Another year – autumn in the lab

As always, fall is a busy time in the museum. We have a few personnel changes (fairly standard for this time of year), a pile of upcoming conference talks, and some big ongoing research projects.

Amélie Grégoire Taillefer, who has been our database coordinator on the Canadensys project for the past few years, is back living the student life this fall, starting a Ph.D. on community structure and community phylogenetics of wetland Diptera. It’s great to have Amélie back in the lab; she brings a lot of expertise in Diptera identification and ecological analyses with her.

We’re also delighted that Laura Timms will be continuing as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab. Laura will be completing several ongoing projects on the diversity and ecology of arctic ichneumonid wasps from the Northern Biodiversity Program. These parasitoids are not only gorgeous insects, they are abundant and diverse in the north, and clearly play a significant role in arctic foodwebs.

Alyssa MacLeod submitted her M.Sc. thesis on diversity patterns in alpine Diptera at the end of August and she’s in the final stages of wrapping up that project. In the meantime, Alyssa has jumped back into a taxonomic project on the picture-winged flies (family Ulidiidae) that was shifted to the back burner while she processed and identified several thousand alpine flies for her M.Sc. work.

Meagan Blair, Anna Solecki, Christine Barrie and Heather Cumming all continue to make great strides on their M.Sc. projects. And three of our undergrad students (Sabrina Rochefort, Élodie Vajda, Sarah Bercu) will be staying on in the lab this fall to keep working on their adopted families of arctic insects from the NBP. So the lab benches will continue to be littered with drawers of scathophagid flies (Meagan), ground beetles (Christine), Beringian acalyptrate flies (Anna), platypezid flies (Heather), piophilid flies (Sabrina), arctic dance flies (Élodie), and arctic sawflies (Sarah) for just a little while longer.

It will be another busy conference season this year as well. Terry Wheeler and Anna Solecki attended the Ecological Society of America conference in Portland, Oregon in August, where Anna presented a poster on our ongoing ecological work on the Diptera of Kugluktuk, Nunavut. We’ll have a big McGill contingent Alberta-bound for the Entomological Society of Canada meeting in Edmonton in November, with Terry, Laura, Anna, Meagan, Christine and Heather all giving presentations, along with several people from Chris Buddle’s lab. And a few days after ESC, Terry will be off to Knoxville, Tennessee to give two more talks at the Entomological Society of America meeting.

Many of the Lymanites continue to work our way through the rich material of Diptera and Hymenoptera from the NBP collections. We’re into the final year of NBP Version 1 (although both Terry Wheeler and Chris Buddle will be continuing arctic work beyond the lifetime of this current grant) so some student projects are nearing the end, and some manuscripts are taking shape. There are some great stories and interesting little surprises in the data.

The sorting never ends

Another big initiative that has just launched is the Zurquí All Diptera Biodiversity Inventory, in Costa Rica. This NSF-funded project, led by our colleagues Brian Brown and Art Borkent, will give Terry Wheeler and Stéphanie Boucher the opportunity to dive back into our interests in Central American Diptera diversity as we and a group of 40 other Diptera specialists from around the world set out to document the entire Diptera fauna of a rich and diverse tropical site. The traps are already running down in Zurquí, and we’re eagerly looking forward to seeing the first of the material.

Even though we’re settled into fall teaching and research and conference preparations, collecting season hasn’t wrapped up yet. Heather’s platypezid flies are one of the groups that continues to be active well into the fall, so she’s out on the hunt for these infrequently collected little flies. Also, Stéphanie and Terry’s Field Entomology class has ten keen and motivated students who are outside every sunny day chasing down prey for their class collections, so lots of good fall material is trickling into the lab as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler.

Heather tends the Malaise trap

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About terry wheeler

professor, museum director, entomologist, ecologist, naturalist
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