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Entomologist Survey: Life & Living in Academia

This is a guest post by Dr. Laurel Haavik, post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University.

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I am a post-doc. I’ve been one for nearly six years. Like many other post-docs, I have been working for over a decade towards my goal: a tenure-track position at a research-intensive academic institution. I enjoy research and teaching, and so a career including both seemed like a logical pursuit. I must be good enough to succeed in this pursuit, otherwise someone would have told me to opt for a different path by now. After all, only a small percentage of Ph.D.s actually become professors. I must be pretty close to achieving this goal, because lately I’ve had several interviews – no offers yet. By now, most of my peers have secured permanent positions, although some have gone on different paths. It must be my turn soon. I had faith in the system; confidence in myself.

Earlier this summer, I was invited to give a talk at a conference, in a session on women in science. I accepted willingly; the subject seemed challenging and relevant. As I began to prepare, I realized I knew nothing about it. So, I did what any scientist would do: I turned to the primary literature on women in science. What I found changed my whole perspective on academia, my career, and most importantly: my life.

I learned that the tenure system is outdated, and filters out many creative and talented people. It was established ca. 1940, when those entering academic careers were mostly men. Assistant professors were expected to live on campus, and work intensively, around-the-clock, on establishing themselves until achieving tenure. Sounds a lot like graduate school, or a post-doc, doesn’t it? There’s not much room in that scenario for having a life outside of this pursuit. It turns out that not much has changed about this in the intervening 70+ years. To make it worse, there are now few jobs and too many of us with graduate degrees competing to fill them. It turns out that women, more often than men, are willing to forgo their academic dreams because of this ridiculousness, in favor of something better – probably a happier life. It seems that there are two issues. One: is it even possible? Women are confronted with the complications of basic biology at the very same time as they would be embarking on a demanding academic career. Most of us are well into our thirties, near the end of our child-bearing years, by the time we’re on the job search. Two: they’re exhausted, wondering if an academic career is akin to never-ending graduate school. In the academic atmosphere, there is intense pressure to do more; for example, publish or perish, fund or famish. Talent and creativity that science badly needs is undoubtedly lost as women and men continue to opt out of this outdated system, and for very reasonable grounds.

I took a long, hard look at my career so far. I’m on my third post-doc. I’ve had two failed relationships and a third that might not make it if I have to move again. I’m not married. I don’t have children. I’m in my mid-thirties, meaning that if I want to have children, I better get situated and do it soon. Maybe academia isn’t for me after all, even though my interests, teaching and research, are so well-aligned with the academic mission. I realized that my adult life so far, 90% career and 10% life outside of work, is a direct product of what I like to call our broken academic system. We need to better understand and voice our discontent with the broken academic system, or it won’t change.

I wondered if others feel the same way. In my field, had others thought of leaving science? And if so, why? Has the disparity in numbers of women and men graduates vs. those occupying professional positions actually changed in recent decades? Most importantly, what allows people to cope with such a rigorous career? I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors, support from my family, and support and encouragement from the scientific community in my field. Have others had the same kinds of emotional support systems?

My study pursues these questions among three related fields: Forestry, Entomology, and Forest Entomology. In all three of these fields women are not historically well-represented, but this has changed in recent years, especially in Entomology. There are still few women in Forestry. Forest Entomology is a small field with a very inter-connected community, which I hope will provide an interesting contrast to its two larger, sister fields.

Please follow the link below to participate in my study, by completing my survey.

I invite men and women at all stages in their careers, as well as those who are no longer in science, to participate. Please forward this invitation to anyone you know who is no longer in science, but completed graduate school (M.S. or Ph.D.). The results of this study will be published in the primary literature.

Please follow the link below to complete the brief, 28-question survey by September 30, 2015

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/forestry-entomology

It may take 10-15 minutes to complete. I apologize for any cross-posting of this survey. No personal identifying information will be collected as part of the survey, and your participation will be completely anonymous. Answering questions in the survey will indicate consent. Participation is voluntary and you may withdraw at any time without penalty, and there are no incentives to participate. Participation will have no effect upon your relationship with the Entomological Society of Canada. This study has been determined Exempt from IRB review.

Please contact me if I can provide any additional information regarding the aims of or your participation in the survey (Laurel Haavik, 479-422-4997, haavik.1@osu.edu). For questions about your rights as a participant in this study or to discuss other study-related concerns or complaints with someone who is not part of the research team, you may contact Ms. Sandra Meadows in the Office of Responsible Research Practices at 1-800-678-6251 or hsconcerns@osu.edu.

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Emerald Ash Borer – marking 10 years of research

Emerald Ash Borer. Credit Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service. Bugwood.org

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis). Credit: Debbie Miller USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

To mark the publication of the Emerald Ash Borer special issue from The Canadian Entomologist, guest editors Chris MacQuarrie and Krista Ryall from Natural Resources Canada have co-authored this blog post about the issue.

In 2002, residents of Detroit, Michigan noticed something was killing their ash trees. Ash trees in North America are susceptible to some diseases that can result in decline and mortality, so a forest disease specialist was dispatched to investigate why these trees were dying. It was soon determined that the culprit was not a disease, but an insect: a shiny, metallic-green, buprestid beetle not previously known from Michigan, or anywhere else in North America. Authorities in Michigan notified their Canadian counterparts who soon discovered numerous ash trees dying in Windsor, Ontario from damage caused by the same beetle. Eventually, with the help of a European systematist the insect was determined to be the previously described (and previously rare) Agrilus planipennis. Today, this insect is better known by its common name:  the emerald ash borer.

To commemorate the discovery of emerald ash borer in North America, we organized a symposium and workshop at the 2013 Entomological Society of Canada’s and Ontario’s Joint Meeting in Guelph, Ontario. The timing and location of this workshop seemed appropriate because 2013 marked 10 years of research on the emerald ash borer and Guelph is located only a few 100 kilometres from where emerald ash borer was first found, and is now well within the insect’s Canadian range. Our goal with this symposium was to review the state of knowledge on emerald ash borer after ten years of research, and look ahead to the questions that researchers will be asking as the infestation continues to grow and spread. We were fortunate that many of the researchers who have contributed so much of what we know about emerald ash borer were able to participate.

We were quite pleased with how well the symposium turned out. However, information presented in a symposium is ephemeral and fades away as soon as the last talk is over. To prevent this, we imposed upon our presenters to also prepare written versions of their presentations. It took some time, but now these papers are all complete, and have been put together to form a special issue of The Canadian Entomologist dedicated to the emerald ash borer.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer.  Image credit: Chris MacQuarrie

Ten years is a long time in research. We estimated that over 300 papers on emerald ash borer had been produced over that period, with more being produced every month. It is our hope that this special issue can serve as an entry point into this literature for researchers new to the field. We also hope that this issue can be valuable to more established researchers as well, to use as a resource and a touchstone in their own work. This special issue can also serve as a reminder of how much effort is required (in both research and by people) to understand a new pest. What we have learned about emerald ash borer over the past ten years (well, 13 years now) is immense. There is still much to learn though.”

The Emerald Ash Borer special issue is the free sample issue of The Canadian Entomologist for 2015.

Access the special issue for free until 1st January 2016 here.

Main image credit: Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

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Canadian Entomology Research Roundup: January 2015 – March 2015

As a graduate student, publishing a paper is a big deal.  After spending countless hours doing the research, slogging through the writing process, soliciting comments from co-authors, formatting the paper to meet journal guidelines, and dealing with reviewer comments, it’s nice to finally get that acceptance letter and know that your work is getting out there.

We are continuing to help publicize graduate student publications to the wider entomological community through our Research Roundup. The ESC Student Affairs Committee is happy to be posting a second roundup of papers authored by Canadian graduate students. If you published an article recently and would like it featured, e-mail us at entsoccan.students@gmail.com.

For regular updates on new Canadian entomological research, you can join the ESC Students Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @esc_students.

So, what’s hot off the press, you ask? Here’s what some entomology grad students have been up to between 31 January 2015 and 4 March 2015:

Systematics and Morphology

Piophilidae is an important family of flies to forensic entomology: their occurrence on a corpse can help determine post-mortem interval and assist legal investigations. Sabrina Rochefort (McGill University) and colleagues provide an updated key to the forensically pertinent Piophilidae in the Nearctic Region. Article link

Read more in a post on the ESC Blog

Physiology

Enrique Rodriguez (University of Ottawa) and colleagues put the membrane pacemaker hypothesis to the test for the first time in invertebrates. They found that membrane composition of flight muscle in tropical orchid bees varies with body size and flight metabolic rate. Article link

Behaviour and Ecology

How do bumblebees deal with flowers that are blowing in the wind? Hamida Mirwan (University of Guelph) and colleague found that one species of bee showed no preference between mobile and immobile flowers but motion may be a factor in terms of foraging performance. Article link

Bombus impatiens

Bombus impatiens – By [1] [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Raphaël Royauté and colleagues found that the personality of a jumping spider was affected by sublethal insecticide exposure. Royauté wrote to us,

Jumping spiders exposed to low doses of insecticide show changes in their personalities. Insecticides alter behaviours by jamming neural transmission. Most studies on insecticide toxicity compare how behaviours differ in average between insecticide-exposed and control groups, but they don’t take into account how insecticides affect variation in behaviour (aka personality). Bronze Jumping Spiders exposed to the insecticide had lower amount of personality differences in activity and prey capture behaviours and exposed spiders were in general more “unpredictable”. These effect also varied by sex. Activity differences were more strongly affected in males while prey capture capacities were more strongly altered in females. 

These results suggest that the effects of insecticides on personality differences may manifest before any effects on the population as a whole are detected, in which case scientists may be frequently underestimating the toxicity of insecticides. Spiders play an important role in agricultural fields as they help regulate pest outbreaks. These personality alterations may affect spiders’ capacity to provide this important ecosystem service.

A more detailed explanation of this research is available here” 

Eris militaris

A female jumping spider, Eris militaris (Araneae: Salticidae). Photo by Crystal Ernst; provided by Raphaël Royauté

Matt Yunik (University of Manitoba) and colleagues discovered that unfed American dog ticks have the ability to survive an additional winter. Prior to this research, it was thought that these unfed ticks searching in spring died before the next winter. Article link

Fanny Maure (Université de Montréal) and others found and characterized a new RNA virus of Dinocampus coccinellae, a parasitoid of the ladybird beetle Coleomegilla maculata. The virus appears to be a symbiont of the parasitoid which is stored in the adult wasps’ oviducts and is transmitted by the parasitoid larva to its ladybird host. The virus then moves to the ladybird’s brain and replicates, inducing paralysis and twitching, around the same time that the parasitoid larva emerges and spins a cocoon between the legs of its host. The infected ladybird then acts as a twitchy bodyguard against predators while the parasitoid develops. Then, amazingly, when the adult parasitoid emerges from the cocoon, the viral infection in the ladybird’s brain clears and the host resumes normal behaviour! Article link

A ladybird "bodyguard" protecting its parasitoid from predators.  Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

A virally-manipulated ladybird “bodyguard” protecting its ‘puppet master’ from predators. Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

Former UdeM student Fanny Maure with her PhD work featured on the cover of National Geographic! Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

Former UdeM student Fanny Maure with her PhD work featured on the cover of National Geographic! Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

Megan McAuley (University of Guelph) and colleagues found that repeated conditioning with a floral scent is needed for long-term memory establishment in bumblebees. Article link

Murali-Mohan Ayyanath and colleagues show that sublethal doses of an insect growth regulator stimulate reproduction in the green peach aphid. Article link

Myzus persicae

Myzus persicae – By Scott Bauer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do different pollen-packing behaviours by bees affect the functional value of pollen? PhD student Alison Parker and colleagues found that the pollen transported by non-corbiculate bees remains fully functional whereas the packing behaviour by corbiculate bee species can decrease the functionality of their pollen. This research suggests that non-corbiculate bees may be more valuable pollinators. Article link

A study by Lorraine Adderly and colleague finds that solitary bees are important for pollination in seablush plants in the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island. Article link 

Insect Management

Chaminda E. Amal de Silva helped provide evidence for there being high rates of blueberry spanworm parasitism in lowbush blueberry fields in eastern Canada. De Silva and colleagues suggest using augmentative or conservation biological control as a management technique against spanworm. Article link

For a forest moth, colouration is costly—especially under poor conditions (Article link). Coming soon, we will be featuring a post by Jessica Ethier (Concordia University), who took the lead on this long-term project.

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Update from The Canadian Entomologist Editorial Board

The Editorial Board of The Canadian Entomologist (TCE) welcomes the comments that we receive from readers and authors.  We take these comments seriously and implement appropriate changes when possible.  We are pleased to announce three such changes that will further improve the speed, quality and flexibility of the service provided by TCE.

  • Simplified submission requirement.  Authors previously were required to submit papers with abstracts in both French and in English.  Although they can still do so, authors now need only submit an abstract in the language of the submitted paper; i.e., French or English.  This change eliminates delays associated with having abstracts translated, which will accelerate manuscript publication.
  • New open access option.  Although TCE has no page charges, there has always been a subscription fee.  As of 2014, authors now have the option of paying a one-time open access (OA) fee.  Payment of the OA fee makes articles freely available as soon as they are published online to anyone with internet access.
  • More content.  Elimination of page charges has increased submissions to the journal, with a consequence increase in the number of papers being accepted for publication.  In response, TCE is expanding its content by 10%.  This equates to an annual increase of 72 pages, or approximately 1-2 additional papers per issue.

In addition to the above changes, there are several other items that may be of interest.  ‘Instructions to Authors’ were revised in March of this year.  Revisions include instructions for the submission of ‘Supplementary Material’ and a link to third-party services that specialize in language editing.

You also may wish to read “Open access, predatory publishers, The Canadian Entomologist, and you”.  This article appears in the Bulletin of the ESC (Sept. 2013, p. 131), and examines issues that should be interest to anyone publishing in scientific journals.

In closing, we note that Dr. Chris Buddle (McGill University, Montreal, QC) will be completing his tenure as Editor-in-Chief this fall.  Dr. Kevin Floate (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge, AB) is the incoming Editor-in-Chief.

 

We thank you, the authors and readers, for making TCE an ongoing success.

Chris Buddle

Kevin Floate

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The W5 of Deciding about Graduate School

B. Staffan Lindgren is a professor of entomology at the University of Northern British Columbia, and 1st Vice-President of the Entomological Society of Canada. He has been the senior supervisor of 11 M.Sc. students and one Ph.D. student, co-supervisor of two M.Sc. students, and participated on more than 20 supervisory committees.

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Recently I have been approached by several students asking about how to go about applying for graduate school. Furthermore, I and a colleague are doing a brownbag lunch discussion for the local student chapter of The Wildlife Society on this topic this week, and this got me thinking about what considerations a student should have. My conclusion is that you can break down the approach into a consideration of W5 (Why, Where, Who, What, and When) to optimize the chances of being successful.

In this post I will go over my thoughts on these W’s, and relate some of my own experiences, both as student and supervisor. I have not consulted the literature, but base this on personal experience alone, so you have to bear that in mind. For the record, I have not supervised a large number of graduate students, and all but one have been at the Master’s level. On the other hand, I have only “failed” as a supervisor once, which just means that I blame myself for the student’s failure to complete. On the other hand, I have also failed as a graduate student once, so I feel I have some relevant qualifications for writing this.

Why?

This question may seem somewhat redundant, but I believe it is an important first step. It is surprising how many students go into graduate school “to get a better job”. In my opinion, that is not a good reason at all. It is very possible, or in fact likely, that you can land a better job after completing a graduate degree, but there is no guarantee for advanced degrees automatically leading to better jobs. I have two examples. One of my more successful graduate students told me long after she graduated that she went into graduate school for this very reason. Somewhere along the way, she realized that she loved research, and her passion for it grew as a result. She subsequently carried on with a PhD, and now holds a very good research position. So in her case doing a graduate degree led to exactly what she set out to do to begin with, but it wasn’t graduate school per se that lead to her success, but rather her passion for what she was doing, along with some very hard work. My second example relates to my first, and failed attempt at graduate school. I was more worried about funding than topic, and opted to do a PhD in Endocrinology. I had really enjoyed my coursework in zoophysiology, so it seemed like a logical choice at the time. I was in a good lab, had a great colleague (who is now a professor with more than 300 authored or co-authored publications). As it turned out, it was not for me, however. The reasons were many, but a lack of passion for the subject area certainly contributed (see below).

Where?

Different institutions have varying reputations, and particularly if the ultimate goal is an academic position, it may make a difference whether you hold a degree from a major research university or primarily undergraduate teaching institution. However, there may be pros and cons with joining big labs. An obvious benefit is that a large institution is likely to have lots of infrastructure and resources. On the other hand, you may end up in a lab where your supervisor plays only a limited role in your actual supervision, i.e., you may be viewed more as a small cog in a large wheel than as an important individual. To avoid this, you have to ask the next question.

Who?

The supervisor is of critical importance in my opinion. All supervisors are not made equal, and they often have their own agendas and biases! Some may expect you to work things out for yourself, while others like to treat you like an employee. Depending on your personality, you may like one or the other, or somewhere in between. Highly productive, “big name” researchers are not necessarily the best supervisors! Moderately productive scientists at small institutions may provide a much better environment, particularly for graduate students lacking prior experience, e.g., Master’s students. I went into my first two graduate degrees (including the initial failed PhD in Sweden) pretty much blind. The endocrinology attempt was uncomfortable because of an internal schism between my supervisor and the head of the department, but other than that I was fortunate to get a very approachable and helpful supervisor. My supervisor for my Master of Pest Management and PhD degrees at Simon Fraser University was as good as they come; I learned an enormous amount from him, and model my own approach to supervision on that experience.  However, he did not suit everybody. The problem is matching your own needs and preferences with a suitable supervisor. I recommend all prospective graduate students to contact both former and current students of potential supervisors and ask what it is like to be a graduate student. I even recommend students expressing interest in me as a supervisor to do the same – I think of myself as a good supervisor, but I am clearly biased, and in control of the situation, whereas a graduate student would be dependent on my actions. Raise up front issues of support (not just salary, but field assistant, transportation, accommodation in the field, expectations). Ask about how the supervisor deals with authorship – believe it or not, there are supervisors who are prone to self-promotion. A good supervisor promotes his/her students, not themselves. Once you are in a graduate position, it is much more difficult to adjust things, so do your homework up front. I also recommend students to be frank with a potential (or existing) supervisor if there are issues. If you can’t communicate with your prospective supervisor before you are his/her graduate student, it is likely that you won’t be able to later. Sometimes this is just due to personality incompatibility, but it really doesn’t matter what the reason is if you end up in a bad situation. You are never going to go into a graduate position with 100% confidence that it will be perfect, but you can optimize the chances that it will be by doing some basic research.

A successful supervisor-student relationship can turn into a lifetime relationship: Staffan Lindgren (PhD 1982), Lisa Poirier(PhD 1995) and Dezene Huber (PhD 2001), gave back to their supervisor John H. Borden by successfully nominating him for an honorary doctorate at UNBC in 2009 in recognition of his enormous impact on forest insect pest management in British Columbia. Photo by Edna Borden.

A successful supervisor-student relationship can turn into a lifetime relationship: Staffan Lindgren (PhD 1982), Lisa Poirier(PhD 1995) and Dezene Huber (PhD 2001), gave back to their supervisor John H. Borden by successfully nominating him for an honorary doctorate at UNBC in 2009 in recognition of his enormous impact on forest insect pest management in British Columbia. Photo by Edna Borden.

What?

This is perhaps the most important decision you have to make, and it is closely linked to the first W (Why?). In my experience, the most successful students are not those who come in with the highest GPA or with the most funding (although it is easier to get accepted with those qualifications as it relieves the supervisor of some obvious burdens). Rather, they are the students with a burning interest in a specific type of project, or specific organisms. A great way to find your bearings is to get involved in research as an undergraduate student. When I was a PhD student, I had three undergraduate research assistants over the years. All three went on to get a PhD, one is now a research scientist with Forestry Canada, one is a conservation biologist with a consulting company (after Environment Canada was brought to its knees by the current government), and the third is a professor at a large institution in the United States. A number of students I have hired as undergraduate summer research assistants have successfully pursued successful careers. Decisions you make as a young person can profoundly affect your future. I went to the United States as a high school exchange student – without that experience I may have lacked the confidence to come to Canada for graduate school. As an undergraduate student, I participated in annual vole surveys and spider research, which taught me something about what types of activities I enjoy. When I first wanted to pursue graduate school, I failed to use that experience. My primary interest was entomology, but funding was hard to come by, so I opted for endocrinology because that graduate position came with a stipend. This decision turned out to be a huge mistake, and after 1 ½ years I had to give up. Essentially, I selected what to do for the wrong reason. (Thanks to my brilliant graduate student colleagues, I still ended up with five publications, which probably helped me get accepted at Simon Fraser University, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, however).  At SFU, my MPM supervisor offered me a funded project that would have been applicable to Sweden, and he gave me 8 months to think about it. I eventually made the decision to take that on, and I have never looked back. Thus, once I reset the career compass to my original goals, I ended up where I always wanted to be, which is in forest entomology!

When?

Strangely, this question relates to both “Why” and “What”, although there is considerable variation among students in terms of what is right for each individual. In my experience, however, the most successful graduate students tend to have a little bit of “real world” experience before they pursue a graduate degree. In part, this may be because they have more experience, and therefore are more confident about their abilities, and possibly more aware of their weaknesses than someone fresh out of an undergraduate degree would have. These individuals have also had time to formulate what they are really passionate about, and in my mind, passion is the most important ingredient in a successful graduate degree. Yes, you need some basic skills (communication (written and oral), quantitative skills), a modicum of intelligence, and lots of patience for endless tedium (most research is 90% tedium, 5% frustration, and 5% elation), but you don’t have to be an A+ student. As a graduate student, a passionate B student will do better than a moderately interested A+ student any day. You would be surprised how many professors and successful scientists were relatively average in high school. If the timing is wrong, you may not be happy. For example, when I first tried to pursue graduate school and ended up in the wrong program, I could have waited 2-3 years and I may have had perfect opportunities in Sweden as a huge project on insect pheromones was initiated a year after I went to Canada. I had in fact contacted several of the professors that led that project, but at the time they didn’t have the funds in place.

I mentioned at the beginning that I failed as a supervisor once. This was a combination of not matching the student with an appropriate topic, and personal incompatibility. Both resulted from inexperience, as it was one of my very first graduate students. Even supervisors learn from experience.

I hope these musings are helpful you decide to pursue a graduate degree. Good luck!

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When friends work together: The evolution of a review paper on the evolution of tree-killing in bark beetles. — TCE Editor’s Pick for 145(5)

By Dr. Chris Buddle, McGill University & Editor of The Canadian Entomologist

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This Issue’s Editor’s pick for The Canadian Entomologist is Staffan Lindgren and Ken Raffa’s paper, titled “Evolution of tree killing in bark beetles: trade-offs between the maddening crowds and a sticky situation”.  This is a key review paper that provides comprehensive and in-depth coverage of a critically important topic, especially for forest entomology in North America.  Bark beetles are often in the news because of the economic consequences of their population increases as we have seen in recent years. Behind this, however, are fascinating life history traits and a story about their tree killing habits. This is where the paper by Staffan and Ken comes into play. These two exceptional scientists have decades of experience on the topic of tree killing in bark beetles, and they bring this expertise forward with this paper.

I asked Staffan and Ken a few questions about their paper, and here are the responses:

Q1:  What inspired this work?

The scientific inspiration came from many years of reading about and studying these amazing insects. Over time, it became clear that “aggressiveness” is a relative term with respect to tree-killing beetles, because they generally appear to be very poor competitors. The same also seemed to be the case with tree-killing root diseases, so a pattern of trade-offs became apparent. Given the potent defensive capability of most conifers, the question naturally arose “why would a beetle risk its life attacking a live tree rather than utilizing a dead or dying tree?” It seemed that the answer had to be linked to trade-offs between the selection pressures exerted by competitors and host tree defenses. The inspiration to write these ideas up evolved through many years of developing a friendship with each other, and we tossed the idea around in a number of discussions we had. The opportunity to act came when the former editor of TCE, Robb Bennett, extended an invitation to submit an article as a CP Alexander Review.

Staffan (R) and Ken (L) (photo by C Raffa)

Staffan (R) and Ken (L) (photo by C Raffa)

Q2:  What do you hope will be the lasting impact of this paper?

The main objective was to put the idea out and to stimulate debate and perhaps generate new research ideas that will contribute to an increased understanding of bark beetle ecology and management. Whether or not we are proven right or wrong is really less important. Based on some feedback we have had already, it seems that the paper has had the desired effect in terms of stimulating thought. I also thought this was a great opportunity to work together on a project: we admire each other as scientist and are friends

Q3:  Where will your next line of research on this topic take you?  

We are working with another great friend of ours, Jean-Claude Grégoire, on two chapters in an upcoming book about bark beetles, so there may be some other ideas emerging from that collaboration.

Q4: Any amusing / interesting anecdotes about this research?

(from Staffan): From my perspective one of the most amusing things is that I can claim the unique experience of having Ken Raffa as a nurse. He is very good at that too, as it happens! The last time I visited him in Madison to work on this paper, I caught a bad cold. So we worked from home that week, with me intermittently resting and writing. It was embarrassing at the time, but now I find it rather amusing.

Cambridge University Press has made Staffan & Ken’s paper freely available worldwide until November 30 for being recognized as the Editor’s Pick. Thanks CUPress!

Citation:

Lindgren B.S. & Raffa K.F. (2013). Evolution of tree killing in bark beetles (Coleoptera: Curculionidae): trade-offs between the maddening crowds and a sticky situation, The Canadian Entomologist, 145 (05) 471-495. DOI:

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Open Data

by Dezene Huber & Paul Fields
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Have you ever read a paper and, after digesting it for a bit, thought: “I wish I could play with the data”?

Perhaps you thought that another statistical test was more appropriate for the data and would provide a different interpretation than the one given by the authors. Maybe you had completed a similar experiment and you wanted to conduct a deeper comparison of the results than would be possible by simply assessing a set of bar graphs or a table of statistical values. Maybe you were working on a meta-analysis and the entire data set would have been extremely useful in your work. Perhaps you thought that you had detected a flaw in the study, and you would have liked to test the data to see if your hunch was correct.

Whatever your reason for wishing to access to the data, and this list probably just skims the surface of the sea of possibilities, you often only have one option for getting your hands on the spread sheets or other data outputs from the study – contacting the corresponding author.

Sometimes that works. Often times it does not.

  • The corresponding author may no longer be affiliated with the listed contact information. Tracking her down might not be easy, particularly if she has moved on from academic or government research.
  • The corresponding author may no longer be alive, the fate of us all.
  • You may be able to track down the author, but the data may no longer be available. Perhaps the student or postdoc that produced it is now out of contact with the principal investigator. But even if efforts have been made to retain lab notebooks and similar items, is the data easily sharable?
  • And, even if it is potentially sharable (for instance, in an Excel file), are the principal investigator’s records organized enough to find it?*
  • The author may be unwilling to share the data for one reason or another.

Molly (2011) covers many of the above points and also goes into much greater depth on the topic of open data than we are able to do here.

In many fields of study, the issues that we mention above are the rule rather than the exception. Some readers may note that a few fields have had policies to avoid issues like this for some time. For instance, genomics researchers have long used repositories such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) to deposit data at the time of a study being published. And taxonomists have deposited labeled voucher specimens in curated collections for longer than any of us have been alive. Even in those cases, however, there are usually data outputs from studies associated with the deposited material that never again see the light of day. So even those exceptions that prove the rule are part of the rule of a lack of access to data.

But, what if things were different? What might a coherent open data policy look like? The Amsterdam Manifesto, which is still a work in progress, may be a good start. Its points are simple, but potentially paradigm-shifting. It states that:

  1. Data should be considered citable products of research.
  2. Such data should be held in persistent public repositories.
  3. If a publication is based on data not included in the text, those data should be cited in the publication.
  4. A data citation in a publication should resemble a bibliographic citation.
  5. A data citation should include a unique persistent identifier (a DataCite DOI recommended, unless other persistent identifiers are in use within the community).
  6. The identifier should resolve to provide either direct access to the data or information on accessibility.
  7. If data citation supports versioning of the data set, it should provide a method to access all the versions.
  8. Data citation should support attribution of credit to all contributors.

This line of reasoning is no longer just left to back-of-napkin scrawls. Open access to long term, citable data is slowly becoming the norm rather than the exception. Several journals have begun require, or at least strongly suggest, deposition of all data associated with a study at the time of submission. These include PeerJ and various PLoS journals. It is more than likely that other journals will do the same, now that this ball is rolling.

The benefits of open data are numerous (Molloy, 2011). They include the fact that full disclosure of data allows for verification of your results by others. Openness also allows others to use your data in ways that you may not have anticipated. It ensures that the data reside alongside the papers that stemmed from them. It reduces the likelihood that your data may be lost due to various common circumstances. Above all it takes the most common of scientific outputs – the peer-reviewed paper – and adds lasting value for ongoing use by others. We believe that these benefits outweigh the two main costs:  the time taken to organize the data and the effort involved in posting in an online data repository.

If this interests you, and we hope that it does, the next question on your mind is probably “where can I deposit the data for my next paper?” There are a number of options available that allow citable (DOI) archiving of all sorts of data types (text, spreadsheets, photographs, videos, even that poster or presentation file from your last conference presentation). These include figshare, Dryad, various institutional repositories, and others. You can search for specific repositories at OpenDOAR using a number of criteria. When choosing a data repository, it is important that you ensure that it is backed up by a system such as CLOCKSS.

Along with the ongoing expansion of open access publishing options, open data archiving is beginning to come into its own. Perhaps you can think of novel ways to prepare and share the data from your next manuscript, talk, or poster presentation for use by a wide and diverse audience.

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* To illustrate this point, one of us (DH) still has access to the data for the papers that stemmed from his Ph.D. thesis research. Or at least he thinks that he does. They currently reside on the hard drive of the Bondi blue iMac that he used to write his thesis, and that is now stored in a crawlspace under the stairs at his house. Maybe it still works and maybe the data could be retrieved. But it would entail a fair bit of work to do that (not to mention trying to remember the file structure more than a decade later). And digital media have a shelf life, so data retrieval may be out of the question at this point anyhow.

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Canadian Entomologist Editor’s Pick – March 2013

By Chris Buddle, editor of The Canadian Entomologist

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The Canadian Entomologists’ latest issue is devoted to Arctic Entomology, with guest editors Derek Sikes and Toke T. Høye putting together an excellent suite of papers on this topic.  This is a very timely issue – there is an incredible amount of Arctic entomology happening around the world, and the Arctic is an area that is undergoing rapid environmental change.   It’s good that scientists are paying attention, and that entomologists are doing high quality research in the north.

Deciding on an “editor’s pick” for this issue was difficult as there were many excellent papers to choose from.  However, I ended up selecting Gergely Várkonyi and Tomas Roslin’s paper titled “Freezing cold yet diverse: dissecting a high-Arctic parasitoid community associated with Lepidoptera hosts”.   These authors, from Finland, have presented a very nice study about some food-web dynamics occurring in Zackenberg, Greenland  – a truly high Arctic field site, and one that has a remarkable history of long-term ecological monitoring.  Their work is focused on unraveling some of the amazing interactions between Lepidoptera and their parasitoids, and this paper provides a “systematic effort to characterise the high-Arctic Hymenoptera and Diptera parasitoid community associated with Lepidoptera hosts”.   This is a great paper, and hopefully continues to inspire continued efforts to study entomology at high latitudes.

Greenlandic field station

I asked the authors some questions about their work and they kindly provided in-depth answers:

Q1:  What inspired this work?

TOMAS: What got me interested in Arctic predator-prey dynamics was the work of my friend Olivier Gilg. His exploration of the predator-prey dynamics among collared lemmings and their few and selected enemies of Northeast Greenland made me realize that in a species-poor environment, the impact of individual species on each other will be oh-so-much easier to disentangle than among the zillions of interactions typical of tropical and even temperate communities. Here if anywhere you can actually work out both the structure and inner workings of full food webs – which is the very the idea that we have now realized in our study. (And well, from a less scientific point of view, after visiting Northeast Greenland I also realized that this is the most beautiful area of the globe, and that there is nowhere else that I would rather work.)

GERGELY: I have been interested in northern insects, especially hymenopteran parasitoids, since a very long time. I did my PhD in a subarctic environment in Finnish Lapland, with the main focus on host-parasitoid population dynamics between periodic moths and their enemies. I first encountered Greenlandic ichneumonids when my former teacher in ichneumonid taxonomy – and current friend – Reijo Jussila worked on the descriptions of some new species from the Scoresbysund area in Northeast Greenland. More than a decade later, Tomas asked me to identify some samples from Traill Island (NE Greenland), where he had initiated a pilot project on Lepidoptera-Hymenoptera food webs. The next step was when he invited me to join his project about to be launched at Zackenberg. The rest is history…

Q2:  What do you hope will be the lasting impact of this paper?

TOMAS: What I hope that we have achieved are three things: to expose the importance of versatile biotic interactions even in a harsh arctic environment, to reveal the massive effort needed to convincingly dissect even a simple food web, and to establish the baseline structure of a food web facing imminent climate change.

GERGELY: Could not say it any better. I can only add that I hope our thorough overview of the taxonomy and natural history of individual parasitoid species will contribute to getting a better understanding of who is who and what roles each species play in this arctic scene.

flowers in containers

Q3:  Where will your next line of research on this topic take you? 

TOMAS: While we have now figured out the structure of the Lepidoptera-parasitoid web, we should remember that this is but a small module of the overall food web of the region. Our current work aims at expanding/zooming out from this core web towards the full food web of the region, which should actually be more realistically doable here than anywhere else on the globe (see above). In this work, we try to make maximal use of modern molecular tools, offering new resolution to documenting trophic interactions.

GERGELY: Apart from the community ecology goals of this project, we will further continue to update what is known about the parasitic wasp fauna of Greenland. I am focusing on the Ichneumonidae, the single most species-rich family of Hymenoptera in both Greenland and the entire World. By combining morphology and molecular methods, I attempt to clarify species boundaries and detect potential cryptic species. The ultimate goal of this research is to compile a modern taxonomic overview of the Ichneumonidae of Greenland.

Q4: Any amusing anecdotes about this research?

TOMAS: Gergely used to wear a handy hiking suit of light coloration. One day he was almost shot as a polar bear after sneaking up on an unsuspecting colleague in the field.

GERGELY: Well, first of all I was not sneaking, just looking for adult wasps in a safe distance from this colleague of ours. She thought my net was a giant paw of a polar bear (!) and she was really scared for a short moment. But she was definitely not about to shoot me!

Mountain

Reference Output from Mendeley using the custom citation style
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Formatting your references for The Canadian Entomologist using Mendeley

By Chris MacQuarrie, Natural Resources Canada Canadian Forest Service (Sault Ste. Marie, ON)

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Opa Opa Citation Style! *

I recently switched over to the Mendeley citation manager after many years of being a loyal EndNote user. I’m liking Mendeley, but one thing I lost in the switch was the collection of custom citation styles I had put together during my MSc, PhD and Post-doc.

Mendeley Desktop

Mendeley Desktop

This wasn’t a problem until this week when I was preparing final edits on a manuscript for The Canadian Entomologist. Mendeley didn’t have a style for TCE, but what it does have is the ability to modify existing styles and create new ones.

I started with the existing style for the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences because it’s an old stable-mate of TCE from the NRC press days and has a very similar citation style.

I used Mendeley’s Visual CSL Editor:

csl editor
to modify the CJFAS style to output what TCE requires in it’s reference section.The only ‘big’ difference I could find between is that TCE uses a comma after the journal name where CJFAS does not.

I also made a few changes. For instance, the CJFAS style didn’t have a output for theses so I created one for that reference class. I also modified a few of the settings to delete information that CJFAS needs but TCE doesn’t.

Reference Output from Mendeley using the custom citation style

Reference Output from Mendeley using the custom citation style

You can download the finished product from this link:

http://csl.mendeley.com/styles/18621721/TheCanadianEntomologist

Now, what’s neat, is that Mendeley’s citation styles are based on the open-source Citation Style Language so you can use this style in any citation management program that also uses CSL (e.g., Zotero and Papers).

A disclaimer. I hacked this together in a few hours and didn’t check all reference classes, so your milage may vary! As always, check your references section carefully before submission!

If you do spot an error or have a suggestion let me know here, on Twitter (@cmacquar) or at cjkmacquarrie@gmail.com.

*if you don’t get this reference, see here

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Roadkill Do Tell Tales: Macabre, Yet Customary, Research of a Medicoveterinary Entomologist

By Mark P. Nelder, Public Health Ontario

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William R Maples’ Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist, created a lasting memory for me. Aside from the fascinating science, Dead Men Do Tell Tales underscored that passion and resourcefulness is the key to learning.

With an interest in blowfly ecology and ectoparasites, I set out to study these two fields as side projects during my graduate research at University of South Alabama (MSc) and Clemson University (PhD). Yes, “side projects” is a phrase that can send any supervisor running in fear, but I was lucky.

During my research on black fly larvae and their gut fungi in Alabama, I initially thought that the undersides of bridges (easiest place to look for streams and black flies; #overlyhonestmethods) are where headless white-tailed deer went to die. These morbid scenes of poaching were both a source of amazement and one of convenience – easily accessed streams with black fly larvae accompanied by robust populations of blowflies and louse flies (my first sight of the very cool Lipoptena mazamae). These deer were just a gateway carcass, leading to a downward spiral of seeking out additional species of dead wildlife and their ectoparasites. I was now a roadkill prospector.

Realizing that I needed experience with ectoparasites, prior to starting research on biting flies and ectoparasites of South Carolina zoos, I turned to the sometimes flattened, bloated, and unrecognizable critters I saw on my daily drive to campus. Equipped with latest intelligence on a fresh carcass, all I needed was a garbage bag, latex gloves, and a vehicle.

Roads pose a real threat to animal populations. The numbers are staggering, as reported by @TetZoo or Darren Naish in Dead Animals at the Roadside. In Belgium, an estimated 230,000 and 350,000 hedgehogs fall victim to vehicles per year. Not exploring this biodiversity source would constitute a wasted opportunity.

Insects and roads do not mix either. In Japan, a study of two routes resulted in 5000 dead insects per kilometer, collections dominated by Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, and Diptera (Yamada et al. 2010).

Roadkill are ideal subjects for biodiversity studies (the vertebrate hosts, along with their ectoparasites and internal parasites). As One Health opens the doors to collaboration between the fields of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and the environment, scientists often remain confined in their respective silos. Roadkill offers a potentially important source of data on zoonoses and generate collaboration between veterinarians, entomologists, microbiologists, ecologists, and others.

Interest in roadkill science is about as old as the automobile, albeit slower wildlife succumbed to horse drawn carriages of the 1800s. AW Schorger had more than a passing interest in roadkill, identifying 64 species of birds from 1932 to 1950, on the same roads between Madison, Wisconsin and Freeport, Illinois. Avian roadkill was dominated by English (House) Sparrows (N = 2784), Red-headed Woodpeckers (389), American Robins (310), Ring-necked Pheasants (271), Screech Owls (235), and Northern Flickers (230). Imagine the possible research if Schorger had a curious entomologist to tag along on these trips and to inspect each bird.

Transportation ecology is a relatively new field that looks to study how wildlife interacts with our roads and how road design can minimize wildlife impact. The University of California Davis and partners have established a citizen-science project that allows the public to report roadkill on California highways, California Roadkill Observation System (see Maine and Idaho). Championed by the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Road Ecology Group looks to combat the impact of roads on biodiversity in southern Ontario. Yet another is the South African initiative Wildlife Road Traffic Accidents – A Biodiversity Research Project. These programs offer an existing infrastructure that provides the basis for longitudinal studies of ectoparasites and their hosts.

Aside from the basic understanding of host-ectoparasite relationships, roadkill are increasingly becoming a tool for hypothesis testing. A few examples are worth mentioning here. The Cardiff University Otter Project provided road-killed otters to test hypotheses surrounding otters, ticks, and climate. The prevalence, but not intensity, of the tick Ixodes hexagonus infestation on otters was associated with higher Central England temperatures, while both prevalence and intensity were associated with positive phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation.

Without roadkill, we would not know that as lice burden increases in barn owls, the number of pectinate claw teeth decreases and bill hook length increases (Bush et al. 2012). Bush and colleagues also noted rodent ectoparasites on barn owls; e.g., the louse Hoplopleura acanthopus (normally found on rats) and the flea Malaraeus telchinus (from mice and voles). Is this a potential example of incipient evolution through host switching?

Roadkill prospecting excited me (and still does)….not unlike an unexplored stream has excited many a black fly expert, as an illuminated cloth at night for the moth lover, and as CDC light trap the mosquito ecologist. As Dr. Diane Kelly said in her excellent Story Collider tale Confronting Death on the Road

When you open up an animal, there is all kinds of awesome in there.