Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Flickr and BugGuide help determining species range

Credit: Michael Skvarla
Are you still wondering about the value of the involvement of amateur researchers (citizen scientists) for science in general? If you are a regular reader of this blog likely not. That is if I did a good job over the past years. In case you still wonder here another piece of evidence:

The social network image platform Flickr and the citizen science website BugGuide have helped scientists to expand the known range of a rarely collected wasp, native to the eastern United States. 

Orussus minutus, is a parasitic woodwasp that attacks the immature stages of longhorn and jewel beetles. This species was previously known from only 50 specimens mainly from the Northeast of the US a specimen found in Arkansas and encounters from Iowa, Minnesota, and Manitoba shared as photographs on Bugguide and Flickr significantly expand the known range of the species westward.

Spurred on by the find the researchers contacted colleagues who pointed them to a hundred unpublished specimens housed in the United States National Entomology Collection at the Smithsonian, many of which were collected as bycatch in surveys that targeted invasive species like emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle. Many of those are also new state records.

We used two resources - photos on social media and bycatch from large trapping surveys - which are often underutilized and I was really happy we could work both of them into the paper. This work highlights their utility, as well as the importance of maintaining biological collections like the U.S. National Collection.

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