Invertebrate Biodiversity and Population Monitoring Methods


About the course

This part-time tutored online course offers expert-led training in invertebrate surveying techniques from planning and preparations through to sampling strategies, surveying methods and reporting. The course aims to create a rich workshop experience, encouraging direct student and tutor interaction and discussion.

You will receive highly practical expert training, helping you to

  • develop interception and responsive trapping techniques
  • explore identification and taxonomic considerations
  • build your understanding of habitat description and evaluation, managing specimens
  • interpret and report invertebrate survey data

Who the course is for

Professional ecological consultants, environmental managers and rangers, research and postgraduate students, and volunteers.  The techniques covered are universal, and we use international case studies and examples.

Flexible online learning

Students typically study on this course alongside their work.

You can take this online course from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.  You can log on at any time of the day and access our specially designed course materials, e-learning resources and tutor-led discussion forums. You will have access to the Bodleian Libraries’ online, which provides an excellent range of e-books and e-journals, enabling you to conduct your research and reading in your own time.

Chartered status

The course can help you to apply for Chartered Status (such as Chartered Environmentalist and Chartered Ecologist), and to meet relevant professional competency thresholds. Further information can be found in our Chartered status and essential skills guide.

Programme details

Topics covered

  • Rationale and practicalities of invertebrate surveys: Why survey invertebrates?; practicalities of invertebrate surveys; types of survey
  • Before starting - planning and preparation: Preparing for an invertebrate survey; a wider context for your survey
  • Field methods 1 - active methods: Targeted searching; extractive sampling from habitats
  • Field methods 2 - interception trapping: Interception trapping – principles; flight interception trapping; pitfall trapping
  • Field methods 3 - responsive trapping: Water, pan or frisbee traps; light trapping; baited trapping
  • Sorting, identification and taxonomic considerations: Initial sorting of samples; identification and naming
  • Sampling strategies: Sampling versus searching?; Location and number of samples
  • Invertebrate habitat description and evaluation: Introduction to invertebrate habitat features; identifying microhabitats; measuring and recording heterogeneity
  • Invertebrate survey for monitoring: Introduction to monitoring invertebrates; single species survey and monitoring; monitoring assemblages
  • data and specimens - what to do with them; survey results - interpreting; writing up and reporting

Teaching methods

Your course tutor will guide you through a series of key topics via reading materials, online activities, and discussion forums. Discussion forums are the primary space where students are able to interact with one another and their tutor to discuss questions, solve problems and share ideas just as they would expect to do in a face-to-face classroom setting.

Level and demands

The course is designed for Master’s-level students, and you are likely to be studying alongside students on our Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques.

You can expect

  • to engage with and contribute to the course around ten to 15 hours per week (depending on whether it is taken for credit or not).
  • your course tutor will engage online for no less than six hours per week (usually distributed across each week and will focus on particular topics and activities).
  • topics to be covered following a suggested calendar of activity (so that activities, discussion and reading are completed within the course week duration, and at an even pace).
  • the course can be taken with or without Masters-level credit. Credit enables students to demonstrate their academic achievement and can count towards further postgraduate study.


You can choose to study for academic credit or simply for the learning experience.

Accredited study

Students taking the course for credit submit an assignment of up to 2000 words or equivalent. The assignment is a written plan of an ecological survey of a named site. 

We offer Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. By contributing to all the forums and successfully completing the assessment you will obtain 10 CATS-equivalent points (FHEQ level 7) which may count towards a Masters-level qualification. You will also receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

For information on CATS points and credit transfer, including conversion to US academic credits and European academic credits (ECTS), please visit our CATS Points FAQ page.

Non-accredited study

Students taking the course not for credit do not submit an assignment.

By actively participating in at least one online course forum post per week, to the satisfaction of the course tutor, and successfully completing the course, you will receive a University of Oxford Certificate of Attendance.

Certificate of Attendance

You may receive a Certificate of Attendance whether you opt for accredited or non-accredited study (provided that you have met the requirements stated above).


Description Costs
Accredited study £1170.00
Non-accredited study £740.00
Student Rate £520.00


Dr Liam Crowley


Dr Liam Crowley is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biology, University of Oxford. He is currently working on the Darwin Tree of Life project, an ambitious project aiming to sequence the full genome of every Eukaryotic species in Britain and Ireland. This work is based at Wytham Woods and involves a detailed sampling programme there as well as at sites across Britain. Liam is an Entomologist specialising in insect identification, taxonomy, ecology and evolution. His research interests are primarily focused on biodiversity monitoring and the impact of climate change on insects. He has recorded over 2000 species of arthropod in the UK and currently sits on councils and committees for the Royal Entomological Society, The British Entomological and Natural History Society and the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society.

Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Course Director

Thomas is a zoologist who has studied spiders, insects and worms for more than 15 years in both temperate and tropical climates. In addition to his teaching for the Department for Continuing Education, he is a lecturer in biological sciences at St. Anne's College.


Application/registration processing will close 6 weeks before the start of the course. Please contact with any related questions.

Apply to take the course not for academic credit

If you do not wish to take this course for academic credit you will need to register using the ‘Book now’ button under course details.

Apply to take the course for academic credit

If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include a copy of your CV as an attachment.

You will also need to complete the reference section of the application form, and input the email address of your referee. Upon successfully submitting the application an email will be sent to your referee asking them to provide a reference in support your application for the course.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course for academic credit.

Online application form

Selection criteria

All candidates will need to:

  1. Hold a minimum qualification equivalent to a first Honours Degree (BA, BSc, etc). Non-graduates may be considered if they are able to demonstrate considerable experience in a relevant field. If in doubt, please email;
  2. Offer some first-hand knowledge and/or experience of field work or conservation issues;
  3. Satisfy the minimum required English language criteria set by the University, being either a native English speaker, or able to offer test results as specified. Applicants with borderline scores may be accepted on condition that they attend a language course and gain an acceptable score;
  4. Demonstrate an ability to be able to commit the necessary time to study;
  5. Have good access to a computer and a fast/reliable internet connection;
  6. Demonstrate an ability to work alongside fellow students and tutors as part of an online community and independently.

Apply to take the course at the discounted student rate

If you are applying to take this course at the discounted student rate, you will need to click on the link below and complete the online application form and include evidence that you are a current student. This could be either your student ID card (with the name of the institution and end date) or a letter or reference from your institution.

Please only complete this form if you wish to take the course at the discounted student rate.

Please contact with any related questions.

Online application form

IT requirements

This course is delivered online and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system (for the course assignment). In order to meet course requirements, students will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.