The New York Times wrote a nice story summarizing the “Insect Apocalypse” <>. A couple thoughts about the role of the Museum
concerning that issue.

I was having a conversation with an imaginary person a while back about
restoring pollinator habitat. It dawned on me that not only should the
restored area be monitored for restoration efficacy, but monitoring really
should proceed indefinitely.

We monitor the weather constantly, in more and more places, more and more
ways, higher and higher accuracy and precision. We will continue to do this
into the foreseeable future because it tells us: 1) what’s happening now;
2) what will happen in the immediate future; 3) what will happen in the far

We are already monitoring specific insects (pests, invasives, some
butterflies and bees, etc.), but insects in general need to be monitored
quantitatively in various ways across the landscape. The same way that we
monitor the weather. Museums are IN SOME WAYS “preadapted” to deal with
this issue. We can get money, set up studies, collect, preserve, ID, and
report. But we can’t do any of those things quickly or easily. Most museums
do not operate on a business model, but an academic one. Citizen science
and private companies can provide a quick and cheap service, but not high
quality. Information can be gleaned from photographs and yellow sticky
cards. But consider all the resources that go into gathering those data,
but the enormous loss of efficiency (potential) when good specimens aren’t

A few things we could do:

A. Develop a “modular” standard monitoring protocol so that studies can be
compared across time and space. For example: protocols for FIT, Malaise,
pitfall, sifting, UV light trap, etc. (not just how to set them up, but
when to deploy and for how long, etc.). One or more monitoring types could
be employed (the “modular” part) as is appropriate to the site, budget,

B. We need to be able to process and ID specimens faster. Whereas insect
mass was used previously to study changes over time, we’ll want to be able
to track taxa over time (there will be a trend toward increased accuracy
and precision). To revisit the weather analogy, in the old days we only
recorded temperature at a given time every day, now we record temperature
continuously, plus humidity, windspeed, pollen, latex, etc. I’ve jabbered
about my mass ID idea before:;3743ad37.1709E

C. Business models. Working through academic institutions can be difficult.
Creation of a private company that acts as an intermediary between the
“client” and the institution a museum is associated with might help remove
bureaucracy and create an easier experience for the client. We would only
need one such “company” in the US. In future, monitoring will not just be
funded by NSF grants. Cities, private organizations, companies, states,
friend’s groups of parks, private citizens, etc., etc. will want to
establish long term monitoring at their sites. Creating a system where an
agency or individual can order a monitoring service online as easily as
ordering something from Amazon should be a priority!

D. Permits. I was in northern Missouri last week and the little bit of land
(~good habitat) that isn’t a corn or soybean field requires a permit. At
least three different agencies would have to be contacted (Missouri
Department of Conservation, Missouri State Parks, and a National Wildlife
Refuge) to collect from nice sites that are less than 20 miles apart. I
fully appreciate that all the agencies have mandates, duties, should be
aware of what’s happening on their land, etc.

To ease the permitting process, we (ECN?) should develop a general
“statement” that outlines monitoring procedures, protocols,
responsibilities of the collectors, methods of specimen deposition, etc.
that could be used when applying for permits. It would save countless hours
of reinventing the wheel on our end and if done correctly would make the
permitting process more streamlined for the permitting agencies.

For example the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, application for
scientific collecting permit asks for:

“A detailed narrative of the project for which the permit is being applied
for. Narrative must include: the reason the project is being undertaken,
the expected outcome and/or conservation benefit for Iowa, list of the
species or the groups of plants or animals and the number of each species
or group to be studied and collected, and a description of collection
methods to be used.”

Missouri Department of Conservation wildlife collectors permit asks for the

“Copy of research proposal must accompany requests for
Biomonitoring/Environmental Assessment and Scientific Research activities.”

There is no reason two different research proposals should be written to
get the two permits, nor any reason two different researchers should submit
different proposals to one of those agencies. A single statement, lightly
edited, would work for multiple researchers across both of those agencies.

I fully appreciate that the above seems like a pipedream, but forms are
updated, committees accept changes, etc. Most places are not interested in
making more work for themselves, so if they can include a check box on the
collecting permit form that says “Biomonitoring under ECN-201903” and NOT
have to read, evaluate, and edit another collecting proposal, some will be
willing to do that, especially if other places are doing the same.

E. All of the above lends itself to the idea of creating a national-wide
insect biomonitoring organization that helps to coordinate activities of
various independent groups: museums and academia, citizen scientists,
businesses, independent monitors at various parks, refuges, cities, etc.

There is a great potential to increasing funding and specimen accrual for
museums in the near future. In order to maximize that potential we will
have to be proactive and willing to change or work around some of our
(stodgy) ways.

If you made it all the way to here, congrats.



Michael L. Ferro
Collection Manager, Clemson University Arthropod Collection (CUAC)
Dept. of Plant and Environmental Sciences
277 Poole Agricultural Center
Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0310
OFFICE: 307 Long Hall
[log in to unmask] (preferred)
[log in to unmask]
Subject Editor: The Coleopterists Bulletin; Insecta Mundi
Residue Photos: