Learn about the process of conducting fieldwork through and interview with Dr. Anneke Veenstra and a case study of recent macro-invertebrate research (and checkout the suggested learning tasks at the bottom of the page).

Video Guide

Part 1 - Introduction

An introduction to Deakin University biological scientist Dr Anneke Veenstra is followed by a description of her research work in the invertebrate ecology; specifically, that of the Gardiner’s Creek Reserve in Burwood, Victoria, Australia. Google Earth is used to provide a “fly in” view of the inner urban location of the Reserve.

Meet the scientists

Anneke at microscope
Dr Anneke Veenstra

About Anneke's research

My current research interest is the taxonomy, phylogeny and ecology of previously undescribed gall midge species infesting saltmarsh plants and other Australian native vascular plants in collaboration with Dr Peter Kolesik (Bionomics Pty. Ltd). This research has significant practical applications as members of the family Cecidomyiidae are host-plant specific and known to impair the sexual reproduction of native plants. Recent research also includes identification of the fungus that may provide food for developing gall midge larvae, using DNA analysis and histological techniques in collaboration with Dr Teresa Lebel (Senior Mycologist) from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria.

Despite many gall midges existing in Australia comparatively few have been formally described. For formal description the midge’s appearance and biology can be insufficient – DNA analysis is necessary. Worldwide, DNA fingerprinting of Cecidomyiidae is in its infancy with few laboratories using this technique.

Cuong Huynh

About Cuong's research

Penicillate Fauna: Their Taxonomy, Biology and Distribution

Penicillate millipedes are unknown to most people. Many species remain undescribed because they are tiny, often misidentified or simply ignored in surveys of terrestrial invertebrates. Most penicillate millipede species were collected and described at the beginning of the twentieth century. The small size, fragility and rareness of penicillate millipedes in museum collections, has resulted in this group being overlooked and understudied. In conjunction with traditional taxonomy, molecular genetic techniques are powerful tools used to determine the relationship between cryptic species and confirm the identity of a previously undescribed species more rapidly and with greater confidence. Few genetic studies have been carried out on members from the order Polyxenida – my research focuses on their phylogeny as well as their taxonomy and biology.

Suggested learning tasks

In the accompanying video interview with Dr Anneke Veenstra, a fieldwork project being conducted in the Gardiner’s Creek Reserve is described. In this project, a survey of invertebrates in parts of the Reserve was conducted. This data is provided here for teachers to use the in the teaching of content from the Victorian and Australian Science 7 - 10 science or senior Biology Curricula.

The data comprises a count of invertebrate specimens collected in pitfall traps at two locations in the Gardiners Creek Reserve in 2015. The two locations represent two different communities within the Reserve. They are described as Grassy Woodland and Leafy Woodland. The data was collected to serve as a baseline with which to compare future surveys. Changes in diversity over time can be used to inform environmental management decisions.

Teachers may use the data to develop Science Inquiry Skills described in the Victorian Curriculum: specifically Recording and processing and Analysing and evaluating. Alternatively, the data can be used to develop some of the Key Science Skills described under the heading Analyse and evaluate data in the VCE Biology Study Design (2016).

The data also provides a real-world context in which to introduce students to the scientific names of taxa used in the classification and identification of common invertebrates. Thus, addressing the Victorian Curriculum content related to biological classification (VCSSU091). The data could also be used in the teaching of VCE Biology Unit 1 Outcome 2, Organising biodiversity.

Two learning tasks are suggested below; each with a brief overview. Suggested student worksheets for each task are also provided. Teachers may alter the tasks to suit their intended learning outcomes and the needs of their students.

Task 1 – Naming and classifying invertebrates

Curriculum links

This task is designed to develop the Science Understanding related to the Victoria Curriculum content:

Victorian Curriculum: Foundation - 10

There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps organise this diversity (VCSSU091)

  • grouping a variety of organisms on the basis of similarities and differences in particular features
  • classifying using hierarchical systems, for example, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species
  • using scientific conventions for naming species
  • using provided keys to identify organisms surveyed in a local habitat
VCE Biology Study Design Unit 1

Outcome 2

Organising biodiversity

  • classification of biodiversity, past and present, into taxonomic groups based on shared morphological and molecular characteristics, and naming using binomial nomenclature


  • Task 1 Student worksheet (MSWord 111kb Fieldwork-Data-Student-Worksheet-1-Naming-and-classification-v2.docx) Download
  • Raw data (MSExcel 59kb Invertebrate-data-Gardiners-Creek-Reserve.xls) Download

The task

The raw fieldwork data is presented using the scientific names of the taxa, together with some common names. These scientific names are not immediately meaningful to most students. However, having the data presented in this way provides an opportunity and a real-world context for students to engage in the purposeful task or demystifying the information.

To begin to understand the data, students are set the task of finding common names that correspond to the scientific names provided in the spreadsheet. While some of this information is provided in the spreadsheets, it needs to be verified by the students. In completing the task students will incidentally begin to think about classification. This becomes an opportunity for students to learn how morphological similarities are used to classify living organisms.

The data refers to members of a subphylum (Myriapoda). Several classes of invertebrates and several orders of the subclass Pterygota of the class Insecta are included in the data. Students are asked to identify the features that are common to those organisms classified into each class and order in the data. This information is readily available on the internet and is usually accompanied with excellent images. If students are using computers or tablets, they can include images of representatives of each different class and order to illustrate the important features used in classification.

Task 2 – Processing and analysing data

Curriculum links

This task is designed to develop the Science Understanding related to the Victoria Curriculum content: particularly skills related to Recording and processing and Analysing and evaluating.

Victorian Curriculum: Foundation - 10
Recording and processing

Construct and use a range of representations including graphs, keys and models to record and summarise data from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and to represent and analyse patterns and relationships (VCSIS110)

Analysing and evaluating

Use scientific knowledge and findings from investigations to identify relationships, evaluate claims and draw conclusions (VCSIS111)

VCE Biology Study Design Units 1 - 4

Key science skills

Analyse and evaluate data, methods and scientific models

  • process quantitative data using appropriate mathematical relationships and units
  • organise, present and interpret data using schematic diagrams and flow charts, tables, bar charts, line graphs, ratios, percentages and calculations of mean


  • Task 2 Student worksheet (MSWord 5.8Mb Fieldwork-Data-Student-Worksheet-2-Processing-and-analysing-v2.docx) Download
  • Raw data (MSExcel 59kb Invertebrate-data-Gardiners-Creek-Reserve.xls) Download
  • Simplified data summary (MSWord 77kb Summary-of-field-work-data.docx) Download

The task

Students use the original raw data to manipulate, to simplify and to present in a graphical form themselves. This is an excellent opportunity for students to learn the graphing tools provided in MS Excel. Alternatively, the students may be given the simplified data from which to draw graphs. If students do not have the technology or skills, the graphs can be hand drawn. There are learning advantages in each approach.

Students can construct

  1. separate bar charts showing the relative numbers of each organism.
  2. a combined bar chart that provides a comparison of the numbers of the different invertebrates at each site.
  3. pie charts that show the relative abundance of each type of invertebrate at each site.

Data collected at another time could be represented in these ways. Significant changes in the absolute or relative numbers would be immediately evident.