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Abstract Detail

Building a High-Resolution, Specimen-Based Picture of Life: Possibilities and Challenges

Naczi, Robert [1], Tulig, Melissa [1], Rabeler, Richard [2], Magill, Robert [3], Schuh, Randall [4].

Plants, Herbivores, and Parasitoids: A model system for the study of tri-trophic associations.

Data on plant taxa, insect herbivores, and their parasitoids are currently not accessible in a uniform manner, nor are comprehensive data on their relationships available online. The chief goal of the Tri-trophic TCN (thematic collections network) is to solve these problems through specimen digitization and online integration. The botanical targets are members of the families most important as hosts for the herbivores. These 20 families include many of the largest families in the North American flora (e.g., Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Chenopodiaceae, Cyperaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Poaceae, Polygonaceae, Rosaceae). Smaller, but ecologically and economically very important ones are represented, too (e.g., Fagaceae, Oleaceae, Pinaceae, Solanaceae). Together, these target families account for more than 8000 species (ca. 40% of the North American vascular flora). The target herbivores are members of the major insect order Hemiptera (true bugs and their relatives), the vast majority of which are herbivorous. The Hemiptera include such diverse insects as aphids, scales, hoppers, cicadas, and stink bugs, and total more than 11,000 species in North America. These insects are tremendously economically important as agricultural pests (e.g. armored scales, mealy bugs, black bean aphids) and beneficial predators of other insect pests. The parasitoids being digitized are members of another major insect order, Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, ants), especially the Chalcidoidea (a superfamily constituting one of the largest groups of parasitic wasps). These mostly minute wasps are a major natural population-control mechanism of hemipterans. This TCN, funded in July 2011, is utilizing the combined resources of 32 museums (14 herbaria, 18 insect collections) in an effort to capture and make available ca. 4 million specimen records, including ca. 2.6 million plants. One of the challenges of digitizing such a vast number of botanical specimens is streamlining the process to maximize digitization efficiency. We are using the high rate of duplication in plant collections as an opportunity to increase efficiency by 1) imaging specimens and creating skeletal records at all collaborating herbaria, 2) assembling the images and records in one database, 3) reconciling duplicates, and 4) databasing the condensed records. A steering committee comprised of principal investigators, co-PIs, and project managers from seven collaborating institutions coordinate the project. By assembling and integrating data on geographic distributions, host associations, and phenologies, our tri-trophic approach will benefit a wide range of research questions and practical applications in such fields as agriculture, systematics, conservation, ecology, climate change studies, and biogeography.

Broader Impacts:

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Related Links:
Tri-trophic Thematic Collections Network
The New York Botanical Garden William and Lynda Steere Herbarium

1 - The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY, 10458-5126, USA
2 - The University of Michigan, Herbarium, 3600 Varsity Dr., Ann Arbor, MI, 48108-2228, USA
3 - Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO, 63166, USA
4 - American Museum of Natural History, Division of Invetebrate Zoology, New York, NY, 10024, USA

Biodiversity informatics
biological research collections

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY11
Location: Franklin A/Hyatt
Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Time: 2:30 PM
Number: SY11004
Abstract ID:482

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