects and their relationships with their environment, and insect morphology, which studies insect body parts and functions. Insect pathology focuses on how insect sicknesses become disease agents. Insect toxicology analyzes how chemicals and insecticides affect insect physiological functions in order to improve pest management and agricultural production. Medical entomologists study how to prevent insects from harming humans, so most study fatal diseases such as dengue and malaria.
In order to work as entomological experts, individuals will need advanced training that translates to a master’s or doctorate degree. Many schools offer specializations in forensics or science. These programs will provide basic ecological backgrounds and illustrate them through real-world scenarios and applied interpretations. These programs emphasize how insect populations and their impacted ecosystem communities influence landscape structure and human functioning.
Advanced classes, like insect biotechnology, explore the complex applications of genetic engineering and insects. Lab work will teach participants about cloning theories, gene manipulation techniques and human agriculture practices. Forensic entomology-driven classes will explore the scientific methods and technologies that are employed by law enforcement agencies to gather and preserve information about insects that may be used in courts of law as evidence. Most people are aware that police procedural television shows often depict forensic scientists analyzing insects found at crime scenes.
Common Careers as an Entomologist
Most entomologists are academic researchers employed by universities, research centers, government agencies and agricultural organizations. An entomologist who works for the Department of Forestry or Agriculture will coordinate programs designed to detect, evaluate, prevent and suppress target insects. They will exercise scientific judgment to create and conduct special evaluations to gain insight into things like insect biology, ecological relationships and new control techniques.
Research entomologists who work in labs will prepare plans that meet technical objectives, supervise support staff members and oversee the processing of field data and specimens. They will review data results, consult with other scientists and makes recommendations to leaders. They must translate technical findings into layman’s terms and actionable conclusions. Those who work in the field may be assigned to provide technical assistance to government land managers, or as agricultural scientists who assist farmers struggling with invasive species.
A specialized career as forensic entomologists awaits students who want to apply scientific research and principles to law enforcement investigations. Students should note that these entomology experts are Ph.D. holders who teach in universities and consult with law enforcement agencies as needed.