Jacob Coates is an MSc student in the Chapman Entomology Lab at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Cockroach – Photo by Jacob Coates

If you’ve never thought of visiting Australia, you’re making a terrible mistake. I just recently returned from a 6 month stint in Sydney based out of a Lab in Macquarie University. I carried out lab and field work on several species of gall-inducing thrips. I owe this great trip to the Australian Endeavour’s Awards, An Australian government run program which takes applications from students all over the world and to those lucky enough to be accepted, ships you to an Australian University with a wage, living allowance and travel cash. On top of getting some serious work done I enjoyed snorkeling around the many beaches, hiking in the Blue Mountains, and took part in the City 2 Surf road race where over 80,000 individuals take to the streets of Sydney to run the largest road race in the world.

Southern Queensland Red Road – Photo by Jacob Coates

In early June I completed a field trip into Southern Queensland to collect insect samples. Tenting through the outback presented some difficulties like torrential downpours, cold nights, and very sloppy road conditions (Nearly sinking a 4×4 in a flooded dirt road). Despite the problems, after nearly 2500 kms and 10 days of driving I returned to Sydney with thrips samples in hand and a very dirty truck to clean. Amazing wildlife, epic landscapes and great people await everyone in the outback, without a doubt the best trip of my life.

Jacob Coates

For those interested about the Endeavour’s award go to http://www.deewr.gov.au/International/EndeavourAwards/Pages/Home.aspx It’s well worth your time.

Culex pipiens photo by Kate Bassett

Today’s post is by Kate Bassett of Memorial University. If you’d like more information about her work, she encourages you to contact her.



I’m a graduate student at Memorial University (MUN, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador), nearing the end of my masters…hopefully :). My research project is focused on a wildlife issue. Snowshoe hare, Newfoundland’s only Lagomorph, suffer from infection by California serogroup viruses (snowshoe hare virus and Jamestown Canyon virus). Helped by the province’s Chief Veterinarian Officer Dr. Hugh Whitney, I sampled the blood and tested for infection in wild hares and laboratory rabbits used as sentinels.  This work was based in part in the laboratory led by microbiologist Dr. Andrew Lang at MUN, as well as working with the team at the National Microbiology Lab headed by Dr. Michael Drebot in Winnipeg. But, my project also included studying mosquitoes that are thought to transmit these viruses. That part of my project was based in the social insect lab at MUN headed by Dr. Tom Chapman.

I spent two summers catching mosquitoes. Consequently, I can’t miss them. I seem to have permanently altered my hearing and vision such that a mosquito in flight always grabs my attention. Last May while putting in a load of laundry, a specimen alighted on the washer. I dropped everything and ran upstairs for my aspirator, and made it back to collect this girl to identify at work. I froze her and didn’t get around to id’ing until later in the summer, and I was shocked to see that it may be Culex pipiens. This mosquito gains attention on the East Coast of North America because it can transmit West Nile Virus, and when I made this determination the worst West Nile viral outbreak in N.A. was underway and centered in Texas. I was uncertain of my morphological identification, so I added a leg or two of this specimen to my DNA barcoding work, and I waited for the outcome. When the sequence confirmed by identification, I put out a press release, which had me immediately doing live interviews on TV and Radio. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, I just went from interview to interview. It was a good experience; I do recommend it. I should add that we don’t have confirmation of West Nile Virus in Newfoundland, but we don’t know what lies ahead. Drs. Lang (aslang@mun.ca), Chapman (tomc@mun.ca) and Whitney (hughwhitney@gov.nl.ca) are looking for students to pick up where I am leaving off.

Culex pipiens photo by Kate Bassett

Here’s a picture of Cx. pipiens I took using a digital camera mounted on a dissecting scope. I used the program Helicon for producing a wide focal plane. It’s not the one that I got in May and fingerprinted, but another one that I got last weekend (September, 2012), also in my house!

Mosquito field trials at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute
Mosquito field trials at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute

Sometimes field work can look a little unconventional, like using large screened tents for a mosquito repellent trial. This original (yet ultimately unsuccessful) idea came from some work I did at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute in 2011.

Another field season has come and gone (mostly, I bet there are some field crop entomologists still out collecting data), and the entomology conference season will soon be upon us. But before you wrap yourself up in a nice warm cocoon of fresh data in preparation for the coming winter, we’d love to hear how your summer went!

The only thing better than obtaining exciting new data is the great story about how you got it! Maybe you traveled to a new location (or had an adventure on the way to your normally-mundane field site), met some interesting new people, took some photos you’re proud of, or did your best MacGyver impression by rigging your equipment together using only duct tape, dental floss and that perfectly shaped twig you found. Being the start of a new semester, maybe you’ve started a new project or joined a new lab and want to introduce yourself, your work, and put out a call for specimens.

Whatever your situation, the ESC Blog is a great place to share your story and earn the adoration of your peers for heroics and valor in the face of p > 0.05! Simply send us an email (entsoccanada@gmail.com) with your story (and a few pictures if you can) and we’ll help bring your story to the masses.

We know you’ll be swapping stories with newfound friends over beer at the ESC meeting in a few weeks, so hopefully you’ll consider sharing them with everyone a little sooner. We promise, we’ll ooh & ahh at all the appropriate moments (and not tell your advisor how the dent in the rental truck really got there)!

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 all,

Writing your first manuscript can be difficult. I remember spending a ridiculous amount of time preparing the first draft of my first paper. I thought I had produced something pretty good. So imagine my surprise when the file came back from my supervisor dripping in red ink (digital red ink, that is).

I had two big problems. First, like many new students, I didn’t make a particularly convincing argument in my introduction, my methods were confusing, the results were a mess and the discussion was meandering. My second problem confounded the first. I wasn’t a good writer.

Solving the first problem was easy. I had two very patient supervisors who taught me how to write a scientific paper. Solving the second problem is taking a little longer, because the only way to become a better writer is to practice. That is, you need to write. I write as much as I can, but I still have a lot of work to do. I’m lucky that I’ve had the good fortune to work with good writers and good editors from whom I’ve managed to learn some good habits (and break some bad ones).

The rest of my education has come from books. I thought I’d share some of these with you.

Books about writing in science:

How to write and publish a scientific paper 6th ed. by RA Day and B. Gastel

This is an excellent primer on how to write a scientific paper and should be on the bookshelf of every grad student.The 6th edition is a bit pricey, but you might be able to pick up a copy of the 4th or 5th edition at a good used bookstore. I own the 4th edition, it’s a bit dated but more than adequate for everyday use.

Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences 5th ed. by V McMillan

I was introduced to this book during my undergrad where it was on the required reading list (in part, I think because the author is also an alumni of the University of Saskatchewan’s biology department) I’ve carried it with me ever since. McMillan focuses on writing term papers and lab reports with less attention paid to writing journal articles, so this might be a better choice for undergrads. That said, there are good sections on formatting and citing that also apply to graduate level work. The current edition also covers the formatting of posters.

Writing to Learn Biology by R Moore

A Short Guide to Writing about Biology 7th ed. by J Pechenik

These two were recommended to me by Cedric Gillot, editor of the Bulletin (Cedric is one of those good editors I mentioned earlier. He’s been editing my work, on and off, for over 15 years).

Moore’s book looks to be out of print but many copies are available from online used book stores (as are most of the books in this post).  Pechenik’s book is well reviewed on Amazon. I’ll track down a copy and report back. If you’ve read this book let me know what you thought.

Books on writing in general:

These three books are not about writing in science, but are all excellent guides on how to write well.

How to Speak and Write Correctly by J Devlin.

Perhaps the granddaddy of all grammar guides. While it’s a bit dated (Devlin goes into detail on the proper use of ‘shall’ and ‘thou’), writers should still find it relevant. In particular, those, like me, that were never taught the rules of english grammarl. One other plus, since it was published in 1910, the copyright has expired and it can be had for free!
The Elements of Style 4th ed. by W Stunk and E.B. White.

The classic guide to writing in english. Buy this. Read it. Then put it on your bookshelf and read it again every year for the rest of your life. The best $12 you can invest towards becoming a better writer.

On writing well by W Zinsser

Zinsser focuses on guiding the writer to telling a compelling story. A great resource if you fancy becoming a writer about science (in addition to a writer of science). Regardless, science is about telling stories and the advice in this book about constructing a narrative can be applied to writing in the peer-reviewed literature.
And two for the road…

These last two books are on the art and craft of writing. Both are fun reads and worth checking out.

On Writing by S King.

Yes, that ‘S King’. King has much good advice to offer to all writers. If you ever wondered how King could be such a prolific writer, consider this: he writes at least 1000 words a day, six days a week. Anyone who has spent that much of their life writing should have good advice to offer. Set any doubts that you may have about King as a fiction writer and read this book. Probably one of his best.

When you catch an adjective. Kill it. by B. Yagoda

cover photo [ http://covers.openlibrary.org/w/id/528568-M.jpg ]

A fun little book about exercising verbosity from your writing. Clearly, I need to read it again.

I’d also love to hear your recommendations. What books influenced you as a writer?

Cover images in this post are from the Open Library project. Links are to Amazon.ca, but you should be able to find many of these in your local used bookstore, university bookstore or library.

Time to meet another ESC Blog Admin, but first an update.

The ESC Blog has been going strong all summer, and is quickly becoming established within the “Bug-o-Sphere”; sometime today we’ll hit a total of 5,000 visits from 85 different countries, just 2.5 months after launching! For comparison, that’s about half the number of athletes and the same number of nations that took home at least one medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics! None of this would be possible without the support of the entomologists and insect enthusiasts from across the country who have taken the time to share a story, advice, or a snapshot of their research with us.

As the insect season starts to wind down and the entomology conference season approaches, we encourage you to share your favourite photos, stories from the field, or even introduce yourself, your work or your lab to the world. Feel free to email us at entsoccanada@gmail.com with your ideas and stories because we can’t wait to hear from you!

As the ESC Blog Admins, we figured we’d break the ice and tell you a little bit about ourselves before we start bugging each of you to do the same. You met Crystal last month, so I guess it’s time you got to know me, Morgan.


Morgan D. Jackson Self PortraitGrowing up in a semi-rural, mid-sized city with a strong interest in zoology, I went to the University of Guelph with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, which, other than farming, was the only career I was exposed to in which I’d get to work with animals. By my second year at university I realized there were way more options for an animal geek like myself, so I took as many zoology courses as I could fit into my schedule.

In my third year I signed up for an insect diversity & natural history course on a whim, and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course I had known about insects before this course, but I hadn’t taken the time to look at them closely, to realize the many ways in which they had evolved to survive, the morphological differences that revealed whether a species was the diner or the dinner, or even realized the shear number of species that had literally been around me my entire life! It was like I had stumbled into a secret world that hardly anyone else knew about, but which was filled with so much to discover that I knew I could never look away again.

This first entomology course also taught me how many insects were out there waiting to be discovered, named, and placed onto the tree of life. The prospect of travelling and exploring the world, catching flies, and then being the one to give them names captured my imagination, and when I realized I could actually get paid to do all this, I joined Dr. Stephen Marshall’s lab and started my career as an insect taxonomist.

Working with Steve at the University of Guelph Insect Collection, I completed my Masters of Science last year studying the taxonomy and phylogenetics of stilt-legged flies (family Micropezidae), and I’ll soon be starting my PhD to continue my work on this group.

When I’m not working with flies, I spend my time promoting entomology and trying to make the world’s insect fauna more accessible to the public. I’m the technical editor for the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, an ESC journal developed to publish illustrated keys for insects and other arthropods, and am a co-author on a soon-to-be-released field guide to Northeastern Jewel beetles (family Buprestidae). I developed an interest in macro photography in 2007 (working with Steve I suspect this was probably inevitable) so I could show my friends and family why I thought insects were so cool, and in 2010 I started my blog, Biodiversity in Focus, to share my passion for entomology even further afield. Like Crystal, I feel that social media has the potential to revolutionize not only the way in which scientists go about their day-to-day research, but also their interactions with each other and the public.

And this is why I think the ESC Blog is such a great resource for entomology in Canada. With the support of the Entomological Society of Canada and researchers from across the country, we can raise awareness about insect-related issues, share exciting research being done in Canadian labs, and expose students to the many opportunities and careers in entomology. The Entomological Society of Canada is breaking new ground with its ESC Blog, and I’m proud to be associated with it.

Who knows, if the ESC Blog was around while I was growing up, I may have gotten a head start on my fly collecting!


If you’re interested in learning more about my work, you can follow along on a variety of social media websites: TwitterGoogle+MendeleyYouTubeFourSquarePinterestProject Noah, and iNaturalist.

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.


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.


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.

Honey bee flying with pollen - Photo by Alex Wild

Honey bee flying with pollen – Photo by Alex Wild, used with permission

Honeybee colonies are famous for their orderly divisions of labour.  As worker bees grow up, they transition from housekeepers (cleaning the colony) to nurse bees (feeding young bees), to finally switching to foragers who go out and collect nectar and pollen for the rest of the colony.   To maintain a healthy colony, bees need to decide how many foragers and how many nurse bees are needed, and control of these numbers is accomplished by pheromone levels within the colony.

In honeybee colonies, there are pheromones like the alarm pheromone that cause immediate behavioural responses (called releaser pheromones) and others that trigger physiological changes like hormones do (called primer pheromone).  From previous work, it seemed that ethyl oleate functions as a primer pheromone, produced by foragers, that delays the maturation of nurse bees into foragers.

“Ethyl oleate does not elicit any noticeable behavourial responses in recipient workers,” says Dr. Erika Plettner, who supervised a recent study on the synthesis of ethyl oleate at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.  “Yet it has a profound physiological effect”.

To understand how this chemical is produced in the individual bee and then distributed in the colony, Carlos Castillo and colleagues from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and the Laboratoire Biologie et protection de L’Abeillie in France looked at several ways to identify the source and synthesis of ethyl oleate.  This chemical can be produced by a reaction between oleic acid (a common fatty acid in insects) and ethanol.  While you might not think of honeybees as heavy drinkers, it turns out that yeasts in flower nectar ferment the sugars present into ethanol, and so the forager bees have much higher exposure to ethanol than nurse bees.

To figure out if ethanol and oleic acid can be made into ethyl oleate by honeybees, the researchers incubated different honeybee body parts from forager and nurse bees with these precursors.  They found highest production of ethyl oleate in the head tissues, and that both nurses and foragers could produce ethyl oleate when given ethanol.  In addition, in whole bees, they found that the ethyl oleate migrated from the gut to the exoskeleton of the bees where it would exude into the colony.

Taken together, these results suggest that making ethyl oleate, while it is useful for colony control, might also be a way to deal with the occupational hazard of consuming toxic ethanol.  “Foragers have much higher occupational exposure to ethanol than nurses do,” says Dr. Plettner.  “This is why they make ethyl oleate in nature”.

Ethyl oleate molecule

Ethyl oleate

To track down where exactly the ethyl oleate was synthesized, they coupled oleic acid to a chemical that would produce fluorescence when the oleic acid was combined with ethanol to produce ethyl oleate.  Under the microscope, areas that fluoresced showed where ethyl oleate was being made.  They found that ethyl oleate was made in the esophagus, honey crop and stomach.

The authors were also able to identify the genes responsible for the synthesis of ethyl oleate in the honeybee and the resulting enzymes that catalyze the reaction between oleic acid and ethanol.  These enzymes are then secreted into the gut fluid, where they produce ethyl oleate, which is then transported to the cuticle.

The biosynthesis of ethyl oleate then can be thought of a way of providing updates to the colony about the availability of flower nectar in nature.  “EO might be some kind of ‘resource meter’ that tells the nurses in the colony how many nectar and pollen resources are coming in,” says Dr. Plettner.  “If lots of food is coming in, then it makes sense to inhibit nurse to forager transition, as the nurses would be more needed in the brood chamber than as foragers.  Conversely, if few resources and/or foragers are coming in, then it makes sense to speed up development of nurses so that they can forage and fill the need.”

Castillo, C., Chen, H., Graves, C., Maisonnasse, A., Le Conte, Y. & Plettner, E. (2012). Biosynthesis of ethyl oleate, a primer pheromone, in the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.), Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 42 (6) 416. DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2012.02.002

Corresponding author: Erika Plettner (plettner@sfu.ca)

Further reading:

Castillo, C., Maisonnasse, A., Conte, Y.L. & Plettner, E. (2012). Seasonal variation in the titers and biosynthesis of the primer pheromone ethyl oleate in honey bees, Journal of Insect Physiology, 58 (8) 1121. DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2012.05.010

Pollenia griseotomentosa Calliphoridae Cluster fly
Pollenia rudis Face

Pollenia rudis

By Adam Jewiss-Gaines,  a research assistant at Brock University.


When people ask me what the heck a calliphorid is (often after I have mentioned the family name and am being gawked at as if I’m crazy), I usually remark “You know those shiny flies you often see flying around in the spring and summer?”  This isn’t technically 100% accurate since the genus Pollenia, one of the most commonly encountered genera of the family, is in fact non-reflective and grey.  Upon closer inspection, a keen eye can also observe varying amounts of wrinkled, yellow hairs on the thorax.  These two qualities distinguish Pollenia from other blow flies throughout North America.  Despite being a little dull when compared to their more eye-catching iridescent relatives, Pollenia are ecologically important insects as they aid in plant pollination and the processing of various biomaterials.

Pollenia often become particularly active during the spring and summer months once the temperature warms up, although they can occasionally be spotted indoors in the wintertime on a warmer day.  With a sudden onslaught of large, grey insects flying around when the snow begins to melt, it comes as no surprise that people tend to get irritated with them and consider them pests.  Oftentimes they are mistaken as houseflies (Family Muscidae) causing Pollenia species to be labeled as potential food contaminators, but this is not the case.  These insects are also particularly well-known for their clustering behaviour on walls, earning them their common name: cluster flies.

Even though Pollenia are extremely common, their general biology is largely unknown with a few exceptional details. It is known that larval Pollenia are parasites on various other organisms, such as maggots and worms. For example, Rognes (1991) noted that Pollenia pediculata, one of the most common species found throughout the continent, is a parasite of the earthworm species Eisenia rosea. Aside from this little tidbit however, specific information regarding the life cycles of Pollenia species is relatively scarce and further studies in this particular field would greatly improve our knowledge of the genus.

Pollenia griseotomentosa Calliphoridae Cluster fly

Pollenia griseotomentosa

Until very recently it has been thought that all Pollenia found in North America were the same species (Pollenia rudis), but after examining various collections throughout the world, Knut Rognes found that six members of the genus occur throughout the region.  Terry Whitworth adapted much of Rognes’ work shortly thereafter into a nice, clean, simple identification key for North America. With accurate images and photography, however, characters could be even easier to distinguish and observe when one is able to compare a photograph to the creature they have under their microscope.

Therefore, to further expand on Terry’s key and clarify important visual characters, I collaborated with him and Dr. Steve Marshall to create a fully-illustrated digital key for distinguishing the six North American Pollenia species from one another.  Now published in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, Cluster Flies of North America couples high-resolution images of important traits with a clean and simple interface to create a handy tool to be used by entomologists and non-entomologists alike. If you are relying on this key for identification, it is recommended to use physical specimens of Pollenia rather than images or photos, since even the best of hand-photographs have difficulty capturing key features. In addition, distribution maps are provided for each species, constructed from locality data of specimens from the University of Guelph Insect Collection and Terry Whitworth’s personal collection of Pollenia.

Creating this key has been a great opportunity, and I hope the entomological community is able to make good use of it. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Marshall, Terry Whitworth, the editors, and my labmates and friends for all of their support.


Jewiss-Gaines, A., Marshall, S.A. & Whitworth, T.L. (2012). Cluster flies (Calliphoridae: Polleniinae: Pollenia) of North America, Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 19 DOI: 10.3752/cjai.2012.19

Rognes, K. 1991. Blowflies (Diptera, Calliphoridae) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica Vol. 24.

Got a great insect photo? Submit it to the 3rd Annual BugEye Photo Contest presented by the Entomological Society of Ontario!

Acorn Weevil by Crystal Ernst

2011 Winning Photo, Open Category: Acorn Weevil by Crystal Ernst

Prizes for:
– Best photo (open category): $50
– Best photo by an Ontario resident: $50
– Best photo of an Ontario insect: $50
– Best photo by a kid under 13: $50

Open to everyone, no entry fee!
(Ontario resident includes anyone who currently makes their primary residence in Ontario, international students welcome!).

Submission deadline: Sept. 6th, 2012

Submit photos to: esophotos@gmail.com

Winners announced: September 30th, 2012

Copyright for the photo remains with the photographer, use must be granted for ESO promotional material. Winning photos will be displayed on the ESO website, and all entries will be displayed at the 149th Annual General Meeting of the ESO.

Interested in meeting other entomologists and learning more about Ontario insects? Join ESO! It’s free for students and amateurs, and only $30 for others. Get more information at http://www.entsocont.ca.

1. Photos must be of insects or closely-related arthropods (e.g. mites, spiders).
2. Submissions must be as digital files
3. Photographic enhancement is allowed as long as it is something that could be achieved in a real darkroom (i.e. adjustment of contrast, color enhancement, cropping, etc.). However very obvious enhancements will be negatively scored.
4. You may submit up to 3 unique images per category.
5. Submit photos as 7.5 x 10 inches in size at 300 dpi (2250 x 3000 pixels), in .jpg format, with filename as title_lastname_firstinitial.jpg (e.g. dragonfly_smith_j.jpg).
6. Photos may be landscape or portrait in orientation.
7. Print photos must be scanned and submitted as digital files.

Please include a short description of your photo:
1. Where they were taken
2. Why you like them
3. What insect is pictured
4. What category is being entered
5. Your complete address

Judging criteria:
1. Image composition
2. Visual impact
3. Subject interest
4. Sharpness of subject
5. Difficulty of image acquisition
6. Depth of field within image

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.



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,