Looking back and looking forward

It was another busy year in the Lyman lab.

As in any active lab, students come and go every year. Chris Borkent defended his Ph.D. on the systematics of some mycetophilid fungus gnats this year, and is off in Sacramento, California living the life of a Postdoc. Alyssa MacLeod has recently finished her M.Sc. on patterns of diversity in high-elevation grassland flies. On the other side of the revolving door, Amélie Grégoire Taillefer, our Canadensys database coordinator for most of the past three years, rejoined the lab as a Ph.D. student to work on community phylogenetics in wetland flies.

Postdoctoral fellow Laura Timms is hard at work unravelling a mountain of great data on arctic ichneumonid wasps (the first paper from Laura’s ichneumonid work is in press). M.Sc. students Meagan Blair, Anna Solecki, Christine Barrie and Heather Cumming continue to make great progress on arctic Diptera ecology and evolution, arthropod diversity in urban and suburban green spaces, and the systematics of flat-footed flies. And undergrad project students Sabrina Rochefort and Élodie Vajda are sorting out the mysteries of their favorite families of arctic flies: piophilids and empidids.

There’s not much point doing great research if you’re not going to tell the world about it. We published five refereed papers in 2012 on subjects ranging from the importance of Natural History (Hampton & Wheeler 2012) to community assembly of flies in restored peatlands (Grégoire Taillefer & Wheeler 2012), with a healthy dose of fly taxonomy (Borkent & Wheeler 2012, Boucher 2012a, Boucher 2012b). We have a few more papers already in press, accepted or in review, so 2013 is shaping up to be another good year. In addition to the printed word, Lyman staff, postdocs and students gave 14 conference presentations or institutional seminars this year. We also published a history and profile of the Lyman Museum (Wheeler 2012), and an update on our Diptera research with the Northern Biodiversity Program (NBP) (Blair et al. 2012), in the summer issue of the Biological Survey of Canada Newsletter.

Belated congratulations for 2012 are in order for some Lymanites. Anna was awarded a W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research from ACUNS for her M.Sc. work on arctic flies. Anna also received the Entomological Society of Canada’s M.Sc. Postgraduate Award. Amélie was awarded an NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship for her Ph.D. program, Lyman students also picked up a trio of entomology awards from McGill University: Heather received a Margaret Duporte Fellowship for her M.Sc. work; Christine received the E. Melville Duporte Award; and Sabrina was this year’s recipient of the Lochhead Memorial Prize for outstanding undergraduate work in entomology. Nice!

Fieldwork figured prominently in our summer schedule. We chased flies in the grasslands of Alberta, and then headed north to the Yukon, where we, along with a second Yukon team from Chris Buddle’s lab (our partners in NBP work), put in another short field season on the NBP. Heather chased elusive platypezid flies from Ohio to eastern Ontario and turned up some very nice specimens of these rarely-collected flies. Some great new material also came into the collection through exchanges and research collaborations with colleagues.

We bought 60 new insect drawers. 57 of them are already full. I think we need more. We also bought a lot of insect pins. A lot. I think we need more.

What’s in store for 2013? Some more students will wrap up their manuscripts and degrees and move on to new and exciting opportunities, and no doubt some new stars will join the lab. We’ll be heading north again to continue unraveling the mysteries of why there are so many flies in the arctic. We’ll be doing more taxonomy and ecology. We’ll be looking at some exciting new flies from Costa Rica. The conference circuit will take us to Lancaster PA in March, Minneapolis MN in August, Austin TX in November, and, perhaps most exciting, back for a long-overdue trip to my old home turf in Guelph, Ontario for the 150th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada.

Nobody does good science in isolation; it’s all a big group effort. So thanks, as always, to the 2012 team: Stéphanie, Laura, Chris, Amélie, Alyssa, Meagan, Anna, Christine, Heather, Sabrina, Élodie and George, who continue to make the Lyman Museum a great place to learn and work.

And Happy New Year to all of our collaborators, colleagues and friends around the world.

old school insect art: moth paintings (life size) from the Lyman archives

Old-school insect art: moth paintings (life size) from the Lyman archives


About terry wheeler

professor, museum director, entomologist, ecologist, naturalist
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