The following probably won't sit well with the museum community but the point made about 90%+ of specimens belonging to common species is key.

I've been envisioning a robotic Malaise trap system that can be set to run all season by itself. It captures temp & precip data and every week weighs its trap catch and dumps it into a waste container for later disposal. It sends these data weekly to a server.

All we'd get from this is flying insect biomass but if these were run in many places for many decades we'd have an incredible dataset. If insect populations are crashing globally this sort of sampling would provide very valuable data.

Of course we need to continue to sample for biodiversity to get all species represented in our museums and catalogs but currently we have no good system for biomass sampling that can tell us about insect abundance.

The few long term studies that actually had consistent methods that measured abundance/biomass, like the one from Germany, are remarkable but the reason they're rare is it's very hard to do something complicated for 30+ years. It needs to be simple if it's to be widespread.

I'd think the LTEMP / NEON folks would love this idea.


On Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:40 AM Andrew Johnston <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
NEON does have a standardized pitfall protocol (outlined here: ) with very detailed instructions and SOP's written for every step of the process (PDF available here: )

Only Carabidae have thus far been separated and identified for those trap samples, but there are residues from 2 years of biweekly pitfall samples from all of the NEON sites ( )

These specimens are now mostly located at Arizona State University, with the rest in the process of being shipped over here.  So yes, NEON is working towards 30 years of standardized pitfalls from across the US


On Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 12:00 PM Robert Anderson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Doesn't the NEON program do this or something similar already???  Bob
From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Antonio Gomez <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: November 28, 2018 1:21:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Insect Apocalypse: The Role of Museums in the Future Monitoring
Thanks for the thoughtful email Mike!! I think it’ll give us a lot to stew on.

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. 

^^^^This would be wonderful!! 


On Nov 28, 2018, at 8:23 AM, Mike Ferro <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

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 future. 

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 recovered. 

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, etc. 

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 following: 

“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
Subject Editor: The Coleopterists Bulletin; Insecta Mundi

M. Andrew Johnston, Ph.D.
Zootaxa Subject Editor - Tenebrionoidea
Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center
Arizona State University


Derek S. Sikes, Curator of Insects
Professor of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
1962 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, AK   99775-6960

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phone: 907-474-6278
FAX: 907-474-5469

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