Credit: 3 graduate 
Instructor(s): John Townsend-Mehler


Course Description

The course covers the physiological, population, and community ecology of insects and related invertebrates. Specific topics include insect size, scaling, and ecological consequences, the Influence of biotic and abiotic factors on insect population and community dynamics, seasonal adaptations, dispersion, life table analysis, r- and k-selection, ecological methods, and insect-plant interactions. Case studies include examples based on the professional and research interests of students. Course activities include discussions, textbook and literature readings, written assignments, and exams. 

Meeting Place and Times

Participants log in to the course at a time of day that best fits their schedule. It is necessary to connect at least 4 - 6 times per week and spend 8 - 10 hours per week while the course is in session, either online or offline working on course related assignments, to stay current and successfully complete this 3 credit graduate course.


John Townsend-Mehler.

Dr. Townsend-Mehler earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Montana State University in 2001, and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Zoology and Evolutionary Biology from Michigan State University in 2010, with a specialization in Cognitive Science. His research interests include both foraging behavior and decision-making in social insects as well as science education (in humans). He began developing and teaching online courses in 2011.


A Bachelors degree, courses in general biology and general ecology. An introductory course in entomology is very helpful, but is not a prerequisite.

Target Audience

Federal agency employees, agricultural professionals, environmental consulting firm employees, environmental law professionals, non-governmental organization employees, high school science teachers, and others interested in entomology and environmental science.

Time Commitment:

8-10 hours per week. If you are unfamiliar with this field of study and/or method of delivery, you may require more time.


Tuition and Fees

See the Online Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid page.

If you are also taking a face-to-face course, please refer to the MSU Fee Schedules.

Required Books/Materials

  • Insect Ecology: Behavior, Populations, and Communities
    Author(s): Peter W. Price; Robert F. Denno; Micky D. Eubanks; Deborah L. Finke; Ian Kaplan
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press, 2011 
    Hardcover ISBN: 9780521834889
    Paperback ISBN: 9780521542609
    Price at Amazon new: $73 Hardcover; $58 Paperback
  • Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects
    Author: Robert Shaw
    Publisher:  University of Chicago Press
    ISBN 10:  022632575X
    ISBN-13:  978-0226325750
    Paperback $17.00

Computer Requirements:

  • Internet access
  • A device and browser that pass the system check for Brightspace LE, MSU's learning management system.

This course uses a learning management system. You will learn more closer to the course start date.

For More Information

Marni Rolston 

How to Register

You must be accepted as a student to Montana State University to take this course.

Learn how to apply.

After your application has been accepted, you will register via MSU's online registration system, MyInfo.

Registration requires a PIN number. Learn how to find your PIN.

Once you have your PIN, learn how to register through MyInfo.