Specimen Collection and Preparation
Collection around the field station
Insect traps such as Malaise traps are set up at places in natural corridors in the forest where insects will encounter them during flight (for more info on
collection methods see links at the bottom of this page). Collection methods such as visual search, netting, sweeping, beating and sampling from leaf litter in the nearby reserve are also employed. At night, blacklights and mercury vapor lights are used for hand collecting at suspended sheets, while researchers may also walk trails with headlamps in search of nocturnal species.
In 2002, the first fogging in Hispaniola of a tree canopy
to collect arthropods
was performed at Parque Nacional del
Este (shown in video at right).
Fogging is fumigation with biodegradable, pyrethroid fog using
a suspended parachute funnel to catch the resulting rain of
insects. This procedure is carried out at 4 am when the chance
of disruptive winds are lowest. The fogging of a small tree
in March 2002 later proved to yield several hundred insect
species, including many new species unknown to science.
Back in the lab
Samples of insects are brought into the lab for sorting
under microscopes. In the 2002 Harvard course, these samples
were sorted and then exchanged
teams of students, each of which were assigned target groups
of insects (e.g. moths, crickets, wasps, flies, beetles, true
bugs). Each 3 member team included one Dominican member, with
each team responsible for mounting, labeling, bar-coding and
imaging their particular insect groups before entering the
data into a database and subsequent storage of the specimens
in the insect cabinets maintained on site.
Bar code labels are a recent third addition to the traditional two labels that respectively record 1) the collecting site, the date and the collector; and 2)
the identification of the specimen. Unlike these, the bar code labels are positioned upside down at the bottom of the pin, so that each specimen can be easily passed under a stationary bar code reader attached to a computer running the database, recording the unique specimen number for immediate reference to an individual data record in the database. Partcipants in this exercise learn skills required for establishing a modern biodiversity/ bioinformatics station, following the model of the InBio system in Costa Rica (http://www.inbio.ac.cr/en/default.html).
Links for more information about collecting, pinning and mounting:
Malaise traps: http://www.entosupplies.com.au/Equipment/Field/Traps/malaise_traps.html
General Collection Methods (spiders but same principles apply): http://www.marion.ohio-state.edu/spiderweb/CollectingTechniques.htm
Mounting. pinning and labelling: http://life.bio.sunysb.edu/bio380/collection.htm
Point mounting (ants, but same principles apply): http://www.acad.carleton.edu/curricular/BIOL/resources/ant/PINNING.html
Mounting (beetles but same principles apply): http://www.coleoptera.org/p882.htm