Nov 152011

Today was a bit of an oddity for a large meeting; the morning was chalk full of talks and poster presentations, but absolutely no scientific content all afternoon, but rather full of societal business meetings. This means I ran around like mad all morning and then sat on my hands all afternoon, so it’ll be a bit of a light review today.

As I mentioned, all of the student talks were this morning in order for the President’s Prizes to be awarded this evening. I ended up sitting in on 9 or 10 talks as well as exploring the poster session, so I was able to get a pretty good feel for the level of proficiency displayed, and was it ever high! I don’t think I went to a single talk or saw a single poster which I wasn’t inspired or awed by! Everyone seems to be doing fantastic research, whether revising Neotropical cicada taxonomy, studying the evolution of eusociality in carpenter bees, or exploring the relationships of Australian horse flies, every talk I sat in on had me entertained and curious about the hypotheses they were working on! Not only were the talks well presented, but the slides were well designed, and the research given in an understandable medium, immersing the audience in the project at hand. There was even a student describing the puparium of a North American Neriid fly (a group of flies very closely related to the Micropezidae I study)! I couldn’t have asked for a better morning of talks!

I just wanted to mention how great the new ESA Ento-2011 iPhone App is! It has allowed me to easily keep track of when and where I want to be, who’s speaking and what their talk number is, which I found to be a good way to keep track of citations on Twitter. Normally I’d need to fumble around with my big book of titles, switching pages and losing my spot while wasting valuable talk time, but the app has done an amazing job of keeping me on track and in the right room. Kudos to the ESA for developing and sharing a great tool!

Over lunch I took in the vendor displays again now that there weren’t as many people hanging around, and then looked into the ESA Career Center to see what sort of positions were available. Turns out that it’s not a good time to be looking for an entomological job or graduate position, as there were very few advertisements this year! The last time I was at ESA the binders were stuffed full of job, faculty and graduate postings, but this year there may have been 2 dozen total, with very few looking for ecologists and none interested in taxonomy. Whether this is a normal pattern and we’re in a lull, or whether this is a delayed effect of the economic downturn, I’m not sure, but it was a little disheartening. I suppose it can only get better from here, right?

After finishing up the slides for my last talk, I met with Ignasi Bartomeus (@ibartomeus), a pollination ecology post-doc at Rutgers who I’ve been corresponding with on Twitter since Sunday, to have a beer and talk insects. We had a great discussion about the value of social media for public outreach and the value of natural history collections to ecologists. It was enlightening conversation for me, and one that wouldn’t have happened had I not traveled to Reno, or hadn’t been using Twitter! Social Media for the Win again!

Finally, I met with the rest of the Cerceris fumipennis research crew for a brainstorming session on how to continue the work and discuss Wednesday’s symposium. We ended up crashing the Arkansas/Auburn/Clemson/Tennessee Alumni Reception (shh, don’t tell) and sat in the corner discussing new ideas for the next field season. If you want to see some passionate, dedicated entomologists committed to a research project they fully believe in, then you should come out Wednesday afternoon in room A12 for the Biosurveillance symposium!

Tomorrow is an extremely full day, with talks in almost every slot that I am looking forward to seeing! I’ll be taking plenty of notes, that’s for sure!

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 102011

The latest volume of the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification was published recently and is the first in a series on the Staphylinidae of Eastern Canada. Coordinated and authored by Adam Brunke, this first volume provides a key to all of the rove beetle subfamilies and tribes of the Staphylininae found in eastern Canada (and adjoining US states, termed ECAS by Adam). In addition to these keys, Adam has treated the species of the Staphylinina, and has plans to further coordinate and complete the treatment of the eastern Canadian Staphylinidae in due time (it might take awhile considering the rove beetles are the largest family of animals in the world). With plenty of stunning images and an unconventional key structure designed to increase usability for even the most novice of entomologists, Adam is well on his way to bringing these tiny yet important beetles into the public!

Xantholinus elegans by Dave Cheung Staphylinidae Insect Beetle

Photo by Dave K.B. Cheung


Brunke, A., Newton, A., Klimaszewski, J., Majka, C. and Marshall, S. 2011. Staphylinidae of Eastern Canada and Adjacent United States. Key to Subfamilies; Staphylininae: Tribes and Subtribes, and Species of Staphylinina. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification No. 12, 20 January 2011, available online at, doi: 10.3752/cjai.2011.12. (Open Access)
Jan 282011

Today’s special guest blogger is Jess Vickruck, a PhD candidate at Brock University. Jess studies twig nesting bee diversity and the impacts of nest choice on their biology.

When I first started my master’s project, my intention was to look at how nest choice affected fitness in twig nesting carpenter bees (genus Ceratina, family Apidae).  Little did I know that along with twigs full of bee larvae I would also get up close and personal with numerous uninvited house guests who all had one thing in mind – Ceratina are delicious!  Although my supervisor continually reminded me that my thesis was about the bees and not the species that eat bees, I wrote up the data, and lucky for me it appears in the 2010 edition of the Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario.

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Nov 052010
I’d like to welcome Adam Brunke to Biodiversity in Focus as a special guest blogger today. Adam is a graduate student at the University of Guelph, and studies the diversity and agroecology of rove beetles (Staphylinidae) in Ontario.

North America’s insect fauna is changing rapidly. Many of us, however, are completely unaware of this: flies still land on our food, mosquitoes continue to feed on us and carpenter ants show up every year in our kitchens looking for something to eat. The truth is, something strange is happening to the insect communities in our backyards. So many foreign invaders have become established on this continent that it’s becoming a challenge in some places to find native species. In my experience this is especially apparent for beetles: firstly because there are so many exotic species here now; secondly because this is the group that I specialize in. If you casually surveyed your neighborhood for beetles, and sent the sample 100 years into the past to a taxonomist working in North America, they would probably complement you on your excellent reference collection of European Coleoptera!

Xantholinus elegans by Dave Cheung Staphylinidae Insect Beetle

Photo by Dave K.B. Cheung

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