Newsletter of the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods)

Volume 25 No. 2, Fall 2006


 

News and Notes


 

General information and editorial notes

News and Notes:

Bio-Blitz 2006

Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification

Summary of the Scientific Committee meeting

Project Update: Briefs and Similar Documents Prepared by the BSC

Lost Collections – Fate or Fault

The Quiz Page

Canadian Perspectives: Life-cycle Types in the Arctic

Web site notes

Arctic Corner

Update on some Insect Biodiversity Activities in the Arctic during 2006

Invertebrate Community Structure in Lakes of the Central Canadian Arctic

Selected future conferences

Quips and Quotes

Requests for Material or Information Invited

 

Summary of the Meeting of the Scientific Committee for the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods), April 2006

The Scientific Committee met in Ottawa on April 20–21, 2006.

 

Scientific Projects

1. Grasslands
Additional chapters for the first grasslands volume on "Arthropods of Canadian grasslands: ecology and interactions in grassland habitats" have been received. The introductory chapter is pivotal because it provides the framework for how the grasslands types will be defined and labelled throughout the book. Dr. Wheeler can now begin to standardize terminology for the other chapters. One chapter remains outstanding and the introduction and synthesis chapters will have to be prepared in due course. Dr. Kevin Floate is coordinating volume 2 on arthropods in altered grasslands.

The hard copy version of the Grasslands Newsletter has been discontinued in favour of posting articles electronically, on the BSC web site. Two articles have been posted and further contributions are welcome. There is also space on the grasslands project page to post general information.

2. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification
It is hoped that the e-journal will become a major vehicle for the publication of image-rich and accessible guides to arthropod identification. The journal will soon be launched with two fully reviewed and edited papers. Those papers represent the breadth of technical formats that can be posted, a traditional-style paper with pictures and a much more complicated html key. Several other papers have been submitted and others are in preparation. The revolution in digital imagery makes the project very timely because it is much easier and cheaper to gather the digital images that make the difference from a traditional key. The instructions to authors have been revised with step-by-step guidelines, which will be included for the launch. The journal is envisaged as a modular product, whereby regional modules could eventually be expanded to include other regions. The images are of high enough resolution that versions of reasonable quality can be printed.

3. Terrestrial arthropods of Newfoundland and Labrador
A key to the Curculionoidea of Newfoundland and Labrador will be completed this year and submitted to the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification. Photography is required and some revision to the key in light of new species records. Work by various cooperators continues on Hemiptera, macro moths and Staphylinidae. Work is proceeding to make the AAFC collection in St. John’s much more accessible. There is a large amount of activity in extracting species records from the literature. This is contributing to the species database and to the bibliographic database. Work is still needed on major orders such as Diptera and Hymenoptera. The Bio-Blitz 2006 will be held in western Newfoundland and should boost this project, by acquiring specimens and involving other personnel.

4. Forest arthropods
Notable progress was reported with all current activities organized through this project, which aims to coordinate research on the diversity, ecology, and impacts of the arthropods of Canadian forests. The BSC continues to maintain and update a list of forest arthropod biodiversity projects in Canada and adjacent parts of the United States. This product highlights current activity in Canada and the northern U.S. and facilitates contact between researchers with complementary interests. As of early 2006, 63 projects were listed.

Volume 2 of the Arthropods of Canadian Forests newsletter will be published electronically in late April (English) and mid-May (French) to over 200 recipients in 8 countries. In addition, the forest project web pages continue to be maintained and updated. Many enquiries have been received as a result of the web page and newsletter, and new contacts have been facilitated.

A BSC-sponsored symposium, entitled "Maintaining Arthropods in Northern Forest Ecosystems," was held during the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada in November 2005. Seven papers synthesized what is known about the structure and dynamics of selected arthropod assemblages (Carabidae, Staphylinidae, spiders, saproxylic arthropods, Lepidoptera, and aquatic arthropods) in managed boreal and north temperate forests. The papers from this symposium will be published in The Canadian Entomologist.

Bio-Blitz 2005 in Waterton Lakes National Park (WLNP) was the fifth annual Bio-Blitz sponsored by the Biological Survey of Canada, and the first to include non-grassland ecosystems. Some participants have already identified their collections and have submitted the data to a common database managed by WLNP. Thus far, there are many new records for the park and Alberta and even a few new records for Canada. All data will eventually be accessible to the public, and specimens are being deposited in publicly accessible collections. It is hoped that the 2005 Bio-Blitz experience will give rise to a more long-term arthropod biodiversity survey of WLNP. Bio-Blitz 2006 will be held in Gros Morne National Park (GMNP), Newfoundland, 5–10 July 2006 in collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation and Parks Canada. There have already been many serious expressions of interest by colleagues in Canada and the USA. Given interest by other National Parks, the Committee considered which Park(s) might be preferable for future BSC Bio-Blitzes, and appropriate contacts will be maintained.

Work on cerambycid beetles continues with the goal of producing three handbooks to the Cerambycidae of Canada and Alaska. Already much material has been examined and revisionary work completed.

5. Insects of the arctic
The current phase of the BSC arctic project has been ongoing since 2000. During 2005 two trips were made to Norman Wells including collaborating with the Northwest Territories Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Sampling and ongoing Malaise trap sampling were carried out (and see the Fall 2005 issue of the Newsletter of the Biological Survey of Canada). Visits to areas such as northern Quebec and Labrador would be very useful to resolve some outstanding problems. For example, a number of species of black flies are known currently only from single collections from the northern boreal zone. To conduct this sort of research efficiently, canoe-based travel allows a significant amount of terrain to be covered. Such a venture is expensive and therefore more participants are needed to make it fiscally feasible. Expressions of interest are welcomed by Dr. Doug Currie. Field work was also carried out in 2005 in Chukotka, in far-east Russia, with some rewarding results but with frustrating logistics. Another trip will be made to Chukotka in the summer of 2006.

Work on the dytiscids of Churchill has revealed that of the 74 spp. recorded from Churchill, about 70 spp. are still being found there, and there are additional records of boreal species. Non-biting Diptera from the earlier Horton River and Thelon River trips conducted under the BSC project are still being examined.

6. Seasonal adaptations
Several papers published or in press under the auspices of this project were reported on.

7. Invasions and reductions
A 1-day symposium on the ecological impacts of non-native insects and fungi on terrestrial ecosystems will precede the Entomological Societies’ Joint Annual Meeting in Montreal on November 18. The proceedings will result in a scientific synthesis volume, including a concluding synthetic chapter. The Committee discussed possible additional speakers and other matters.

A list of the non-native arthropods and fungi of Canada is being developed as an extension of a national CFS project on established alien tree-feeding species. The list has grown to about 1700 species to date, including data on common name, distribution, origin, key references, hosts, notes on date and point of entry, and synonyms. A selected bibliography is also being compiled. The CFS plans to develop a web site that is the first stop for information about exotic tree-inhabiting arthropods and fungi in Canada. The Committee discussed possible outlets for the broader database.

The BSC subproject on lady beetles continues, but the data for BC and Quebec are deficient, making it difficult to coordinate a national project as opposed to separate piecemeal regional publications. The original intention had been to prepare a national synthesis of distributions and historical changes, in the context of invasive species. Coccinellids are a logical group to achieve a single connected national database. These data would then be available for use for addressing various ecological and evolutionary questions, which is the other perspective. Members of the Committee drafted plans to solve the problems holding up the national project.

 

Other scientific priorities

1. Faunal analysis
The project objectives, including development of a list of the species known and expected to occur in Canada, were reviewed. The emphasis in the past has been on gap analysis to see where systematic expertise is needed. The information now on the web site is also useful to identify future research opportunities. Following discussion especially about the value and reliability of the estimated numbers of species and the difficulty of estimating them, it was agreed that a proposal would be developed for discussion at the next meeting, for example to solicit updates for the known number of species.

2. Arthropods and fire
A plan has been developed to pursue a potential publication, including papers from the recent symposium and added contributions. Potential additional authors and publication routes were discussed.

3. Databasing
In past years, two Canada Foundation for Innovation proposals were put forward to do major databasing of insect collections. Although neither was successful, now they have been amalgamated to produce one application, including money for buildings in Montreal and also databasing for 20% of the major insect collections in Canada. The fact that university collections are excluded from the Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada means that the universities have to move forward independently with such a proposal, which includes plants, insects and fungi.

A project to list collecting localities for insects is well along. Some problems have to be solved (for example, a single locality might be referred to in four or five different ways, and location names given in the literature with latitude and longitude do not always correspond with the gazetteer), but the data should soon be ready to post on the BSC web site.

4. Survey web site
The BSC web site continues to get good traffic. For example, from November 1 to April 18 there were 26,191 unique visitors, with a daily average of 155. Over the last year there were 64,677 unique visitors with a daily average of 177.

Routine maintenance continues such as posting the new BSC newsletter but most of the work has gone into preparing for launch of the redesigned site. The site is nearly finished, including reorganizing the menu structure into a more logical grouping with all options given to the user at a glance. Since the fall meeting some texts have been revised or finalized, some translations done and technical issues with the database of personnel were resolved. The launch was delayed in the hope that the CJAI would be ready at the same time. However, the e-journal was recently delayed and so the redesigned site will soon be launched independent of the e-journal.

5. Endangered species
There is much interest in endangered insects at the federal and provincial levels because of the Species at Risk Act. The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) meetings were held in April. The deficiency of data on many insects creates difficulties in considering whether they might be endangered, for example. The Arthropod Species Specialist Subcommittee of COSEWIC is now more diverse and the subcommittee will be considering groups other than butterflies. The Committee discussed legislation in some areas of the country. For example, in B.C. much time is being spent on how to define a "residence", a legal requirement with the B.C. legislation on listed species. Ontario considers "breeding range". A potential project of the BSC on endangered insects was discussed. Many years ago a cross-country summary of potentially rare or endangered taxa was proposed, but the project was stopped by the objections of a few people who were concerned that it might interfere with their ability to collect insects. However, a list might highlight species to be considered for COSEWIC or provincial listing, which can result in funding for research. Moreover, the Survey has the expertise to put such a publication on a proper scientific basis, unlike the sort of list that might be put together by somebody else. Therefore, a subcommittee will continue discussion about a possible BSC product on endangered species.

6. BSC award
There were many applicants for the BSC scholarship, following attempts to encourage students to apply for the award. Members of the Committee commented on designs for the award certificate, and a final version will be prepared in time for the award presentation later in the year.

7. Monitoring of continuing priorities
Several other ongoing interests of the Survey were reviewed. Information about the arthropod fauna of soils included a report on a long-term study in Saskatchewan on the impact of cropping systems, which has finished its 12th year and second cycle. At the end of each 6-year cycle a thorough assessment of arthropods in the soil is done. Some of the insects such as carabids are identified to species. Some for which there is no local identification expertise, such as spiders, collembolans, and nematodes, will be kept. A spider identification manual to genus for all families in North America is now available.

For arthropods of aquatic habitats, new student and other projects include work on bog faunas and bog recolonization in eastern Canada. The Burns Bog near Vancouver is gradually drying out, so as part of the recovery plan the water table is being raised by blocking the drainage channels. In due course, some insect groups such as dragonflies may be monitored.

For arthropod ectoparasites of vertebrates, current programs in Canada were reviewed, including various surveys of ectoparasites, lists of fleas and lice, and the taxonomy of flea larvae and other taxa. A handbook on Ticks of Canada is moving forward, including keys and descriptions for all active stages of ticks known to occur in Canada, maps of known distribution, and information on biology, host associations and medical/veterinary importance. This project began in 1991, and was recently resurrected before electronic data were lost, for example.

Other studies were outlined under arthropods of the Yukon, small regional projects and agroecosystems.

8. Other priorities
The Committee also considered work on the arthropods of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Islands, potential future publications, Survey publicity, and other topics.

Liaison and exchange of information

1. Canadian Museum of Nature
Mr. Roger Baird reported that the renovation of the Victoria Memorial Museum Building continues within the planned schedule and budget, although steel prices have gone up 70% since the original tenders. The West Wing is scheduled to re-open in October 2006. The CMN continues to be involved with the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI). The GTI is an initiative of the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity that recognizes that taxonomy is essential for conservation efforts and that there is a shortage of expertise, facilities and processes.

The CMN is also involved with the Governing Board for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) which is now in its 5th year of operation to help in the documentation and free accessibility of electronic data for the estimated 3 billion curated specimens around the world. GBIF has undertaken an assessment process to set the stage for the next 5 years.

The Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada, an organization of 12 museums, has been working with the New Brunswick Museum to put forward a call for assessment with the newly established Canadian Academy of Sciences about the state of biodiversity science in Canada. By this means issues can be brought forward such as loss of taxonomic expertise, systemic barriers within current structures, and the fact that digitization of collections is not covered under the existing guidelines for NSERC grants. A decision on whether the Academy wants to explore this subject should be received by June.

A discussion paper to propose increased CMN funding especially for research and collection activities had been sent to cabinet but was overtaken by the January 2006 election. Current CMN resources are largely channelled into renovations, with research and collections support reduced.

Members of the Committee noted that many of the specimens, most of the expertise and virtually all of the training for natural history collections are housed at universities, and asked if and when the Alliance of Natural History Museums might become a real alliance including university collections. Mr. Baird would communicate that concern to the Alliance. He noted that the Alliance concentrated initially on developing a communication strategy to get the ear of government and establish a profile.

2. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Dr. Landry reported that two new scientists have recently been hired. Dr. Fredéric Beaulieu, an acarologist, will be working on the systematics of phytophagous mites. Dr. Qing Yu, a nematologist, will start at the end of May. There are now 17 scientists in Ottawa, an increase of 5 over the last few years. The national theme name has recently been changed from Biodiversity to Bioresources. Mr. Jim Troubridge has been the Collection Manager for the CNC since last year, dealing with logistical issues related to the collection such as equipment, supplies, facilities, and loans. There have been increasing problems with shipping specimens especially across the U.S. border, due to mishandling by couriers. The Centre is trying to raise its profile by preparing posters on the CNC and on the Identification Service. AAFC is working without a budget for the fourth year (although approval for expenditures continues on an ad-hoc basis) making it difficult to plan activities. Reorganization activities continue. Dr. Barry Grace remains the acting Science Director for the national theme.

A number of publications have appeared recently, including monographs and other major publications on Histeridae, Noctuidae, Coleophoridae, and Staphylinoidea.

3. Entomological Society of Canada
Dr. Dan Quiring, President of the Entomological Society of Canada, reported that in the last few months the Society has instituted a process whereby all submissions to the Canadian Entomologist will be electronic. NRC Press would like the ESC to adopt a web-based method of submitting papers. An IT committee is looking into software for this purpose.

A candidate to replace Ms. Alexandra Devine as the ESC Office Manager has been chosen. Someone has put his name forward to replace Dr. Paul Fields as the Bulletin Editor. A candidate is also being sought for Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Entomologist. The Society continues to be in good financial shape.

Dr. Quiring added that the 2006 Joint Annual Meeting in Montreal is on track for November 18 – 22. An invitation was extended to Ms. Devine to attend the meeting. As well, Dr. Peter Harper was invited in order to recognize the translation work he has done for the journal over the years. The theme of the meeting is Diversité. Dr. Charles Vincent is the head of the organizing committee and Dr. Wheeler is the program chair. Five symposia have been submitted, including a graduate student symposium, Invasive species, Canopy arthropods, Arachnology (a tribute to Dr. C.D. Dondale) and New developments in potato pest management. Dr. Quiring confirmed that the ESC is looking at implementing on-line membership registration as well as other web issues. Dr. Bouchard noted that on-line registration for the joint annual meeting will be used as a trial.

Dr. Quiring said that the ESC continues to fully support the BSC. It would like to ensure that the Biological Survey continues once Dr. Danks retires, because he has been the driving force behind the organization.

4. Canadian Forest Service
Dr. John Huber explained that he is attending the meeting on behalf of Dr. Brenda McAfee who oversees biodiversity and other issues. There is a new assistant deputy minister and therefore more restructuring. There are two new CFS business lines. The first is the Competitiveness of Canada’s Forest Products Industry which is aimed at supporting the competitiveness component of the Sustainable Forest activity mandate and includes Integrated Forest Health and Biodiversity. The second business line is the Sustainability of Canada’s Forests which responds to the environmental component of the Sustainable Forest activity mandate. It consists of forest science research aimed at increasing Canada’s forest knowledge and at developing and implementing environmentally acceptable forest management strategies, practices and tools to improve forest health and respond to and mitigate threats to Canada’s forests. The new ADM wants the CFS to move from being a research organization to being a science-based policy organization; from a regional to a national focus with strong regional delivery; from being capacity driven to demand driven; from being a creator to a creator and synthesizer of knowledge; and from being an ‘honest broker’ to an opinion provider. The following objectives will be pursued: defining healthy forests and measuring how Canada’s forests rate; identifying threats to healthy forests; developing strategies to manage and mitigate these threats; and raising the economic and social value of Canada’s forests through enhanced forest resource productivity while maintaining healthy forests.

The CFS is currently in the process of developing two environmental scans to identify the principal players, roles, issues, actions, outcomes, gaps and research needs. The scans will help to determine where biodiversity fits within the CFS business lines. Outputs from this project will assist the CFS to develop its national and international biodiversity agenda for the next 5 or more years. The synthesis of the scans will assist the CFS in formulating a national and international biodiversity agenda to support Canada’s commitment to conserve biodiversity and ensure the sustainable use of biological resources. It will assist the CFS to identify science priorities to better inform and support policy development.

Dr. Huber noted two upcoming symposia, Ecological impacts of non-native insects and fungi on terrestrial ecosystems, co-organized and sponsored by the BSC and the CFS, and the 1st Conservation of forest genetic resources forum. Dr. Huber noted that the CFS, like Agriculture, does not currently have a fixed budget.

Members of the Committee thought that as a result of the new CFS approach the department will not be doing less research but it will be more focused into one of the four business lines, and there will be a continuing role for biodiversity science in the CFS. It is hoped that some of the substantial funding for invasive alien species received by CFS will be invested into systematics in the near future.

5. Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution
Dr. Wheeler provided an update on this newly formed organization. Its formation grew out of the realization that NSERC Discovery grants in ecology and evolution have been less than sufficient for the needs of the community. There is a chronic problem of underfunding of the Discovery grants program in general and of evolution and ecology in particular. With assistance from NSERC, a meeting was held last year to look at both reorganization of the GSC18 committee and what could be done to organize the ecology and evolution community. NSERC sponsored the recent meeting, the goal of which was to organize a new society to give the ecology and evolution community a single voice.

The Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution therefore had its first meeting April 3–4 in Montreal. The organizers were expecting 50 to 100 people but over 300 registered. About 500 people are now members of the society. The first meeting was primarily a business meeting to adopt the constitution of the society, to elect the first council, etc. The next meetings of the Society will be in 2007 in Toronto, and in 2008 in Vancouver, with a scientific focus on research.

Systematists and entomologists were under represented at the first meeting, although the Society has potential as a single voice that can be used to lobby various funding agencies such as NSERC to get the message out that ecology and evolution research is critical to Canada’s economic, intellectual and cultural health.

6. Parasitology module, Canadian Society of Zoologists
Dr. Marcogliese reported that progress with this unfunded module is slow. However, some funding for the international stickleback parasite biodiversity project has been made available and other projects are in progress.

The Science Policy Committee of the Canadian Society of Zoologists utilizes a lobbyist. Current priorities are matching-funds issues, promotion of investment to maintain the climate of creativity, support for post docs, and environmental issues. The annual meeting of the CSZ will be held during the first week of May in Edmonton. The overall thematic symposium will be Biology of the Canadian arctic – integrating across scales. There will be a parasite symposium on emerging pathogens. Next year’s meeting will be held in late May in Montreal.

Environment Canada has been reorganized along the theme of projects and results. Research is organized nationally, largely centered in Burlington. Dr. Marcogliese circulated some articles of interest.

 

Other items

1. Regional developments
Information of potential interest from different regions was reported, including work on faunas being carried out by graduate students and others (not noted in detail here), and the following examples. In British Columbia, a group of non-governmental organizations received $8 million from the province for a biodiversity conservation initiative, including money for land purchase and to develop a biodiversity conservation strategy for British Columbia. A new forest science program has replaced the old Forest Renewal B.C. and the Forest Innovation Initiative; an advisory committee on sustainability deals with biodiversity. The Nature Trust will purchase more than 700 acres of antelope brush habitat in the south Okanagan, home of the endangered Behr’s hairstreak butterfly. British Columbia has several successful biocontrol projects.

In the Prairies, a new containment facility has been built at Lethbridge, to provide as many natural spaces for insect rearing as possible. A retired professor from the Biology Department of the University of Saskatchewan has now expressed interest in curating and databasing the collections at the University and at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon.

In Alberta, a recovery plan for the Yucca Moth / Soapweed has just been approved. Weidermeyer’s Admiral butterfly has been recommended for designation as a species at risk. The Alberta Conservation Association has funded surveys of moths in southern Alberta. An especially large number of biodiversity projects in forest systems continue at the Canadian Forest Service and the University of Alberta.

In Manitoba, much work is being done on mosquitoes (cf. West Nile Virus) and on projects related to biocontrol.

In Ontario, several fascicles in the handbook series (now published by NRC Press) are being considered for reprinting. On 1 July the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto will amalgamate with the Department of Botany to form two new departments – the Department of Ecology and Evolution and the Department of Cells and Systems Biology. At the Royal Ontario Museum some new galleries have opened and the ‘crystal’ addition is progressing. A symposium organized through the Toronto Entomology Association, at which students gave research-based seminars, was very successful. Much activity at the University of Guelph is tied in with the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification. Unfortunately, there have been some obstacles to expansion of the insect collection although funds are available from the CFI grant also supporting an active bar coding program.

In Quebec, entomology is in a growth stage with much activity at several universities and at research stations, including work on forest insects and spiders at Université du Québec à Montréal and McGill University, and taxonomic research at McGill University and elsewhere. Some storage space at the Lyman Museum has been lost and therefore many reprints and memoirs on systematics are available. The editor of Fabreries (journal of the Association des entomologistes amateurs du Québec) recently resigned and the Society is looking for a new editor.

In Newfoundland and Labrador and the Maritimes, research at universities, museums and government research stations includes work on insects of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, agroecosystems, forests, invasive species in urban systems, and distribution of beetles in the Atlantic region. On PEI community groups are being encouraged to collect and monitor the numbers of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera, but no provision has been made to identify further or archive the samples. A mini-Bio-Blitz on Scaterie Island off Cape Breton resulted in interesting finds. The Acadian Entomological Society meets on 11-13 June.

For the arctic, the Boreal and Arctic entomology course in Churchill will take place again this summer, including field work in Wapusk National Park by agreement with the Park. In that park (established because it is a polar bear denning site) there is no road access and fingers of arctic habitat mingle with boreal forest.

2. Other matters
The Scientific Committee also discussed other matters arising from the previous meeting, the Annual Report to the Canadian Museum of Nature, planning for the next meeting of the Committee in view of another year with restricted CMN budgets, work of the Secretariat, and other issues. The Annual Meeting of the Biological Survey Foundation was also held.

 

 

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