Nov 092016

To: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa

Last night we watched as our neighbour and closest ally elected someone who everyone predicted was unelectable. Someone who centred their campaign on lies, bigotry, and fear; of others, of science, of reality. We watched as state after state after state endorsed these messages with their votes, and we wondered together how this could happen, and what do we do next?

What we do next is largely up to you. It’s the job you applied for, the job we elected you for, the job we need you for. Don’t worry, we as a nation of diverse and proud people will be here to provide guidance, and support, as you navigate the intricacies of a world waking up to an outcome that seemed beyond odds only hours before. But we need you to lead.

We need you to lead. We need you to lead here at home, to help us stamp out racism, bigotry, and xenophobia, to not allow these tones to resonate and spread like a mould beneath the surface of our society. We need you to lead for the downtrodden and disadvantaged, the refugees and the first nations, those struggling to survive on thinning dollars and those inspired to study despite growing tuitions. We need you to lead away from home; to advocate for an environment in jeopardy, for decisions based on evidence, not evangelism, and for peace in a world divided. We need you to lead our country, and in turn, make our country a leader.

Now is our chance to lead, together. We can shoulder burdens we’ve allowed others to carry on our behalf. We can lead the shift towards clean energy, towards humanitarian aid and equality, and towards a future we will all be proud to call home. Together, we can overcome the obstacles facing our society. Together, we can set the example of prosperity, equality, and responsibility. Together, we can lead. Together.

Together we’ll face opposition: from people who value individual wealth before global health; from people who fear change more than consequences; from people who have lost hope in a system that has let them down time and time again. But together we can embrace these people, and lead them through a world that is evolving, reminding them that we are all just people. Together.

So, invest in science, but also in art. Bring health care to those who need it, education to those who want it, and security to those who rely on it. Inspire those who can afford to give to do so, and support those who can’t, yet aspire to. Reach out beyond our borders, and don’t bend to belligerence. It won’t be easy of course; leading never is. But we can do it.


Jan 062015

Natural History Collections are the Libraries of biology. They collect, protect, and maintain the specimens that allow us to understand how the natural world works, and then they make them available for people to use, study and enjoy, usually for free. Every specimen is irreplaceable, a priceless first edition that allows us to explore, interpret and compare the unique ways in which evolution, ecology, and the environment have shaped not only the species we share this planet with, but also ourselves.

Imagine a library without a librarian. What do you suppose would happen? For one, there wouldn’t be any new books added for you to borrow, enjoy, or learn from, so you better like the classics and not be interested in keeping up with the New York Times Bestseller List. That’s assuming of course you can even find the books you’re interested in, because without someone to make sure they’re kept in their proper spot and order maintained, shelves will devolve into chaos, and it won’t be long until insects, microbes, and the environment begin to decompose the entire collection into piles of poorly organized dust.

The same is true for biological collections, only the librarians are called curators. Without a curator, a natural history collection is nothing more than a poorly organized pile of dust in waiting. No museum in their right mind would allow the very core of their existence decompose like this, would they?

The Royal British Columbia Museum is thinking about it. The CEO of the museum, Professor Jack Lohman, is of the mind that the Entomology Collection no longer needs a paid curator, and that the money earmarked for employing one could be better spent elsewhere in the museum. He couldn’t be more wrong.

The last entomology curator, Dr. Robert Cannings (who happens to be a dipterist who did his PhD at the very lab bench that I’m doing mine at now) retired in 2012 after a 32 year career as Curator of Entomology. He has stayed on as Curator Emeritus, but the museum has yet to hire his replacement, and has now publicly stated that they likely won’t.

Let’s return to our library metaphor again for a moment to illustrate how poor, and unprofessional, the decision to let the RBCM entomology collection go without a curator is. According to their website and this information sheet put together by the collection staff (PDF), the entomology collection at the RBCM was established in 1886, and now holds roughly 600,000 specimens. Compare that to the Canadian Library of Parliament, the most prestigious library in Canada that is attached to our Parliament Buildings and which serves as the official repository and resource for our government. It was founded a mere 10 years before the RBCM entomology collection, in 1876, and also houses 600,000 items today. The difference is that Library of Parliament employs 300 people to keep it running and functional, while the Royal British Columbia Museum Entomology Collection currently employs 1 collection manager, and has been deemed undeserving of a curator to maintain its esteemed history.

That is unacceptable.

But it’s not too late. Professor Lohman has agreed to hear arguments for why the entomology curatorship position should be filled, and will delay making a final decision until January 22, 2015.

Natural History Collections matter. Entomology matters. Curators matter. Please join me in letting Professor Lohman know that this is not an issue that should even be negotiated, never mind cut outright. Write him a letter (his address & email are below). Tweet at him using @RoyalBCMuseum and share why museums and the collections they maintain matter to you; tweets including the museum’s Twitter handle seem to go directly onto the front page of the museum website for all to see!

Stand up for entomology research in Canada. Don’t let 129 years of natural heritage turn to dust.

Write to:

Prof. Jack Lohman

Chief Executive Officer

Royal British Columbia Museum

675 Belleville St,

Victoria, BC V8W 9W2

And send a copy to:

Peter Ord: Vice President, Archives, Collections, and Knowledge

Jul 012012

Parliament Hill & Canada Day StageWhile working on my MSc in Ottawa back in 2008, my wife-to-be and I decided it would be appropriate to celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill with thousands of our fellow Canadians1. After spending a beautiful day taking in our country’s history with a full range of festivities including the RCMP Musical Ride, a stellar concert series that ran all afternoon, and speeches by politicians and other notable Canadians, we settled on the main lawn in front of the Peace Tower for an evening concert series and some killer fireworks. Continue reading »

Jan 302012

Just a quick post to let you know I’m still alive. It’s been a busy few weeks, and writing new blog posts has had to take a backseat lately. Sorry about that. I hope to get a few posts up in the next few weeks as I get a handle on some of the projects, but until then, enjoy this photo of autumnal mushrooms!

I used this photo in one of my lectures last week (more on that soon, I promise) and figured I’d share it with all of you as well. My fungal identification skills are less than zero, so if you have an inkling as to what it may be, let me know!


Fall Mushrooms from Bancroft Ontario Canada


More to come soon!

May 042011

The latest volume of the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification was published today, and it’s one of the most visually compelling keys published so far! Allowing you to identify all the world’s genera of Clusiidae as well as the species found in North America, this new key provides plenty of fantastic photos, an awesome layout and functionality, and something not yet utilized in CJAI papers, a Lucid™ Matrix key. While I’m personally not a fan of Lucid™ products in particular, matrix keys provide users an open-ended path to identification, increasing the chances of a correct identification.

While clusiid flies aren’t necessarily the most frequently observed flies, they are nonetheless fascinating, featuring some incredible behaviours. One of the few acalyptrate families to defend lekking territories, males will take up residence on sunny stretches of logs or dry forest floors and battle with other males for prime areas. Check out the battle gear on these two males:

Procerosoma alini male head - Lonsdale et al 2011

Procerosoma alini male head - Lonsdale et al 2011

Hendelia kinetrolikros - Lonsdale et al 2011

Hendelia kinetrolikros - Lonsdale et al 2011











Continue reading »

Apr 132011

My MSc Defense Poster


The Quest for the Master’s Degree is nearing it’s conclusion! If you’ll be in the Guelph area on Monday, I invite you to stop in and see what I’ve been up to for the past 3.5 years. I can promise plenty of taxonomic discussion (hopefully well defended by yours truly), plenty of pictures and diagrams, and the world premiere of 3 species new to science! There will be Timbits and coffee for those who require further encouragement/bribes.

The last month has been all over the place, with periods of extremely long days full of final revisions and paperwork, and an eerie academic Limbo without needing to work on my thesis for the first time in years. There’s always work to be done however, and I’ve been preparing the chapters for peer-reviewed publication. Once everything is said and done, I’ll be doing a series of posts reflecting back on my first graduate degree; the highs, the lows, and some tips for those considering doing graduate work in taxonomy. Until then, have a good weekend, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Feb 172011

It’s a been a busy period for the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, and today I bring you lucky #13, the final volume chronicling the horse & deer flies of Canada east of the Rockies. Although Canadian tabanids were relatively recently treated by H.G. Teskey (1990),  Anthony Thomas has now updated the distributions for these flies, and has greatly increased the number of illustrations, simplifying the identification of these beautiful brachycerans.

Atylotus bicolor Tabanidae horse fly

Atylotus bicolor (Wiedemann)

Continue reading »

Dec 212010
Lunar Eclipse, Feb. 2, 2008

EXIF - 1.6 sec, f/5.0, ISO 400, 70-300mm lens set at 122mm, tripod+remote shutter release

Happy Winter Solstice! It might not be as exciting as Christmas, but the winter solstice signals the lengthening of days, shortening of nights, and the return of summer and insects. Ya, it might be awhile still, but a guy can dream can’t he?

This year also saw a rare occurrence of a full lunar eclipse occurring on the winter solstice. Does it mean anything? Nope, just a special day for a special occasion. Since the next time these two astrological events coincide is in exactly 84 years on Dec. 21, 2094, it would have been a nice time to do some moon-gazing! Of course if it occured at 3am EST on a cloudy night and you have a committee meeting the next day like I did, you had to settle for photos you took in years past!

This shot was from the lunar eclipse of February 2, 2008 and shot from the middle of a rural road north of Guelph. Getting away from the light pollution of cities is the first step in astrophotography. A tripod, a remote shutter release (or warm mitts to guard against the cold while you press that button) and a hot drink all help to get the shot. Unless you live in Western Africa or the South Pacific, you’ll have to wait until June 2012 to try your hand at photographing the next partial lunar eclipse!

Nov 242010

Cedar Waxwing in berry tree in Spring

This isn’t an insect you say? You’re right; I’m using this Cedar Waxwing to distract you from the recent lack of posts. I’ve been juggling several pressing issues (thesis writing, ESO business, deadlines for external projects, you know the deal) and the blog has been the ball that got bobbled lately. Don’t worry though, I’ve got a couple of important topics lined up to discuss in the near future! Until then, enjoy this symbol of urban Canadian winters, and check back soon for an examination of Canadian Biodiversity Science!