Bugged-off students down their insect nets

July 16, 2004

Biology students at a Swedish university are refusing to kill insects on ethical grounds.

They argue that the university should encourage future ecologists to show more respect for nature.

Maria Grankvist, an undergraduate at Linkoping University, said: "We're expected to go out with nets and kill insects. Then we categorise them according to species. The trouble is it works only with fully grown insects so that many young specimens are thrown away."

The students maintain that they should only have to categorise insects, not collect and kill them.

"It's about respecting the environment," said Ms Grankvist, who, along with two other students, is refusing to do the assignment.

Ms Grankvist and her fellow students have suggested that the university should place more emphasis on observing, identifying and studying living creatures within their natural habitat.

Jan Landin, a senior lecturer at Linkoping who specialises in ecological microbiology, saidhe understood the students' position, but said: "The problem is that it would require more teaching resources than we've got.

Since the 1990s, our funding has shrunk by 50 per cent per student."

Dr Landin said that if students did not have experience of collecting insects, they would struggle with insect inventories at a later stage of their training.

But if changes are not made, students may well decide to study elsewhere.

At Stockholm University, for example, biology students are not required to collect insects.

Bengt Karlsson, director of studies at the department of zoology, said: "In recent years we've allowed students to elect not to take this component on ethical grounds."

At Linkoping, the message seems to be getting through. "We're delighted that students are actively involved in curriculum issues," said Annalena Kindgren, a spokesperson for the faculty of science.

"We'll be looking at the possibility of making changes to this part of the curriculum."

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