Thursday, April 10, 2014

...and another record

Paul Hebert documenting the exciting find
Today's post shows the way in which sampling programs launched for barcode programs can deliver unexpected surprises.

Back in 2006 our institute decided to engage in the International Polar Year, a large scientific program that focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic and officially covered two full annual cycles from March 2007 to March 2009. Our contribution was to develop a comprehensive biodiversity inventory for a sub-arctic region, in our case Churchill, Manitoba. There is a variety of reasons to chose this spot of all in Canada. Churchill is situated along the Hudson Bay seacoast at the meeting of three major biomes: marine, northern boreal forest, and tundra which makes it biologically very interesting. Furthermore, Churchill is home to an accessible and active research centre/station which provides accommodations, meals, equipment rentals, and logistical support to researchers. A lot of stations in Canada's North have been closed over the past years and only recently it was decided to build a new one in the High Arctic. Another contributing factor was that our department ran arctic ecology courses at this particular station enabling us to engange students in the inventory work. The goal was rather simple - a comprehensive inventory of all live in the Churchill region and explicitly using DNA Barcoding to accomplish this. 

I had the chance to participate in two expeditions and I vividly remember the first one of them in 2006. We had about 20 highly motivated students and at least 10 senior researchers. One day we encountered a moth that was actually a rather rare visitor to the region and a recent paper now proofs that it was actually the most northerly find ever. The Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) is a seasonal migrant to more northerly regions of North America but it was never found that far north. It is thought to breed in Central America and the southernmost United States. 

So after the German altitude record not long ago we have another record for the books.

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