General information and editorial notes
News and Notes
Summary of the Meeting of the Scientific Committee for the Biological Survey of Canada, November 2003
The Scientific Committee met in Kelowna on November 5-6.
Authors have been identified for each chapter of the grasslands volume on ecology and interactions in grasslands habitats. There are 16 confirmed chapters and one chapter has already gone out for informal review. A list of potential authors for the second and third volumes on grasslands is under development, dealing with arthropods and altered grassland ecosystems, and with biodiversity of arthropods in grasslands. The Committee will seek an update about the EMAN prairie project.
The grasslands focus trip held in Dunvegan last summer was well attended although the weather for collecting was less than optimal. Some other collecting was done in other areas before and after the organized collecting period. Next year’s focus site will be Aweme, Manitoba.
2. Family keys
3. Insects of Newfoundland and Labrador
4. Forest arthropods
5. Insects of the Arctic
6. Seasonal adaptations
Other scientific priorities
1. Invasions and reductions
The project on coccinellids is assembling, on a regional basis across Canada, overviews of the coccinellid fauna, history of introductions and evidence for reductions. About 10-15 regional articles and 2-3 synthetic articles are planned. The subcommittee is considering what the final product should be and its time frame. It is also hoped that in due course this project might be able to spin off a public component in conjunction with the Canadian Museum of Nature.
A broader idea about invasions and reductions is to examine basic principles by means of a synthesis through a symposium and publication. This would include issues such as an early warning system for the detection of invasive species that might be developed from collections and regional faunal surveys. A subcommittee will take forward ideas for a symposium and synthesis.
2. Endangered species
The Committee also commented on the fact that COSEWIC now intends to deal with other insect orders, not just Lepidoptera as at present. The current Lepidoptera group works well, with good expertise. In this context, a Canadian list could be accompanied by a preamble and associated documents pointing out that it would have been impossible to call attention to the status of the species without good solid field work. As well, as soon as a list is available the community is placed in the position of having to do more work to discover where the endangered species are, a task that the Survey should be involved in. However, some potential negative consequences were identified. For example, in B.C. collecting is no longer possible in Indian reserves where it once was feasible. Butterflies and dragonflies are easy to identify in the field, an estimate of populations can often be made, it is known that they can be wiped out by collecting, and collecting techniques are specialized. As soon as other insect groups are involved and different collecting techniques come into play, permits become more difficult to obtain, for example, and expertise may be limited. Some members noted that a species-by-species approach will not work for most insects. Alternative approaches can be proposed (e.g. taxon reports), as recently accepted by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). An action plan for the project will be developed for discussion at the spring meeting.
3. Survey website
4. Survey poster
6. Monitoring of continuing priorities
Information about arthropods of aquatic habitats included a discussion about "rapid biodiversity assessments". Many of the people driving studies of aquatic habitats seem to believe more and more strongly that genus-level identification is not necessary. The North American Benthological Society meetings have been dominated in recent years by papers that espouse this notion, and most government-sponsored studies will only fund studies that identify to a family level. Those shortcuts stem partly from the fact that the time and money available is inadequate to do the proper work. Journals continue to accept papers based on inadequate taxonomy, including even a belief in the validity for detailed impact assessment of identification only to order (and as taught at a recent workshop) and some people are making a career out of doing these sorts of rapid assessments. A brief pointing out these matters was published by the Survey years ago, but non-scientists are especially pleased to hear the erroneous but time-saving message that species identification is never necessary.
Discussion about interests in arthropods of Les Îles de la Madeleine led to the decision to pursue a project in this area, broadened to include arthropods of islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A short concept document will be developed for discussion at the next meeting.
7. Other priorities
Liaison and exchange of information
1. Canadian Museum of Nature
Mr. Roger Baird, Director, Collection Services, noted that the Biological Survey’s coordination and collaboration work is characteristic of the way in which the Museum wants to expand its national service role. The BSC demonstrates how the Museum is relevant as an organization and how it partners with others beyond the National Capital region.
Mr. Baird reported that a steering group for the management and coordination of biodiversity information as it is collected in federal organizations has been set up through the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership (FBIP). A modest number of model projects have been identified to demonstrate the value of working on a larger scale in collecting biodiversity information. Five projects have been funded and are underway. In September the CMN in conjunction with the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) was the organizer and host for the North American training session for the Species Analyst – DiGIR (Distributed Generic Information Retrieval) protocol for sharing species data. The goal of databasing the CNC collections is to have the material verified, georeferenced and made available electronically.
Mr. Baird announced that the CMN has now received authorization from Treasury Board to proceed with a complete rehabilitation of the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, the Museum’s main exhibit facility in Ottawa. The CMN remains responsible for the costs of developing new content for the galleries whereas the Treasury Board funding will cover the rehabilitation of the infrastructure of the building over a five-year period. Four new major galleries, scheduled to be opened in phases from 2006 to 2009, will be funded through the $16 million Natural Partnerships fundraising campaign. The first new gallery will be a new fossil gallery.
2. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
3. Entomological Society of Canada
The ESC Governing Board had welcomed the Survey’s report and also was pleased to have the BSC meeting held in conjunction with the ESC annual meeting. The ESC had reacted positively to the Survey’s proposal for a BSC award (and see below). The Committee expressed appreciation for Dr. Smith’s support of the Biological Survey.
Ongoing operations of the Biological Survey secretariat were reviewed including clearing house and coordination roles, research and other items, and Dr. Danks’ travels to entomological centres on behalf of the Survey to exchange information about relevant work. In 2003, visits were made to Kelowna, Victoria, Edmonton, Vegreville and Winnipeg. Seminars and lectures presented in addition to more or less informal treatments of the Biological Survey included Insect adaptations to cold and changing environments, Dehydration in dormant insects, How to assess insect biodiversity, The insect fauna of the Yukon, Knowledge of the insect fauna in relation to pest management, and Ranges of Yukon insects and their Beringian history.
1. Summary of actions from Survey review
Several revised or new documents resulting from the major review at the April 2003 meeting had been circulated. The content of two more general documents, "The Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods): the first 25 years" and "Scientific priorities of the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods)" were deemed appropriate for broader use. The Committee discussed potential uses for these documents other than distribution to new Committee members. It was decided that wider distribution of the ‘25 years’ document would help future BSC continuity, indicate what are the lessons for other biological surveys in other countries, demonstrate a successful model more widely, confirm that good science can be done from the bottom up, and so on. Every incoming ESC President should also receive the document. Given the need to educate the Survey’s stakeholders and clientele more widely, it was agreed to find a way to publish a version of the document. A subcommittee was charged with determining the best way to do this.
2. Survey succession
3. ESC liaison and BSC award
The idea of a BSC award was thought to be a good one by the Board but potential problems are created for a travel award by recent developments with the ESC Scholarship fund and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) rules. Therefore, Dr. Giberson will prepare a modified proposal for a research award, in consultation with the Committee, for further consideration by the ESC. Fundraisers will also be sought.
4. Regional developments of potential interest
In the Prairies, Dr. Dan Johnson has accepted a Canada Foundation for Innovation chair at the University of Lethbridge. There is a new entomologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food in Saskatoon, Dr. Chrystel Olivier. Employment of some recent graduates was noted. The 7th Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference and Workshop will be held in Calgary on February 26-29, 2004. The theme title is ‘Keeping the Wild in the West’. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan West Nile virus has dominated the local news and has brought resources to some entomologists. The forestry program at the University of Winnipeg continues to be active. Initiatives by the Canadian and U.S. Nature Conservancies to purchase and preserve tall grass prairie continue. For example, sections in Canada have been approved for purchase but only if the pig manure easement can be removed from those lands. Databasing of the University of Manitoba collections continues. The Criddle homestead site at Aweme is now a provincial park and has been nominated as a national historic site. The University of Alberta has a new entomologist on faculty, Dr. Maya Evenden, who is studying pheromones of Lepidoptera.
The Alberta Department of Environment has again funded members of the Alberta Lepidopterists Guild to go to far northern sites, leading to a survey of the Caribou mountains. The International Lepidopterists Society meeting was hosted in Olds last summer. A number of forest biodiversity projects centred in Edmonton through partnerships between the Northern Forestry Centre and the University of Alberta were reviewed, including work on beetles and fire impacts and ecological land classification systems. Synthetic publications in progress include treatments of the importance of biosystematics in addressing key forest research and policy issues and arthropods as ecological indicators for sustainable forest management.
In Ontario there are several current or recently completed graduate students in entomology in Toronto, Sudbury, Guelph and elsewhere. Major efforts at the Royal Ontario Museum recently have been concentrated on gallery redevelopment. Current work is on the life sciences components of the new galleries. Odonates at the ROM from the old historical Ministry of Environment collections will be properly identified and curated. The Ivey Foundation is putting funds towards the study of biodiversity of forests in the context of conservation, but the Foundation will not fund graduate students, long-term research or studies of individual species! The Entomological Society of Ontario meeting is in Guelph, November 28-30, 2003. Three new research scientists have now started work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Drs. Patrice Bouchard, Jeff Skevington and Andrew Bennett. Dr. Don Bright has retired. Two large North American catalogues are in press on Dolichopodidae and Tachinidae.
In Quebec the annual meeting of the Société d'entomologie du Québec is in Quebec City in November with the topic of Insectes sans frontières (insects without borders). The provincial diagnostic laboratory is now on the internet, and a lot of applied information will be posted for extension personnel. Many graduate students are now working at McGill University in Dr. Wheeler’s laboratory and also Dr. Chris Buddle’s laboratory with work on forest biodiversity projects. The current databasing focus at the Lyman Museum is on the Diptera collection. No replacement for Dr. Peter Harper at the Université de Montréal has yet been hired after advertising for the last two years.
In Newfoundland and Labrador and the Maritimes the work of graduate students and others in the region was noted. Hurricane Juan caused considerable damage in Prince Edward Island including blowing the roof off the Biology building at the University of PEI. The joint annual ESC / Acadian Entomological Society meeting will be in Charlottetown in 2004, from 15–18 October. The collection of Odonata from PEI National Park is now at the New Brunswick Museum, and has just been databased.
For the arctic, a two-week course on boreal and arctic entomology was held in Churchill last summer under the auspices of the University of the Arctic (see p. 34). The course will be repeated next year. Some groups have high diversity there, perhaps because Churchill represents the southernmost extent of many arctic species and northernmost extent of many boreal species.
5. Other matters
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