Summary of the Meeting of the Scientific Committee for the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods), October 2007
The Scientific Committee met in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on 3–4 October 2007.
1. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification
The Bee Genera of Eastern Canada was published in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification (CJAI) in September. The Bee Flies of Eastern Canada and the Vespids of North America are well along in the review process and should be the next issues published. There are at least eight other manuscripts in process. Discussions will soon begin as to the feasibility of eventually transferring the technical production of the CJAI from the University of Guelph to the Biological Survey Secretariat.
Mr. Dave Cheung, University of Guelph has spent considerable time providing technical services for the CJAI. The Committee debated the necessity to charge authors for these services in the future.
There have been some trials using the Open Journal System service offered by the University of Alberta Library but the file size of the image-rich CJAI issues are creating technical difficulties. The University of Alberta Library staff are continuing to investigate ways of resolving this issue.
The editorial committee (Dr. Joe Shorthouse, Dr. Kevin Floate, Dr. Rose De Clerck-Floate) for the first grasslands volume on Arthropods of Canadian grasslands: ecology and interactions in grassland habitats asked authors to submit their updated chapters by the end of September 2007. The goal is to have all material ready to go to the publisher by March 31, 2008. The Committee discussed options for how to publish the volume. The second grasslands volume is intended to deal with altered or changing grasslands, while the third volume will be a taxonomic work. Some discussion on the distinction between the second and third volumes ensued. The Committee directed the editor, Dr. Floate, to proceed as planned with the second volume with possible minor changes such as the addition of a chapter on conservation of arthropods of the prairies, global warming, invasive species, and/or some aspect of national parks. Dr. Floate had already contacted a number of people about contributing to the second volume and he planned to update them in October.
3. Insects of the Arctic
The Committee renewed its support for a subcommittee to pursue a large northern insect survey that will measure changes in biodiversity using a century of data on arctic and boreal species. Funding possibilities were discussed.
Dr. Currie reported that this past year he was only able to spend one week in the arctic but that trip reinforced how little is known of the fauna of northern latitudes which underscores the need for further arctic work. He will be attending a meeting of the Polar Barcode of Life Initiative (PolarBOLI) project in Norway and will report back on potential opportunities with that group.
4. Terrestrial arthropods of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Curculionoidea of Newfoundland and Labrador should be ready for submission to CJAI in early 2008. Financial support has been received from the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation to put together lists of species, illustrated keys, and databases mainly for Curculionoidea, carabids, and staphylinids. The focus next year will be Lepidoptera with the assistance of Mr. Doug Macaulay and Mr. Greg Pohl. Another proposal has been submitted to facilitate a modest collecting expedition to Labrador. Two publications on the staphylinids of Newfoundland are expected to be completed soon. The full staphylinid key should be complete by late 2008 or 2009. Extraction of Newfoundland species records from literature continues to contribute to a comprehensive bibliography and database.
5. Forest arthropods
Dr. Langor reported that the forest arthropod database that is on the BSC web site continues to be updated with 2-3 new projects a year. Volume 3 of the Arthropods of Canadian Forests newsletter was published in both English and French in May.
The seven synthesis papers stemming from a BSC-sponsored symposium entitled “Maintaining Arthropods in Northern Forest Ecosystems,” held in 2005, should be published in The Canadian Entomologist in early 2008.
The Cerambycidae of Canada and Alaska project is proceeding well. All the major collections have been visited and databased. The majority of keys have been produced by Dr. Yves Bousquet. Some of the taxonomic work that was needed has been completed. Mr. Klause Bolte has been contracted to do the photographs for the publication.
6. Invasions and reductions
The proceedings of the symposium on Ecological Impacts of Non-Native Insects and Fungi on Terrestrial Ecosystems will be published as a special volume of the journal Biological Invasions. Springer will also publish 200 hardbound copies of that special issue which NRCan will buy and distribute. The date for submission to the publisher is 1 December 2007.
Progress on capturing data for the coccinellid project continues. The tree-feeding species part of the list of non-native terrestrial arthropods is largely complete but it is hoped that some funding will be received next fiscal year to extract information from other collections. These data will be available through the Canadian Forest Service’s alien invasive species web site. Work on the larger database of 1900 species continues.
7. Arthropods and Fire
Due to a lack of commitment from some authors, the proposed series of papers on the topic of arthropod conservation and fire planned for the Journal of Insect Conservation has been cancelled. These papers originated from the BSC-sponsored symposium on Arthropods and Fire held in 2005.
The 2007 BioBlitz was held at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, 16-20 July 2007. A report was published in the Fall issue of this newsletter. Although beneficial in many respects, the attendance had been low. The Committee discussed the efforts and benefits of holding an annual Bioblitz. Among other benefits, the BioBlitzes have opened the doors to collecting in national parks and have provided Parks Canada with valuable data. The Committee agreed that the BioBlitz project should continue but that it need not be an annual event. Nonetheless, there will be a BioBlitz organized in 2008 at Bruce Peninsula National Park (see also p. 1). The Committee also discussed the feasibility of doing a future BioBlitz in a northern park, especially given the proposal to organize a large northern insect survey.
The first Curation Blitz was held at the University of Saskatchewan on 1 October 2007. Eight visiting entomologists provide some curatorial assistance to the Saskatoon collections, gained some understanding of what is contained in those collections, and learned from each other about insect identification. (see also article on p. 3). Discussions have begun on options to hold a similar event at the 2008 Entomological Society of Canada annual meeting in Ottawa.
9. Arthropods of the Gulf of St. Lawrence Islands
This project started with more of a focus on the Gulf islands but has broadened somewhat to include more of the Maritimes. Dr. McCorquodale and Dr. Giberson had students this past summer working on aquatic hemiptera, bumblebees, and coccinellids. They are currently advertising for a masters student.
Dr. Sperling spoke about database initiatives at the Canadian University Biodiversity Consortium and potential opportunities for the Biological Survey to work in parallel with the Consortium.
Technical details of the BSC database of collecting localities were discussed. This database will be posted on the BSC web site.
11. BSC web site
The BSC we site continues to be updated on a regular basis and the number of visitors remains steady at a daily average of 172. The IT personnel at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta (where the web site is hosted) continue to be supportive.
12. Endangered species
Dr. Sperling, Dr. Scudder, and Dr. Marshall agreed to participate in the Monarch Butterfly Advisory Group, which was established to meet requirements of the Species at Risk Act. Other species at risk initiatives were reported. COSEWIC has requested input from the BSC on which groups COSEWIC should concentrate on in the future.
The main purpose of this agenda item is to consider a proposal for a publication dealing with endangered species in Canada. However, Committee members who might lead this project were not able to attend this meeting.
Liaison and exchange of information
1. Canadian Museum of Nature
Dr. Mark Graham, Director, Research Services reported that the Canadian Museum of Nature has experienced a funding shortfall for at least the last 5 years, largely because of increased operating costs of both of the Museum’s buildings. Dr. Graham emphasized these financial uncertainties remain in effect and he would advise the Committee when there is any budget news that will affect the BSC.
Dr. Smith reported that he and Dr. Steve Marshall had attended the Museum’s strategic planning retreat the week prior to the Scientific Committee meeting. The two-day meeting was a business-oriented session where many ideas were discussed and to be forwarded on for further considerations at another level of the Museum.
2. Entomological Society of Canada
Dr. Terry Shore, President of the Entomological Society of Canada reported that The Canadian Entomologist lost money for the first time. Dr. Paul Fields will be heading up an ad-hoc committee to look at various options to remedy that situation. Otherwise the new editors of the Bulletin and The Canadian Entomologist are firmly entrenched in their roles and everything is going smoothly with those publications.
Dr. Smith proposed ensuring that an annual symposium at the ESC annual meeting is organized by the BSC to present BSC-related research and projects. He endeavoured to organize such a symposium at the ESC/ESO joint annual meeting in Ottawa in 2008.
3. Barcode of Life / Polar Barcode of Life Initiative (PolarBOLI)
The Committee discussed pursuing some sort of collaboration with the Barcode of Life project. Dr. Currie plans to attend a meeting of the PolarBOLI in Norway and will report at the spring meeting on potential opportunities with that group.
4. Council of Canadian Academies
Dr. Graham explained that the Council of Canadian Academies is a newly formed scientific advisory body to the federal government. One of the issues that they will be exploring deals with the level of systematics expertise in Canada and whether Canada is prepared to answer questions about biodiversity. The Council may investigate in various ways including consulting experts such as the Biological Survey of Canada.
1. Regional developments
Because many Committee members were either not able to attend or not able to stay for the entire meeting, reports on regional developments and liaison and exchange of information were curtailed. However, information of potential interest from some regions was reported, including work being carried out by graduate students and others (not noted here), and the following examples.
In Alberta, there is an initiative at the Canadian Forest Service to have the curators formulate a department-wide collections policy. The Royal Alberta Museum renovation and expansion is on hold because of the increase in construction costs. A lot of data were generated this past summer at the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, although not at the species level. There are many biodiversity studies ongoing in Alberta that are now in the longer-term phases.
In Ontario, a special D.H. Pengelly tribute volume of the Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario was published last year, with another planned for 2007 and included systematic, taxonomic, or faunistic papers from former students.
In the Maritimes, Mr. Chris Majka continues with much Coleoptera research and has recently published several papers on the beetle fauna of the Maritime provinces, with 7 new species and more than 50 new Canadian records, 260 new records from the Maritimes region as a whole, and more than 1000 new provincial records in several families. Mr. Reggie Webster is also very active in the Maritimes, especially in collecting many new species of staphylinid beetles (over 640 morphospecies now) and will collaborate with Dr. Jan Klimaszewski on a publication of new species records for New Brunswick. The Acadian Entomological Society’s annual meeting was held in June and included a faunistics symposium with interesting presentations on aquatic insect biodiversity studies in the Maritimes, insects of forensic importance, maritime beetles, and arachnids.
2. BSC Transition / Planning for the future
Given funding pressures the CMN, considerable discussion revolved around the future direction of the BSC. Over the next few months, the Committee will be focussing on reviewing the BSC’s vision and goals, a promotion and fundraising strategy and a proposal for a large collaborative research project. (See also the BSC’s vision statement as devised by the Committee).
3. Other matters
The Committee also discussed other matters such as Survey publications, possible price reductions of some Biological Survey Foundation publications, the BSC scholarship, Survey publicity, and membership of the Scientific Committee.