News about studies of arctic insects
General information and editorial notes
News and Notes
Arctic and Boreal Entomology:
Peter Kevan1, Robyn Underwood2 and Rob Roughley2
1 University of Guelph, Department of Environmental Biology, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
2University of Manitoba, Department of Entomology, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2NT
It has been a long time since entomologists have been present in force in the Canadian Arctic; the last concerted efforts were represented by the series of about 45 papers noted as "Studies in Arctic Insects" that came to an end in about 1970. Although a number of us have been able to keep our antennae waving sporadically in the north over the intervening years, issues of research and educational funding, priorities, and policies have discouraged northern activities. However, recent developments place entomology back under the northern lights: The Insects of Keewatin and Mackenzie project (see BSC Newsletter Vol. 22, No. 2); the Arctic and Boreal Entomology Course; the NSERC Major Facilities 3-year Grant for the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) (awarded 2003); and the recent reinstatement of the NSERC Discovery Grant Northern Research Supplements.
After about a year of planning, the first Arctic and Boreal Entomology Course ran through the University of the Arctic in Finland at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) from August 9 – 23, 2003. The instructors, Dr. Peter Kevan, Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Dr. Rob Roughley and Ms. Robyn Underwood (teaching assistant), Department of Entomology, University of Manitoba had an enthusiastic group of neophytes from 4 countries: Moe Vidotto, Guelph, ON, Canada; Eric Chapman, Kent State University, OH, USA; Fabiana Oliviera da Silva and Blandina Felipe Viana, Universitadade Federal de Bahia, Ondina, Bahia, Brazil; Michael Adjaloo, Kumasi National University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana; Ronald Silvers and Vivian Darroch- Lozowski, University of Toronto, ON, Canada and Ann Millett, Bramalea, ON, Canada. The students had a wide range of knowledge and background and were eager to learn about the arctic boreal transition zone and its diverse and abundant insect life.
A view from spruce forest on esker
ridge of extensive fen complex south of Churchill Northern Studies Centre.
The course is slated to be given again at CNSC July 31 – August 14, 2004 with instructors Dr. Rob Roughley and Dr. Peter Kevan. It will be in conjunction with the Arctic Ecology course from the University of Guelph which is co-taught by Dr. Paul Hebert (Zoology) and Peter Kevan. Information on the course can be found on the web site of the University of the Arctic and (under "courses"). Student fees for the course are payable to CNSC at Canadian $1,500 and that includes all room, board, use of facilities and materials (but not travel to Churchill) for the two-week period. One or two scholarships of $500 will be available for worthy applicants.
The facilities at the CNSC are highly appropriate for this kind of course. The centre includes laboratory space, classrooms, and extensive dormitory and kitchen facilities (cook included!). Station employees provide excellent support; notably, in 2003, David Wright, who acted as bus driver, bear guard, and tour guide. Between the facilities and the people, the CNSC provides a highly enjoyable and safe environment, and a splendid atmosphere for learning. The NSERC Major Facilities Grant will improve the infrastructure of the station, and allow for the establishment of a small insect museum for general reference with storage cabinets from the University of Manitoba designated for transport to the CNSC. The collection is expected to grow through the efforts of the students on the course. Biological diversity is the hall-mark of the course and it is hoped that genetic and molecular diversity can be incorporated as facilities are upgraded.
Evening lectures and discussions address various topics of entomology with emphasis on the northern boreal and arctic habitats. These include the arctic as a habitat for insects, classification of insects and spiders, insect cold hardiness, thermoregulatory behavior, aquatic habitats, insect-floral relations, diversity, biology and classification. Course participants design, implement and report on projects of their choice. Among the topics chosen in 2003 were species richness and abundance of aquatic beetles (Dytiscidae) in rock-pool ponds, aquatic invertebrates of the Churchill area, Collembola of burned and unburned forests, snail predators (Sciomyzidae), and phenomenology of insect collecting (a study of how field entomologists recognize their quarries). During 2003, many interesting insects were collected, some that seem to represent large range extensions. Most of the specimens are or will be deposited in the J.B. Wallis Museum of Entomology at the University of Manitoba.
Krumholz-modified spruce tree on shore of Hudson Bay east of Churchill, with characteristic shortened branches on windward side and normal branches on leeward side. Note the luxuriant growth that would be below the snow cover. (photo by R. Underwood)
The course, at present, comprises a day-time schedule of visiting the wide array of habitats, ranging from the shores of Hudson Bay and the Churchill River and its estuary to tundra and the boreal forest. All are close at hand. Insect collection involves the kelp strand, saline shoreline and saline ponds, an assortment of fens, bogs, ponds and streams, salt marshes along the edge of the Churchill River, the northern boreal forest, the forest margin, the treeline, the krumholz, the willow scrub, boreal forest-tundra transition zones, and tundra zones. Gall insects and pollinators can be sampled easily in various habitats to illustrate insect/plant symbioses, and the community of soil insects compared between habitats. Among the collecting techniques used in the course were Malaise traps, fan traps, pitfall traps, Berlese funnels, bottle traps for aquatic insects, sweep and dip nets, aspirators (pooters), and killing vials. Through demonstrations, pinning, preserving, and proper labeling are also stressed. Among the collecting highlights for 2003 were:
Fan Trap – Because the CNSC had electricity, we were able to use a fan trap in the vicinity of the station. These traps, equipped with a low speed fan, sample the aerial plankton. Within minutes of being set up, this trap was collecting specimens. It was a particularly good method for sampling very small beetles, true bugs, psyllids and aphids.
Malaise Trap – A standard malaise trap was used with a trough under the centre panel. It yielded a staggering richness of biting flies (not all mosquitoes!). We were able to run traps both in the boreal forest about 20 km south of the CNSC as well as at CNSC itself. One very interesting specimen was an apterous trichopteran within the trough under the trap at CNSC.
trap in bed of crustose lichens in spruce forest, ca. 20 km south of Churchill
Northern Studies Centre.
Aquatic collecting – Rob Roughley and Eric Chapman ran bottle traps (recycled 2 L pop bottle design) in almost every kind of aquatic habitat during the duration of the course. They were also used in one of the student projects. The water beetle fauna was sampled extensively with bottle traps and net collecting. This will add significantly to the known fauna of water beetles with at least 10 new records for species from Churchill and one new family (Elmidae) which may well represent the most northern record of the family in North America. Interestingly, the known fauna of Dytiscidae for Churchill was increased by five species over the 73 species recorded by Larson et al. (2000) [Larson, D. J., Y. Alarie, and R. E. Roughley. 2000. Predaceous diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) of the Nearctic region, with emphasis on the fauna of Canada and Alaska. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 982 pp.].
Rock pools on bluffs east of Churchill. These pools contained a high species richness of water beetles. (photo by R. Underwood)
As this essay is being written, two of the authors are preparing applications for NSERC Discovery Grant Northern Research Supplements. These supplements have been re-instated in recognition of the additional costs of doing northern research, and in recognition of the difficulty that Universities have in supporting the advancement of knowledge through research and teaching in the North. The supplements are a small step towards Canada’s dues to Arctic research: Canada’s contribution to Arctic research is about 10% per capita of the per capita investment of the USA or Australia in Polar research. These supplements are a great incentive for those of us who love the North, with all its bugs, to resurrect our national excellence in hyperboreal entomology.
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