News and Notes:
The first curation blitz: the Biological Survey of Canada tackles the collections in Saskatoon
The first Biological Survey of Canada Curation Blitz took place on 1 October 2007 during the Entomological Society of Canada annual meetings in Saskatoon. The participants included eight visiting entomologists, who descended on an undergraduate biology lab at the University of Saskatchewan for the event. Bob Randell, retired professor from the University of Saskatchewan and volunteer curator of both the university and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada collections, with help from Keith Moore of AAFC and Shelley Fisher a University of Saskatchewan graduate student, moved about 35 drawers of specimens into the lab. The interests of the attendees were catered to with drawers of scarabs, dytiscids, cerambycids, coccinellids, siricids, miscellaneous Hymenoptera and lots of moths available.
For almost two hours the room was relatively quiet, only the occasional, “Mmm did not expect this in Saskatchewan” or “Ahhh, first record from west of Quebec.” Some focused on identifying species in groups they knew well (e.g. Dytiscus, Siricidae, scarabs), while others sorted material to family and organized it in the collection.
All realized there was more interesting material than they expected. Much of the material in both collections was from the 1940s to the 1960s, mostly from Saskatchewan, but a good representation from Manitoba, Alberta, and BC in some groups. For many groups, species level identifications had been done in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition there were drawers of unidentified specimens (notably Culicidae and Lepidoptera).
The curation blitz had three main goals. One was to provide some curatorial assistance to the Saskatoon collections. Most of us would have preferred to stay for a few more days to make more headway, but we did make significant progress towards improving the level of curation in the collections during the short time available. The second goal was to have an understanding of what the collections had to offer. Henri Goulet appeared to be ecstatic with finding the first record of Sirex cyaneus, an introduced siricid that feeds on firs (Abies spp.). He has been unraveling the complexities of siricid systematics and these collections added a few pieces to the puzzle. Perhaps not as dramatic, but the rest of us added to our understanding of the distribution of insects in Canada too. The third goal was to learn from each other about insect identification, other important regional collections, and approaches to studying the systematics and faunistics of insects. An added bonus was again seeing how cooperative and friendly entomologists are in Canada.
Thanks to Bob Randell, Keith Moore, Shelley Fisher, and the following participants for making this event a success: Jason Dombrowskie, University of Alberta, Microlepidoptera Clayton D’Orsay, University of Prince Edward Island, Coleoptera John Huber, CNC, Natural Resources Canada, Hymenoptera Henri Goulet, CNC, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Siricidae David McCorquodale, Cape Breton University, Cerambycidae Greg Pohl, Northern Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada, Microlepidoptera Bob Randell, University of Saskatchewan, Insecta Rob Roughley, University of Manitoba, Dytiscidae Andrew Smith, Biological Survey of Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, Scarabaeoidea
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