This course will explore techniques involved in collecting, preserving and identifying terrestrial insects, plus the importance of biological recording for ecology and conservation.

In the UK alone, there are an estimated 30,000 terrestrial invertebrates. They are vital to the economic health of our country, as they are crucial for soil health, food production, waste decomposition, flood mitigation and pollination. However, despite their importance and diversity, many people have a superficial understanding of the morphological features that define different invertebrate groups. Additionally, their small size allows them to exploit specific microhabitats within the environment, which should be a major consideration when planning any data collection or biological recording. Furthermore, individual species can be active at different times throughout the year and progress through various forms (as larvae, nymphs, and adults). As a result, they can occupy distinct microhabitats throughout their life cycle.

This course will cover the various terrestrial invertebrate sampling techniques used in the field, in addition to their preservation, identification and their environmental importance. Key features for discrimination are identified, using a range of core texts and methods. The course will give an understanding of the importance of these species for conservation, ecology and recording. All these major topics will be carried out through a combination of theory, laboratory sessions and practical fieldwork.

Equipment for field surveys will be provided, in addition to identification keys and microscopes.

Your course takes place on a 12-hectare estate, surrounded by a rich range of habitats, including the River Severn and semi-ancient woodland, set in the heart of Shropshire with views disappearing into Wales.

PLEASE NOTE the course fee is for tuition only. If you would like to book accommodation and meals, including packed lunches, at FSC Preston Montford please email [email protected] . Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Who Should Attend?

Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some knowledge of the subject.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

What will be covered during this course?

The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions and practical field work.

  • Theory – This will cover the major groups of terrestrial invertebrates, their diversity, and the range of habitats they occupy. Additionally, their importance to ecosystems and relevance to conservation will be discussed, alongside biological recording.
  • Survey Methods – Theory and practical work will cover survey design and get hands-on experience undertaking different methods. Several techniques will be carried out as invertebrates occupy a vast range of microhabitats that can alter throughout the year depending on the species and its life stage.
  • Collection and Preservation – There will be guidance and participation about how to preserve the specimens collected. There are set methods used to preserve different invertebrates, alongside critical collection data that should be recorded with each specimen.
  • Invertebrate Identification – Information on the crucial identification keys and literature will be shared, plus the specific body parts and features used for invertebrate identification. There will be plenty of time to practice identification using microscopes.
  • Interpreting Results – The tutor will guide you through collecting data effectively and interpreting the results to be as valid and useable as possible.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify invertebrate specimens to an appropriate level using standard texts and keys, and justify these identifications with reference to ecology, diagnostic features and other key factors.
  • Justify and detail the use of appropriate methods for sampling invertebrates in particular habitats or for specific groups.


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). Email: [email protected]

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will design a small survey to collect a number of terrestrial invertebrate specimens, each of a different species. The should form a logical group: for example, all five could be taxonomically related, OR look superficially similar (e.g. bumblebees and bumblebee hoverfly mimics), OR could all be from the same habitat or microhabitat. You should justify how you chose your group of species, and what sampling methods you used to collect them. Prepare voucher sheets for each of the species with appropriate information and layout. Give the diagnostic features or ecological factors you used in identification and to distinguish the species from others. (2000 words)

Tutor: Peter Boardman

Pete first got into flies after volunteering with Liverpool Museum’s entomological department in the early 1990s, with support from Tom Mawdsley and Richard Underwood. He ‘discovered’ craneflies when county moth recorder for Shropshire and chose them as a dissertation subject for his MSc in the mid 2000s. Following this he committed to the group and immediately worked on a Shropshire distribution atlas (2007) and a second improved version with keys in 2016. 

In 2018 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship which enabled him to spend a month at the Smithsonian Institution collections in Washington DC studying the Charles Alexander collection. This enabled him to later name 23 new species to science from Cameroon. 

He currently is national cranefly recorder for the Cranefly Recording Scheme supporting John Kramer and Alan Stubbs. 

  • Invertebrate on a leaf

Covid Measures

In order to keep our customers and staff safe, we ask that anyone attending our centres:

  • Wears a face covering when in shared indoor space (unless exempt).
  • Maintains social distancing.
  • Cleans their hands regularly.
  • Takes a Covid-19 test before they arrive.

Book with Confidence

We understand the difficulties of making plans in the current situation when guidelines continue to change, and insurance conditions are being tightened. In response, we will continue to offer additional flexibility. Find out more here

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.

If you have booked accommodation and meals with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.

If numbers are sufficient a station pick up will be arranged at 5.30 pm from Shrewsbury Station.

The evening meal is at 6.30 pm (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm

The course ends at 4.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

Friday evening 7.30 pm: We begin with an illustrated lecture exploring the enormous diversity of invertebrate species, and discuss the Assignment (Assessment only compulsory for MMU students).

Saturday: we will discuss the different types of invertebrate survey and the basic information to be collected in all surveys before venturing into the Field Centre’s ground to look at some methods of collecting invertebrates. After lunch we will look at some of the invertebrates you have collected and learn how to go about identifying them. In the evening there will be a lecture describing the different techniques that can be used to find and sample invertebrates.

Sunday: A field visit to a local site will allow you to practice collecting techniques suited to each type of habitat and give you an appreciation of the microsites that invertebrates inhabit. This visit will be followed by a laboratory workshop enabling you to practice the preparation of voucher specimens and the identification of your samples. This will require the killing of specimens. In the evening you will be given an overview of methods for interpreting the lists of species collected during invertebrate surveys.

Monday: Provides an opportunity for further fieldwork or to spend more time in the laboratory identifying the invertebrates you have already captured. There will also be time to test your skills by attempting to identify some pre-prepared specimens from the Preston Montford insect collection.

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the FSC is renowned
  • Clear objectives and progression

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing an FSC course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

PLEASE NOTE: the course fee is for tuition and refreshments only. If you would like to book accommodation and meals, including packed lunches, at FSC Preston Montford please email [email protected] . Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What to Bring

  • A hand lens is essential, ideally at x10 magnification.
  • Warm waterproof clothing and footwear.
  • A field notebook and pencil.
  • Any personal collecting equipment you may have.
  • A sandwich box, flask and/or water bottle and a bag to carry your kit.
  • If you have a smart phone please download the iRecord app.

Recommended Reading

There are many books dealing with specific invertebrate groups. The books listed below are broader in scope and hence most relevant to the beginner. The references given in the AIDGAP key by Steve Tilling are a good introduction to the specialist literature for specific groups.

  • Barnard, P Royal Entomological Society Book of British Insects; RES
  • Chinery, M Collins Pocket Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe, Harper Collins
  • Chinery, M Collins Complete British Insects, Harper Collins
  • Drake, M. et al Surveying terrestrial and freshwater invertebrates for Conservation evaluation, Natural England NERR005 (available as a free download from Natural England).
  • Tilling, S M A key to the major groups of British Terrestrial Invertebrates, Field Studies Council
  • Wheater, C P & Read, H J Richmond Publishing Co Animals under logs and stones: Naturalists’ Handbooks 22