By Chris Buddle
__________________________________

Authorship on written work should never be taken lightly.  Authorship implies ownership and responsibility for the ideas and content portrayed as the written word.  In science, our currency is the written word, in the form of peer-reviewed articles submitted and published in scientific journals, and multi-authored works are the norm (sometimes to ridiculous degrees!).   Being an author on a paper is critically important for success in academia: the number of publications on your CV can get you job interviews, scholarships, and often leads to increased research funding.  Scientists are often judged by publication metrics, and although we may not like this system, it remains prevalent.  With this context I pose the following question: What is the process by which an individual is granted the privilege of being an author on a peer-reviewed journal article?  This blog post will provide an objective method to determine authorship for a publication, and by sharing it, I hope it helps bring some clarity to the issue.

(Note: as a biologist, I am drawing from my experiences publishing in the fields of ecology and entomology, and in my role as the Editor-in-Chief for a scientific journal, The Canadian Entomologist – the ideas presented below may not be transferable to other fields of study).

A paper that resulted from a graduate class; should all these individuals be authors on this paper? (yes, of course!)

The method outlined below starts by thinking about five main stages in the publication process, and there are individuals associated with each stage:

1. Research concept, framework, and question:  The research process leading to a publication has a conceptual backbone – it is the overarching research framework.  The background ideas and concepts that initiate the research that leads to a publication come from somewhere (…and someone).  Although the end product of research may be the publication, a good research question is at the start, and drives the entire process.  Without a solid framework for research, and a clear question, the research will simply never be in a form suitable for publication.   The person (or people) who developed the big-picture ideas, research framework, and research question are to be considered as authors on the final publication.  In the University framework, this is often an academic who has developed a laboratory and research program around a thematic area of study.

2.  Funding.  Someone has to pay for research – whether it be a large, collaborative research grant that supports many graduate students, or whether it be a small grant from a local conservation agency.  An individual scientist applied for money, and was able to support the research that leads to the publication.  These monies could directly support the research (e.g., provide travel funds, purchase of equipment), the individual doing the research (e.g., pays the graduate student stipend, or technician), or the monies could offset the costs associated with the publication process itself (e.g., many journals charge authors to submit their work, also known as page charges).    The individual(s) who pay for the research need to be considered as authors on the final publication resulting from the research.  More often than not, this individual is the main “supervisor” of a research laboratory, but could also be important collaborators on grant applications, often from other Universities or Institutions.

3. Research design and data collection:  Once the overall research question is in place, and funding secured, the actual research must be designed and executed.  These are placed together under one heading because it is difficult to separate the two, nor should they be separated.  You cannot design a project without attention to how data are collected, nor can you collect data without a clear design.  In a typical University environment, Master’s and PhD students are intimately associated with this part of the research equation, and spend a very significant portion of their time in design and data collection mode.  Without a doubt, the individual(s) who “design and do” the research must be considered as authors.

4.  Data analyses, and manuscript preparation:  The next step in the process is taking the data, crunching the numbers, preparing figures and tables, and writing a first draft of the manuscript.  This is a very important step in the process, as this is the stage where the research gets transformed into a cohesive form.  In a typical University laboratory, this is often done by Master’s students, PhD students, or post-docs, and the product of this stage is often (part of) a graduate student’s thesis.   However, it is also quite likely that a research associate, technician, or Honour’s student be involved at this stage, or that this stage is done by multiple individuals.  For example, data management and analyses may be done by a research technician whereas the head researcher does the bulk of the synthetic writing.  Regardless, one or many individuals may be involved in this stage of the publication process, and all of these people must be considered as authors on the final product.

5. Editing, manuscript submission, and the post-submission process: The aforementioned stage is certainly not the final stage.  A great deal of time and effort goes into the editing process, and quite often the editing and re-writing of manuscripts is done by different individuals than those who wrote the first draft.  Important collaborators and colleagues may be asked to read and edit the first draft and/or other students within a laboratory may work to fine-tune a manuscript.  Most likely, the supervisor of a graduate students invests a lot of time and energy at this stage, and works to get the manuscript in a form that is ready to be submitted to a scientific journal.   The submission process itself can also be difficult and daunting – papers must be formatted to fit the style requirements for specific journals, and the on-line submission process can take a long time.  After the manuscript has been submitted and reviewed by peers, it will most likely return to authors with requests for revisions.  These revisions can be lengthy, difficult, and require significant input (perhaps from many individuals).   For all these reasons, this fifth stage of the publication process cannot be undervalued, and the individual(s) associated with editing, submitting and dealing with revisions must be considered as authors.

Those five categories help define the main stages that lead to a scientific publication, and there are individuals associated with each stage.  Here’s the formula to consider adopting when considering which individuals should be authors on the final product:  if an individual contributed significantly to three or more of the above stages, they should be an author on the final paper.  Here’s an example: in a ‘typical’ research laboratory, the supervisor likely has a big-picture research question that s/he is working on (Stage 1) and has secured funding to complete that project (Stage 2).  A Master’s student, working with this supervisor, will work on the design and collect the data (Stage 3), and as they prepare their thesis, will do the bulk of the data analysis and write the first draft of the paper (Stage 4).  In most cases, the editing and manuscript submission process is shared by the supervisor and the student, and both individuals are likely involved with the revisions of the manuscript after it has been peer-reviewed (Stage 5).  In this case, both individuals clearly contributed to at least three of five categories, and the paper should be authored by both individuals.

A classic example of a paper with a graduate student and supervisor as co-authors.

What about the research assistant that helped collect data? – since they only contributed to Stage 3, they are not considered as an author.  The same is true of a collaborator at a different University who may have helped secure the funding (Stage 2), but did not help with the process in any other way – they do not qualify as authors on this work.   It is quite possible that a post-doc in a laboratory contributes to multiple stages, even on a single Master’s project. For example, the post-doc may have helped secure the funding, assisted significantly with data analysis, and helped to edit the final paper – this entitles them to authorship.

This entire method may be considered too rigid, and cannot really be implemented given the complexities of the research process, and given personalities and politics associated with the research process. Furthermore, many researchers may include their friends on publications, in hopes that the favour will be returned so both individuals increase their publication numbers.    I do not think this is ethical, and overall, if an individual did not contribute to the research process in a significant way, they should not be authors.  The method outlined above provides one way to help determine how this ‘significant way’ can be determined objectively.  The process is certainly not without fault, nor will it work in all circumstances, but perhaps it will help to define roles and help to consider seriously who should be considered as authors on papers.

I can also admit that I have not always contributed to “3 of 5 stages” on all the paper for which I am an author, so you can call me a hypocrite.  That’s OK, (I’ve been called worse), and I reiterate that the process outlined above is context-dependent, and simply provides a framework, or guide, for thinking about this important issue in science.

I am certainly not alone in this discussion, nor with this concept – Paul Friedman wrote about this (in A New Standard for Authorship) and the method in analogous to the one outlined above (although with more categories).  Some journals also specify their expectations for authorship.  As an example, in its instructions to authors, PNAS states that ‘Authorship should be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work’, and request that contributions be spelled out clearly.  This is a good idea, and forces people to think about the issue.

I’ll finish with two more important points:  First, determining authorship, and thinking about authorship, must be a transparent and clear process.  Graduate students must not be surprised when their supervisor states that some other researcher will be an author on their work – this should have been clear from the start.  A discussion about authorship must occur early in the research process.  Full stop.

Second, another key question is the order of authors.  For example, when is the student’s name first on a publication, and the supervisor second?  What’s the convention for your field of study? Who should be second author when there are four or five co-authors?  This is a complicated question and, you guessed it, one that will be addressed in a future blog post!

Please share your thoughts… how does your laboratory deal with the question of authorship on scientific papers?

By Brent Sinclair, University of Western Ontario
_______________________________

I’m currently on sabbatical in the Department of Zoology, University of Otago in Dunedin New Zealand.  This is the department where I did my PhD, so it is an opportunity to come back to familiar territory and re-connect with all sorts of people and places from the past.  It’s not a very insect department, but there is a lot of interesting work on ecology, parasites and freshwater biology.  A sabbatical is all about recharging scientific and creative batteries, so my main goal here is to write and read and think (and drink coffee and run and hike – but that’s for a different blog), but I felt that I also needed to justify coming all this way by actually gathering some data while I’m here.  Respirometry is the perfect answer – once set up, it’s possible to gather data on metabolic rates, breathing patterns and water loss at the expense of only a few minutes at each end of a run, leaving plenty of space for writing and drinking New Zealand’s excellent coffee in between.

What is respirometry?

Respirometry is the science (art?) of measuring the products and substrates of respiration – depending on your strategy, you can measure oxygen consumption and/or carbon dioxide production (to get a handle on metabolic rate) and water loss – among other things.  Because I work on generally small insects at generally low temperatures, we mainly measure carbon dioxide production and water loss (the instruments are much more sensitive), and can do some clever calculations to turn this into estimates of metabolic rate.

The equipment itself can look quite intimidating – and certainly like Science – with plenty of tubes and wires (when I calibrate the water channel, there’s even a bubbling flask!), but it’s not that difficult once you figure out what everything is doing, and it looks scary enough that other people generally don’t mess with it.  We pass CO2-free, dry air over an insect, and measure the CO2 and water vapour in the excurrent air – all the CO2 and water vapour must have come from the insect, so we can calculate how much it is breathing out.  The equipment we use is from a company in Las Vegas called Sable Systems International.  Sable Systems’ head honcho, John Lighton, is an insect physiologist who has published in places like Nature and PNAS, which means that when he designs the equipment, he often has insects in mind.

The respirometry system set up in a controlled-temperature room at the University of Otago. CO2-free dry air is supplied by the gas cylinder, and passes through a chamber containing the insect housed in a temperature-controlled chamber (the big grey cooler box), before going on to an infra-red gas analyser (the green box), which uses IR absorbance to measure CO2 and H2O.

What else can we learn from respirometry?

As well as a simple measure of metabolism, it is possible to use respirometry to determine the thermal sensitivity of metabolism (this is important in understanding the effects of climate change), as well as the metabolic costs of various environmental stresses, like freezing or chilling.  We can also use respirometry to study how insects breathe (there is much debate surrounding the adaptive significance of the Discontinuous Gas Exchange Cycles observed in some insects), and we can also use respirometry to figure out how much water is being lost across the cuticle of insects – even small ones like individual flies!

What am I …er… respirometing?

After 65 million years of evolution without mammals, New Zealand has an amazing array of endemism and some pretty weird insects.  My favourites are the alpine insects, which include impressive radiations of cockroaches, stick insects and weta – large Orthoptera related to the Jerusalem crickets of North America.  The mountains are fairly young (<3 million years old), so it’s possible to do all sorts of work comparing alpine species with their lowland relatives .

A group of alpine weta, Hemideina maori found under a stone at 1400 m a.s.l. on the Rock and Pillar Range, Central Otago, New Zealand. The males defend harems of 2-7 females. Female weta can weigh over 5 g, and males over 7 g, making them the heaviest insect known to survive internal ice formation. Photo by B. Sinclair.

Of course, it is the most fun to work on the big, weird insects.  So far I’ve been putting alpine weta (Hemideina maori, Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae) and New Zealand’s longest insect, the gloriously-named phasmid  Argosarchus horridus through their paces.  Male alpine weta can weigh up to 7 g, and are the largest insect species known to withstand internal ice formation.  The stick insects can easily reach 4 g, and posed some unique challenges in respirometry – with a body form so long and stick-like, it makes perfect sense to use a converted spaghetti-storage container!

A large female Argosarchus horridus (this one weighs a shade over 3 g) ready to go in her respirometry chamber. Photo by B. Sinclair.

The main questions I will be addressing will be about the evolution of thermal sensitivity and water loss in alpine insects, but the great thing about respirometry is that I never know what I’ll find along the way!

_____________________________________________________________

Brent Sinclair is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario.  He is the 2012 recipient of the Entomological Society of Canada’s C. Gordon Hewitt Award.

As the new web editor of the Entomological Society of British Columbia (ESBC), last fall I began a push toward the digitization of all past issues of the Journal of the ESBC and the implementation of an online journal management system. At the time, only a relatively few issues of JESBC were available online, with only the most recent issues available as PDFs. None of these were easily searchable, nor were these issues indexed on our site, Google Scholar, or other search engines.

Over the years, each editor handled submissions in a slightly different way, via email (or post!), and copies of digital files were not retained by the society, but rather by individual editors. Additionally, we used an annual submission deadline, which resulted in annual “publication push” that resulted in a single “crunch time” leading up to year’s end.

It was with these limitations in mind that I spearheaded an effort to simplify the submission, editorial, and publication processes, and to provide truly open access to our entire journal archive in an effort to increase our journal’s profile, readership, and citations.

Over the past several months (and still ongoing), in conjunction with the SFU library and the Public Knowledge Project, the ESBC began our transition to our new online journal management system and the scanning and uploading of all volumes of the JESBC. Our choice of journal management system was based on several important criteria: cost, features, ease-of-use, robustness, “future-proofing”, and support.

In the interest of brevity, I won’t go into all of the details here, but from our choices of journal management systems, the clear winner was Open Journal Systems, which provides a low-cost, feature-rich, customizable, easy to use, well established, and open-source journal publishing platform. Moving to this new system allows us to easily publish using a continuous submission model, so that articles appear online as they are accepted for publication, as well as provide a streamlined publication work-flow and centralized database.

Screenshot of the new JESBC web site

Our new journal site is now up and running! Check out http://journal.entsocbc.ca for complete open access to all articles, and stay tuned as more back issues of the society’s journal and quarterly bulletin archive are uploaded (going back to 1906!) and as we add DOI support and cross-referencing.

Our journal digitization effort is a huge project, and although we’ve made great headway, we could use your help (more on this soon)! We are looking for volunteers to assist with moving this content online to the new site. Contact Alex Chubaty (webmaster@entsocbc.ca)  if you are interested in contributing time towards this project.

Thank you!

Alex M. Chubaty

ESBC Web Editor

ESBC on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/135038946598013/

ESBC on Twitter: @EntSocBC

http://entsocbc.ca

http://journal.entsocbc.ca

By Chris Buddle, Editor-in-Chief, The Canadian Entomologist

———————–

As Editor-in-Chief for The Canadian Entomologist, I have the privilege of knowing what papers will be appearing in our journal in the future… in this post, without saying too much, I wanted to give you a ‘sneak peek’ of what to expect in the future.

First up, ground beetles (Carabidae) in eastern Canada:  Chris Cutler and colleagues studied the communities of ground beetles associated with wild blueberry fields in the land of the Bluenose (Nova Scotia).  They collected over 50 species in their study fields, and a high proportion of these species were not native (this is a pretty common trend with ground beetles in agroecosystms).   They also considered whether ground beetle communities differed between the interior and edges of their study fields – another important consideration in these systems.  In the discussion of their paper, the authors place their work in the context of conservation biological control.  It is a fascinating and important paper, and I know you will enjoy it when it appears on-line and in print.
In our Systematics and Morphology Division, you will soon see a paper by Art Borkent on biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in cretaceous amber.   In this paper, he describes two new species (and provides a key to the genus) based on specimens from many amber specimens.  These lovely flies are diverse and abundance in Amber, and in this case, Art Borkent looks into amber from southern Alberta.  This paper includes some lovely images and drawings, and you will be delighted when it appears in the journal.
Because I am quite fond of spiders, I am delighted to report that we will have a paper appearing about the dispersal behaviour of young Dolomedes triton (the ‘fishing’ spider), written by Carol Frost, Alice Graham, and John Spence.  The authors used a sophisticated laboratory set-up to understand the dispersal of this ubiquitous species, and tested what sort of cues could relate to the spider’s dispersal propensity.   It’s a very nice study, and one that will be of interest to the broader arachnological (and entomological) community.
Katherine Bleiker and colleagues at the Canadian Forest Service in Victoria BC will have a paper appearing in TCE about the mountain pine beetle -this destructive species is well known to the entomological community in Canada.  In this study, the authors investigated pre-emergence behaviours among females and completed this work completed this work in northern Alberta.  This area is in the ‘newly established’ habitat for the species, so it is important to fully understand the species and its behaviours at these locations.  This will be an exciting paper for researchers working on the mountain pine beetle, and we are delighted that it will appear in our journal.
Finally, I am pleased to report that one of our very own Subject Editors (Gilles Boiteau) will have a paper coming out in TCE on the Colorado potato beetle and its movement.   Gilles and co-author Pamela MacKinley using plant models to test how plant architecture affected the beetle’s movement patterns.  This is an important question given that management of this species in eastern Canada is a key priority, and a full and comprehensive examination of its movement behaviours provides important insights for researchers.
We have many, many more papers in our “production queue”, but this little sneak peek will hopefully get you excited about our Journal.  You can view papers on-line by clicking here, and members of the Entomological Society of Canada have full access – another great reason to join the society!

By Paul Manning, B.Sc. student at Nova Scotia Agricultural College
_______________
As an undergraduate student, I’ve been working diligently on the final hurrah of my four year career; the undergraduate thesis. I’ve been fortunate to work under the supervision of Dr. Chris Cutler for the past two summers, learning about the ecology and roles of insects within wild blueberry production. Though I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects within the lab, I’ve realized quickly that pollination was the aspect of entomology that I found to be particularly intriguing.

Blossoms of wild blueberry May, 23rd, 2012 (Photo by P. Manning)

One of the projects that caught my eye was as a continuation of a trial that our lab did in the summer of 2011. By sanctioning off areas of wild blueberries with cages that prevented pollinators from accessing the flowers, the team discovered that approximately a third of pollination events may be attributed to nocturnal insect activity, as well as weight of ripe berries being insignificant between nocturnal, and diurnal pollinated treatments.  Though a number of insects were collected using Malaise traps in this study, it was not possible to conclude captured insects were responsible for vectoring the pollen.

Lo and behold, there was a great opportunity for my thesis; to discover the identities of nocturnal pollinators within wild blueberry production. Armed with a sweep net, kill jars, a mercury-vapour lamp, tissue and enough ethyl-acetate to open my own nail salon we began to hit the field. Our sampling periods happened at two different times during the night; an early shift that started as soon as the sun went down, and a shift that started at 12:00 AM. Each sampling session lasted for two hours in length.

We implemented an interesting capture method, which worked extremely effectively. Under the glow of the mercury-vapor lamp, we placed a large 8×4 plywood board against the fence, making an 80° angle with the ground. When the insect landed upon the board, a quick capture could be made by placing the kill-jar against the board, and giving the board a small tap. This caused the insect to fly up into the kill-jar.

Screen illuminated by the mercury-vapour lamp (Photo by P. Manning)

June beetle captured with light trapping (Photo by P. Manning)

As the mercury vapor lamp began to buzz, insects began to make their way out of the dark and against our screen. The diversity was stunningly interesting, quite surprising. Tiny midges, large scarab beetles, hawk moths, and nocturnal icheumonids were included amongst our varied group of visitors.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJNKIzoC-yE]

Sweep samples were also taken in an area of darkness within the field. We used ethyl-acetate fumigated from a ventilated jar, within a larger Tupperware container to effectively kill the insects without struggle. The diversity from these samples was very different; being attributed mostly to beetles and small flies.

Insects were analyzed to find whether or not they carried pollen using methods. By swabbing the eyes, head, and mouthparts with a small cube of fuchsin gel.  By sealing these slides with the aid of a Bunsen burner, blueberry pollen was easily detected through its distinctive tetrad shape using a light microscope.

As the samples have been analyzed, the diversity of insects that may represent the nocturnal pollinators of wild blueberry is staggering. Though the work has been challenging and sometimes very tedious (have you ever attempted removing pollen off the head of a thrips?). I’ve learned a great diversity of things, including: an incredibly simple way to differentiate between icheumonids and brachonids; that there are an incredible number of fly families that vaguely-resemble a typical housefly; and that iced-cappuccinos do contain caffeine (after finally drifting off to sleep at 4:30 AM on a Sunday morning).

A small moth visits the light screen after sampling finishes (Photo by P. Manning)

This project has been a great way to open my eyes to the diversity of insects responsible for ecological functions. When prompted with the cue ‘pollination’ – my mind has been switched over from the typical image of a honey-bee – to a myriad of insect visitors among flowers. This is a vision of pollination which to me is something more; diverse, representative, and inclusive of this invaluable ecological service.

_____
References:

Beattie, A. J. 1971. A technique for the study of insect-borne pollen. Pan-Pacific Entomologist 47:82.
Cutler, C. G., Reeh, K. W., Sproule, J. M., & Ramanaidu, K. (July 01, 2012). Berry unexpected: Nocturnal pollination of lowbush blueberry. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 92, 4, 707-711.

By Dr. Terry Wheeler, Director of the Lyman Entomological Museum, McGill University

_________________________________

Warning: the following post contains content that makes a university professor and museum director look a bit ridiculous. Readers who wish to cling to the fiction that University Professors are smart, infallible and wise may find this post unsettling.

“Do you have everything?” A logical and reasonable question from The Students as The Professor exits his hotel room in the morning, several bags in hand. Some Students may consider such a question presumptuous, but it’s good to run through these little mental checklists.

Lesson #1 (for Students and Assistants): “Do you have everything?” may be a little too broad a question. A series of questions identifying particular individual items of necessary field equipment might be better. In this case, for example, a question along the lines of “Do you have the sweep net handles?” might have saved much subsequent humiliation and hilarity.

Lesson #2 (for Professors): Pack the gear the night before AND get enough sleep!

We jumped in The Vehicle and headed south for a long day of collecting in the dry prairies of southeastern Alberta. We had our sights set on a few promising collecting spots and it was a sunny day. After an hour or so of driving we arrived at the first site and The Professor disgorged the contents of the several bags as The Students waited to begin doing science. “Where are the net handles?” asked both Students, almost simultaneously. “Well,” replied The Professor “obviously they’re in the $#%#$ hotel in my &#@% red duffel bag.”

Lesson #3 (for Students and Assistants): Do not be afraid to laugh at a Professor, especially when they deserve it.

Lesson #4 (for Professors and Aspiring Professors): You can’t afford to take yourself too seriously. Things happen and people will laugh at you. Pretend you’ve just told a wickedly funny joke. I find that helps.

So, not relishing a long drive back to the hotel in the prairie heat, The Professor was forced to improvise, which he did in a rather unspectacular way, and the Short-Handled Shortgrass-Prairie Sweep Net (SHSPSN) was born.

The short-handled shortgrass-prairie sweep-net, ready for deployment. (Photo by T. Wheeler)

Some readers will recognize the SHSPSN as reminiscent of a short-handled folding insect net commonly referred to as a “National Park Special”, a net that folds up compactly and is easily concealed in a pocket for . . . well . . . ummm . . . inclement weather and increased mobility and the like. In our case (we were not in a National Park or other similarly protected area), the short handle worked quite well to keep us low and out of the high wind blowing across the site. Of course, the actual process of sweeping required a slightly modified stance compared to regular sweeping.

Anna demonstrating excellent SHSPSN technique. Her back will be fine. (Photo by T. Wheeler)

In the end, we collected (very successfully!) at four good sites that day with our lightweight, compact SHSPSN’s. Fortunately, we encountered no other Entomologists (especially Lepidopterists, with their penchant for freakishly long-handled nets) who could have taken advantage of our predicament and heaped ridicule upon us, especially The Professor.

And the next morning, when The Professor emerged from his room, well-rested and laden with several bags, The Students greeted him with a hearty “Do you have the net handles?” and it didn’t sound sarcastic AT ALL.

Lesson #5 (for Students and Assistants): Sooner or later, every Professor is going to do something dumb. Take joy in such magical moments. They are the times that make The Professor appear slightly less than superhuman. It helps to have a camera handy for the more spectacular times. Such photos make great content for retirement celebrations or department Christmas parties.

Lesson #6 (for Professors): The great thing about tenure is that you can actually get away with a lot of really dumb stuff. Just don’t lose any Students in the field – there’s a lot of paperwork involved. I find keeping the numbers low and giving each of them a distinct name helps. Take attendance a lot. Especially at airports.

And if anyone would like plans for making their very own SHSPSN, please contact The Professor.

_________________________

The original post can be found on Dr. Wheeler’s blog, here: http://lymanmuseum.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/stupidity-is-the-mother-of-invention/

We’d love to hear about other people’s (mis-)adventures in the field! Please feel free to send your stories and pictures to EntSocCanada@gmail.com

Dufourea bee on flower

pcyu_logo

By Sheila Dumesh, entomology research assistant at York University.

——————————–

My interest in bees was ignited in 2007, when I took a biodiversity course in my last year as an undergraduate student at York University in Toronto.  The course instructor was the well-known melittologist, Laurence Packer, and, although I had not met him before, I had heard many good things.  Laurence’s affection for bees was inspiring, not only to me, but to others in the past and many more to come.  He was so fascinated by these cute and fuzzy insects (at the time, I did not see myself describing them as such).  Even though he had been studying bees for decades, the look of excitement on his face never faded when collected and examined them.  Back then, my knowledge of bees was very limited.  I was unaware of their diversity, importance, and great beauty!

I began with an Honours thesis under Laurence’s supervision in the “bee lab” at York University.  I was keen on taxonomy and began a systematic study on a Central American bee genus, Mexalictus.  For my Master’s thesis, I chose to continue that work and complete a revision of Mexalictus, which included descriptions for 20 new species, an illustrated key, and a phylogenetic analysis.  I conducted my field work in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico, where I sampled in high elevation cloud forests (the known habitat of Mexalictus).  As these species are quite rare, I did not always have the pleasure of finding them; although this was somewhat upsetting, I was amazed by the bee (and general insect) diversity in that part of the world.  I was aware of it, but being out in the field in those countries was a truly amazing experience.  Just the change in habitat and species make-up along a small sector of the elevation gradient was incredible to witness!

Dufourea bee on flower

Dufourea sp. – Photo by Sheila Dumesh

Throughout my time as a Master’s student, I studied other groups of bees and collaborated with others in our lab.  One such project is the revision of the Canadian species in the genus Dufourea (Apoidea: Halictidae), which I undertook with Cory Sheffield and recently published in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification.  There are eight species in Canada, but some were described from only one sex, the descriptions were written by several authors in different publications, and a key to identify these species was previously unavailable!  These bees are also floral specialists, meaning they visit specific flowers (usually a genus or family).  Cory and I set out to revise this group and provide all of this information in one paper.  The identification key is user-friendly and illustrates the characters mentioned in the key couplets to aid the user.  We also constructed species pages, which include full descriptions, important features, distribution maps, and images of each species.

We are striving towards creating many more illustrated (and web-based) keys to facilitate bee identification.  I am very excited to have this work freely available and hope that it is found useful by others in the community!

———–

Dumesh, S. & Sheffield, C.S. (2012). Bees of the Genus Dufourea Lepeletier (Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Rophitinae) of Canada, Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 20 DOI: 10.3752/cjai.2012.20

Dear Buggy is the the alter-ego of Dr. Chris MacQuarrie, a research entomologist with the Canadian Forest Service. You can ask Buggy questions of your own on Twitter @CMacQuar.

—————————-

Hello!

Dear Buggy has lept out of the pages of the ESC Bulletin and landed in the new and exciting wilderness of the ESC blog. My loyal readers shouldn’t worry, I’ll still be writing my column, but between editions of the Bulletin I’ll be posting here.

I’m very excited to be contributing to the ESC blog, but I’ll admit I am a tad nervous. When Crystal and Morgan invited me to contribute I was worried that it would be hard to come up with interesting topics. Thankfully the ideas began to flow after a glass of good scotch and I think I’ve come up with a few ideas that should keep me busy. After that? Well I’m always open to suggestions.

While thinking about this first blog post for ‘Dear Buggy’ I recalled how I felt when I first signed on to write Dear Buggy for the Bulletin. Where was I going to get these ideas!? Fortunately, a lot of the suggestions for my early columns come from the then-editor, Kevin Floate. Kevin had the original idea for Dear Buggy and shared with me his collection of questions and ideas. Later on, the ideas began to flow and inspiration came from others around me. Although, when I’m stuck for an topic I still go back to the original list that Kevin gave me. Good ideas can be hard to come by when you’ve got writer’s block and a deadline is fast approaching

As I planned this blog post I began to muse over the source of all my ideas, in particular “Where do I get my research ideas?”.

For example, when I was a new MSc student many of my research questions were influenced by the ideas of my supervisors. This isn’t all that unusual.  I suspect that when most of us started in research we were given, or at the least influenced, by ideas of others. As we mature scientifically we eventually start to come up with our own ideas. In fact, a good part of becoming a successful, independent researcher is tied to coming up with good ideas (which we might also call hypotheses). So where do these ideas come from? And perhaps more importantly, what do we do with these ideas once we have them?

I find inspiration hits at the oddest times and in the oddest places . I think Jorge Cham at PhD comics captured it best in this series of comics. Like most, I’ve been inspired in the ‘usual’ places: reading papers, attending seminars, talking with colleagues, etc… But inspiration can happen in other places as well. My mind tends to wander on my bike-ride home, when I’m pushing my daughter in her stroller, and quite often when I’m sharing a glass of scotch with my wife (who, lucky for me, is also an entomologist). As it turns out, this ‘mind wandering’ actually helps you have those ‘eureka’ moments, especially if you have been banging your head against the wall for awhile. I wrote recently about figuring out when you are best at writing. I think that advice can be extended to figuring out when and where you are inspired and to make sure you go there often.

But what about capturing ideas? My mind is like the proverbial sieve, but with one annoying quirk. I often can remember that I had an idea, I just can’t remember what it was.

To combat this selective memory I try to capture my ideas in my work journal as soon as possible. I’m a bit old fashioned so my journal is still kept in a notebook. Since my journal is also where I keep track my current projects, I make sure I highlight any new ideas so they are easy to find later on. There are many, many web-tools out there that can do the same job. The trick, though is to find something that works for you and to use it. My wife, for example,  is also an artist and long-ago got in the habit of carrying a sketchbook with her. That sketchbook now contains just as many ideas for research projects as it does ideas for art projects.

Finally, I must make a confession. Most of my ideas are bad. Some are half baked, others were thought of by someone else and rejected 30 years ago, a lot are impractical, infeasible, or near-impossible to execute or fit into the research that I’m doing. These over time get filtered out. Those that survive this process of natural selection, I keep. I then draw from this storehouse when the right moment comes along. Not all of these ideas will pan out of course, but by hanging on to the good ones I always have the right idea at hand when opportunity presents itself.

I’d be curious to hear about where you find your inspiration and how you track your ideas. Leave them in the comments section and I’ll summarize the best ones in a later post.

Cheers and see you next month,

Buggy.

By Crystal Ernst, PhD Candidate (McGill University)

Since I finally submitted my manuscript to a journal (YAY!), I’ve been tying up the little loose ends remaining at the end of the project. You know: organizing the useful data and image files, tossing the files marked “MESSING_AROUND_WITH_DATA_v.29), tidying up my R code, and, perhaps most importantly, curating my specimens.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the project here (I’m saving that for another post). I will say, though, that the work I just completed includes just over 2,600 beetles from a single location in Nunavut (Kugluktuk, where I spent my entire first field season).

Two major aspects of the physical work (as opposed to the thinking, reading and writing) involved in an ecological/entomological project such as this one are the pinning and the identifications. Some of the tasks are a bit tedious (cutting labels; entering data; gluing over 800 specimens of the same tiny, plain black ground beetle to paper points), and some of them are thrilling (finally getting over the “hump” of the morphological learning curve and feeling good and confident when working with your keys; having experts tell you “Yep, you got those all right”; discovering rare species or new regional species records). In the end, in addition to the published (*knocks on wood*) paper, you have boxes or drawers full of specimens.

The specimens are gold. (Read this post by Dr. Terry Wheeler to understand why.)

Unfortunately, they don’t always get treated as such.

In the two-ish years that I’ve been working in my lab, we’ve had two major “lab clean-up days”. The first managed to get rid of a lot of clutter (old papers, broken apparatus, random crap). The second involved going through the “stuff” that was eating up all the most valuable storage space: specimens. Years and years worth of graduate and undergraduate projects’ specimens, stashed in freezers, boxes, bags and vials of all shapes and sizes.

Some things were in good shape (pinned well, or in clear ethanol). Other things were, well, downright nasty: gooey beetles in sludgy brown ethanol, dried up bits of moth wings in plastic containers, and a little bit of “what in the name of pearl is growing on that agar plate???” in the fridge.

None of these items were kept – their value as useful specimens was nil. So, the physical representation of some student’s work – probably months or years worth of work – was tossed in the trash.

Others, happily, were tucked back into drawers and cupboards, because someone had taken the time to ensure the specimens were well-preserved.

However, even many of these were suffering from a serious issue: bad labels.

Allow me to illustrate the point. This is a bad label:

This is also a bad label:

The first, you’ll note, is written in ballpoint pen (which fades) on a torn piece of notebook paper and contains almost no information. The second, although it looks fancier and perhaps more sciencey, is just as bad: it contains a cryptic code that is useful only to the bearer of the lab notebook in which said code has been written down. Or, perhaps the code is completely intelligible to the researcher who developed it, but the key to it exists only in his or her head.

To everyone else, it is meaningless. Neither of these labels indicate who collected the specimen, where, when, or how. And we all know what happens in labs: upon completion of their degrees, students move on, email addresses change, notebooks are misplaced, data files are not backed up. The labels’ codes can never be broken, and the scientific value of the specimens – *poof*.

While there’s nothing wrong, in theory, with using labels like these temporarily (although there is always a risk that they will be misinterpreted or misunderstood after a little while, even by the person who wrote them), they are absolutely useless as permanent records.

These are good labels:

These labels, properly affixed to a specimen, provide clear and universally understood information. One provides the location, including GPS coordinates, a method of collection, a date, the name of the collector(s). The information that goes on this label can vary a bit (it may include information about the habitat or host plant, for example), but those are the basic requirements. The smaller label is typically affixed on the pin below the first, and contains the specimen’s scientific name and the name of the person who identified it (it is the “det. label”, i.e., “determined by”). These labels, and therefore the specimen with which they are associated, will remain useful for decades, even centuries.

I am totally guilty of both of the offenses I just explained (the gooky vials of nastiness and the bad labels). For my undergraduate honors project, I identified close to 8000 spiders, mites and insects to the Family level – it was hundreds of hours of microscope work. Then I stuffed all those specimens back into vials with cryptic little codes, like V-1-F(!), hand-written on STICKERS(!), which I placed on the LIDS(!) and not even in the vials themselves(!). Oh, and I’ve long since lost the notebook that contained my decoder key(!). THIS IS ALL SO BAD. I have no doubt that those boxes of vials, which I once prized so highly and felt such pride for, have been unceremoniously tossed in the trash by my former advisor.

Well, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and from working with museum and other collection specimens. I now understand that each specimen is deserving of respect – it’s the original data after all – and that means it should be properly preserved, and labelled.

So.

Last week I spent a great deal of time, as I said, tying up my loose ends. The last thing I needed to do was remove my cryptic labels (the second in the series up there is an actual example of one of my own “secret code” labels) and replace them with proper ones, sorting and tidying up the collection in the process. The end result?

This:

Frankly, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s also enormously scientifically valuable. These specimens will be deposited in various nationally-important collections and museums, like the CNC.

As a matter of fact, just last week I was at the CNC, and I saw specimens bearing the name of the last person to do a comprehensive survey of the insects in Kugluktuk, back in 1955. That tiny but so-important label suddenly made me feel connected to the man who, almost 60 years earlier, had stood on the same stretch of tundra as me, holding and perhaps delighting in the very specimen that I held in my own hand.

Giving my specimens the respect they deserve is worth it, not only for the scientific value, but also because perhaps, 60 years from now, another grad student will discover my name on a specimen’s det. label. Perhaps she, too, will feel that same wondrous sense of connection to the the greater scheme of scientific discovery…

____________________________
Original post at: http://thebuggeek.com/2012/06/25/respect-your-specimens/

(Note: the English version follows)

Guillaume Dury, Étudiant à la maîtrise, Université McGill
_______________________________

Dessous de Chrysiridia rhipheus, photo par Cody Hough sur Wikimedia Commons.

Le 7 avril 2012, l’article du jour sur Wikipédia était Chrysiridia rhipheus.

C’était un grand jour pour moi : j’ai écrit la majorité de l’article. Ce n’est pas pour autant mon article; dire cela irait à l’encontre de l’étiquette de Wikipédia. J’y ai tout de même passé des heures de recherche et j’ai écrit la majorité de l’article.

Tout comme des millions de personnes, j’utilise Wikipédia pour étancher ma soif de connaissances rapides. À juste titre, “«wiki»” est Hawaïen pour rapide. Seulement, il n’y avait pas de wiki-connaissances sur ce papillon de nuit qu’est l’Uranie riphée (Chrysiridia rhipheus).

J’étais toujours curieux; cette soif particulière ne resterait pas inassouvie. Puisque j’allais faire une recherche de littérature, aussi bien écrire un résumé au bénéfice des autres. Voilà comment je suis devenu un éditeur sur Wikipédia.

J’ai créé l’article le 5 août 2006, un peu avant de commencer mon baccalauréat en biologie. En tant que biologiste de formation, j’avais besoin de pratiquer les tâches concernées dans l’écriture de l’article. Le plus important fut de trouver l’information. J’ai pu trouver beaucoup d’information en ligne : dans les articles scientifiques et dans des livres numérisés par Google Books ou Internet Archive. J’ai aussi appris que, parfois, des références ne sont tout simplement pas disponibles en ligne. C’est alors que j’ai utilisé les prêts entre bibliothèques pour la première fois. Peu a peu, une référence à la fois, j’ai rempli les différentes sections de l’article.

La partie sur la taxonomie et la description de l’espèce fut beaucoup plus intéressante à écrire que je l’aurais cru. L’Uranie rhiphée, ou le “«papillon coucher de soleil malgache»” (de l’anglais “Madagascan sunset moth”) a toute une histoire derrière ses noms. Il est décrit pour la première fois, en 1773, sous le nom de Papilio rhipheus. C’est-à-dire qu’il avait été placé parmi les papillons de jour et non de nuit. Capitaine May de Hammersmith avait donné le spécimen à l’entomologiste britannique Dru Drury. Ce spécimen avait été “«réparé»” avec une tête de papillon de jour et ses antennes en massue. (NB : ne pas coller la mauvaise tête sur votre spécimen cassé!) En 1831, René Primevère Lesson l’avait décrit sous le nom Urania ripheus var. madagascarensis. Ce papillon a toujours plusieurs autres synonymes.

En utilisant les guides sur Wikipédia, en demandant d’autres éditeurs et en m’inspirant de d’autres articles, j’ai rassemblé et résumé de plus en plus d’information. J’ai fait passer l’article par le processus interne d’évaluation par les pairs dans Wikipédia en janvier 2007. Sur Wikipédia, les pairs sont d’autres éditeurs et pas nécessairement des entomologistes. Cela a aidé un peu, surtout pour le format article, mais je devais surtout trouver d’autres sources d’information à inclure.

Puis, j’ai contacté l’un des experts mondiaux sur Chrysiridia rhipheus, le Dr David C. Lees du Musée d’Histoire naturelle de Londres. J’ai été agréablement surpris; il était déjà éditeur sur Wikipédia. Il m’a dirigé vers des références importantes que j’avais manquées et a ajouté des informations lui-même. J’étais ravi.

Carte de cigarettes dépeignant une fée « Chrysiridia madagascariensis » en 1928, compagnie John Player & Sons.

En mars 2008, je jugeais que mon article avait atteint le niveau de “«bon article»”. Pour être reconnu comme tel, un article doit répondre à certains critères et passer avec succès le processus de mise en candidature de bon article. Avec l’examen et des suggestions de l’utilisateur Casliber, c’est ce qui s’est passé le 22 mars 2008 : j’avais écrit un “«bon»” article sur Wikipédia.

J’ai continué; j’ai fait des modifications, j’ai ajouté des références, des images, y compris une carte de cigarettes datant de 1928, et j’ai ajouté ce qui est probablement la seule photo de la chenille de cette espèce sur Internet. J’ai eu l’aide de l’un des principaux éditeurs des articles sur l’optique et la polarisation des articles afin de clarifier pour moi la polarisation de la lumière. Les écailles sur les ailes du papillon produisent les couleurs à travers deux phénomènes optiques, l’un dépend de polarisation. Le papillon ne dispose de pigment que dans les régions noires de ses ailes.

Ensuite, le 18 juin 2008, j’ai fait la mise en candidature de l’article pour qu’il soit reconnu comme article de qualité. Les articles de qualité sont considérés comme représentant le meilleur de ce que Wikipédia a à offrir, comme déterminé par les éditeurs de Wikipédia. Lors de ce processus, de nombreux éditeurs font des suggestions et demandent des changements à l’article. J’ai fait la plupart de ces changements et fait de mon mieux pour répondre aux questions. Le 4 juillet 2008, Chrysiridia rhipheus a été promu au statut d’article de qualité. Featured article en anglais; ce statut exceptionnel est signifié par une petite étoile dans le coin supérieur à droit! :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysiridia_rhipheus

En moyenne, l’article Chrysiridia rhipheus est visité à peu près une centaine de fois par jour. Le 7 avril 2012, il a été visité plus de 20 000 fois. Au cours des 90 derniers jours, cela fait un total de 37614 fois. C’est de la bonne diffusion!

Je répondrai avec plaisir aux questions de ceux qui s’intéressent à l’écriture de « leur propre » article Wikipédia. Tout commence par le bouton [modifier]…

Pour les professeurs : “«dans le cours ENTO 431 entomologie médico-légale, à l’université du Texas A & M, les étudiants ont la tâche d’écrire plusieurs articles sur Wikipédia concernant les espèces de mouches d’importance médico-légale.»” Le travail des étudiants sert alors leur cours et sert le but de Wikipédia de créer un résumé de toutes les connaissances humaines dans une encyclopédie libre et en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations, voir la page du cours sur Wikipédia (en anglais))

____________________________

By Guillaume Dury, M.Sc. student, McGill University
____________________________

Engraving captioned Urania riphaeus from Charles D. d’Orbigny’s Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle (1849)

On April 7th 2012, on Wikipedia, Today’s Featured Article was Chrysiridia rhipheus.

It was an exciting day for me: I wrote most of the article. It isn’t my article; it would be against Wikipedia etiquette to say so. Still, I spent hours researching and wrote most of it.

Just like millions of people, I use Wikipedia to quench my thirst for quick knowledge. Appropriately, “wiki” is Hawaiian for quick. Only there was no wiki-knowledge on the Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus).

I was still curious; this particular thirst wouldn’t be left unquenched. Since I would search the literature, I thought I might as well write a summary for the benefit of others. That is how I became an editor on Wikipedia.

I created the article on August 5th 2006, a little before starting my bachelor’s in biology. As a biologist in training, I needed to practice the tasks involved, most importantly: finding information. I was able to find a lot online: in scientific articles and scanned books in Google Books or Internet Archives. I also learned that sometimes, references are simply not available online. That is when I used interlibrary loans for the first time. Little by little, one reference at a time, I filled the different sections of the article.

The section on taxonomy and naming of the species was a lot more interesting to write than I initially thought it would be. The Madagascan sunset moth has quite a story behind its names. It was first described, in 1773, as Papilio rhipheus. That is to say, it was described as a butterfly and not a moth. Captain May of the Hammersmith gave the specimen to the British entomologist Dru Drury, only that specimen had been “repaired” with a butterfly head that had clubbed antennae. (N.B.: don’t glue the wrong head on your broken insect specimen!) In 1831, René Primevère Lesson described Urania ripheus var. madagascarensis. The moth also has a number of other junior synonyms.

Using guides on Wikipedia, asking other editors and inspiring myself with other articles, I gathered and summarized more and more information. I went through Wikipedia’s internal process of peer review in January 2007. On Wikipedia, peers are other Wikipedia editors, not necessarily entomologists. This helped somewhat, especially for article format, but I really had to look for more sources and information to include.

I contacted one of the world experts on the Madagascan sunset moth, Dr. David C. Lees of the London Natural History Museum. I was pleasantly surprised he was already an editor on Wikipedia. He pointed me towards important references I had missed and added information himself. I was delighted.

A cigarette card featuring a “Chrysiridia madagascariensis” fairy in 1928 from John Player & Sons.

In March 2008, I felt my article was close to the level of “Good article”. To be recognized as such, an article needs to meet the good article criteria and to successfully pass the good article nomination process. With the review and suggestions of user Casliber, this happened on March 22nd 2008: I had written a “Good” article on Wikipedia.

I kept going, did more editing, added references and pictures, including a cigarette card from 1928, and what is probably the only photo of this species’ caterpillar on the Internet. I got help from one of the main editor of the articles Optics and Polarization to clarify light polarization for me. The scales on the moth’s wings use two optical phenomena to produce the colours, one of which is polarization dependent. The moth only has pigment in the black regions of its wings.

On June 18th 2008, I proposed the article for evaluation to be recognized as Featured. Featured articles are considered to be the best Wikipedia has to offer, as determined by Wikipedia’s editors. In this review process, various editors make suggestions and ask for changes to the article. I made most of those changes and answered questions to the best of my knowledge. On July 4th 2008, Chrysiridia rhipheus was promoted to Featured Article, this exceptional status is signified by a little star in the top-right corner!:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysiridia_rhipheus

On an average day, the article Chrysiridia rhipheus is viewed roughly a hundred times. On April 7th 2012, it was viewed over 20 000 times. In the last 90 days, that makes a total of 37 614 times. Good exposure!

I’ll happily answer the questions of anyone interested in writing “their own” Wikipedia article. It all start with the [edit] button…

Lastly, a note for the professors: “As a part of the ENTO 431, forensic entomology course at Texas A&M University students are assigned the task of writing several articles at Wikipedia pertaining to forensically important fly species.” The students’ work serves their course, and Wikipedia’s goal to create a summary of all human knowledge in an online encyclopedia. (For more information see the course’s Wikipedia page)