The incredible wealth of diversity on our planet is something to be celebrated with students of all ages! Any place is an ecosystem, and biodiversity studies can take place in a forest, stream, pond, or even cracks of the sidewalk.

Beat Sampling

Guiding Questions
Do different insect species occur along the edge versus the interior of a forest? Does the total number of insect species differ in different parts of a forest stand?

Compare how the insect species vary from the edge to the interior of a forest by beat sampling tree saplings along a transect.



 An insect community includes all of the insects living in a given place. One of the most obvious patterns evident in most schoolyards is the dramatic difference (at least in appearance) between the open meadow and lawn communities and the closed forest communities. However, are these forests themselves homogeneous, or are there interesting patterns of variation within them? There are many interesting things to study about forest communities. One concerns changes in communities that might occur while going from the edge to the middle of a patch of forest. Forest edges are receiving a lot of attention these days, in large part because human activity has created so many edges and small patches where there used to be larger expanses of contiguous forest. Are there species that require conditions found only in the interior of an intact forest. If so, how big does a patch need to be for these species to escape the "edge effect?"

2 Class periods
  • 1 white sheet
  • a rigid object to strike or beat saplings
  • 1 meter stick
  • insect identification books and keys
  • materials for laying transect
  • 1 measuring tape at least 5m long
  • 1 12m long transect rope or string with marks at 1m, 6m, and 11m 
  • flexible measuring tape for measuring tree circumference (optional)
  • tree and shrub identification books and keys
  • stakes for anchoring transect
  • data sheets and clipboards
forest grassland urban
Type of Organism
invertebrates plants
Watch a video that demonstrates how to set up this protocol. 
  1. Locating and running transects
  2. Collecting data at each sampling point
    *  For each sapling tree you sample during this study, collect insect community data.
    *  Lay the sheet down on the ground directly beneath the sapling.
  3. Firmly beat the sapling for a predetermined amount of time or with a predetermined number of strikes.
  4. Immediately examine the insects that fall onto the sheet. Your goal is to "name" as many species as possible, so that you can get an idea about the total number of species present (i.e., species richness or diversity) and what the major species are (i.e., the species composition).
  5. Record your results on the data sheet.
  6. If possible, repeat this procedure for each sapling tree at each of the three sampling points along the transect.


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