By Dr. Christopher Buddle
This week I am thrilled to report that two of my MSc students have successfully completed their degrees! Both the projects are part of the collaborative Northern Biodiversity Program – a project aimed to quantify and understand ecological change with Arthropods from Canada’s north.
A BIG congratulations to Sarah Loboda and Katie Sim – they are both tremendously talented students, excellent Arachnologists, and wonderful people to know. Last night we had our annual Lab BBQ – and at that event, I was pleased to give Sarah and Katie a small token of appreciation. Here’s a photo showing them both with their wolf spider photographs (photos by the incredible Thomas Shahan):
Katie Sim (left) and Sarah Loboda (right) – successful (& happy) MSc students!
Sarah Loboda’s thesis is titled Multi-scale patterns of ground-dwelling spider (Araneae) diversity in northern Canada. Her research focused on broad diversity patterns of ground-dwelling spiders collected from our 12 study sites, spread across Canada’s north. Our project spanned 30 degrees of latitude and 80 degrees of longitude –> yes that is a lot of land area! Sarah identified over 300 spider species from 14 families, and over 23,000 individuals. Publications are forthcoming so I won’t give details here, except to say that we can learn a lot about diversity patterns over broad spatial scales using a study taxon such as spiders.
Here’s where the Northern Biodiversity Program took our field teams.
Katie’s work (co-supervised by Prof. Terry Wheeler) had a different slant, but was still on Arctic spiders. Her thesis is titled: Genetic analysis of Pardosa wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae) across the northern Nearctic. The first part of Katie’s thesis was about understanding the phylogeographic history of the Arctic spider Pardosa glacialis, with particular attention to post-glacial dispersal patterns, as inferred by population genetics. The second part of her thesis was focused on whether or not there is enough evidence to suggest two northern Pardosa species should remain as separate species, or be merged into one – based on both molecular and morphological characters. Let’s just say that Katie had to be a ‘field genius‘, ‘lab genius‘ and ‘spider genitalia genius‘. Here’s an example of what she looked at, a lot:
The epigynum of a wolf spider species, (part of) the topic of Katie’s research.
In sum, I am thrilled to see Sarah and Katie finish up their work, although their success also comes with a touch of sadness, as I will miss their daily presence in the laboratory. Stay tuned… we shall soon report all the details from their research.
By Chris Buddle, McGill University
The Arctic Pseudoscorpion Wyochernes asiaticus
I am heading back home after a simply amazing field trip to the Yukon Territory. As mentioned in a previous post, one of the goals of the trip was to collect more specimens of an Arctic pseudoscorpion Wyochernes asiaticus (Family Chernetidae) – a Beringian species known from Siberia, Tibet, and the Yukon. This species survived the last great glaciation event in North America by living in unglaciated regions of the northwest, including parts of the Yukon. In 2008 I had collected this species under rocks beside high elevation and high latitude creeks and rivers in a few locations in the Yukon. On this trip, my goal was to collect more specimens to further assess the distribution of this Beringian species, and to gather more life-history information including estimates of size and fecundity. Because of the relative rarity of pseudoscorpions, few data exist that describe life-history parameters of these arachnids.
Despite some rather wet and cold weather for a lot of the trip, the pseudoscorpion collecting was completely successful – we were able to collect hundreds of specimens, from the south end of the Dempster Highway (approximate latitude 64.3 degrees N) all the way up into the Northwest Territories (>67 degrees N). We collected specimens under rocks in more boreal regions, as well as the upper headwaters of high elevation creeks – some of these less than a metre wide. Here is an example of one of these northern, high elevation creeks in the Northwest Territories, just beyond the Yukon-NWT border:
An Arctic, high-elevation stream in the Northwest Territories: pseudoscorprion country!
To give you some idea of the ease of collecting, here is an example of what you might find when flipping over rocks beside the creeks:
Several Wyochernes asiaticus (Pseudoscorpiones) females (with yellow eggs visible)
I was also able to capture some video of these pseudoscorpions – as far as I am aware, Wyochernes has never before been videotaped, so this is the FIRST EVER movie of this species!
Our larger research goals included more than pseudoscorpion colleting, and I was in the Yukon with a wonderful team of scientists, including my graduate students Crystal Ernst, Katie Sim, a post-doctoral researcher Dr. Laura Timms, and an entomology professor from the University of Manitoba, Dr. Barb Sharanowski. We all had different objectives and goals for the Yukon trip, and over the next couple of weeks. I will post some more research stories from this field-work to give a sense of the scope of our research efforts in the Yukon.
The research team at the Arctic circle (Laura, Katie, Crystal, Barb & Chris)
Originally posted at Dr. Buddle’s Arthropod Ecology blog, here: http://arthropodecology.com/2012/07/19/successful-pseudoscorpion-hunting-in-the-yukon/
From Chris Buddle:
Hard to believe that we are already into 2012! Although there has been a distinct lack of blog entries, this does not indicate a lack of activity – quite the opposite! After our return from successful field trip in August, we were busy all fall sorting specimens, working on identifications, and gearing up for conference season.
The project had very good representation at national and international conferences this past autumn. M.Sc. student Anna Solecki, post-doc Laura Timms, and Terry Wheeler attended the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting, held this year in Reno, Nevada. Congratulations to Anna – she won the President’s Prize in a poster competition in Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity!
The NBP also had good representation at the Entomological Society of Canada’s annual meeting, held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Terry and Laura also attended that meeting, as did Katie Sim, Crystal Ernst, Sarah Loboda, Chris Buddle, and the Toronto crew – Patrick Schaefer, Ruben Cordero, and Doug Currie. Everyone gave oral talks or posters, and it’s very exciting to see preliminary results from the project. We are especially proud of Katie, as she won the poster competition – congratulations, Katie! Here’s a photo of Katie with her poster. Up next – we continue working on sorting, identifications, and some analyses and manuscripts are also being prepared. Stay tuned…
Katie Sim with her first-place poster!
From Laura Timms on behalf of Team Knife; they’ve returned to the south since this update was written:
Team Knife is half way through our last stop for the summer: Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Cambridge Bay is located on the southern end of Victoria Island, on the Queen Maud gulf in the Northwest Passage of the Arctic Ocean. When we arrived on July 6th the Bay was still covered in ice but with all the sun and ‘excessive heat’ (17 C the day we arrived) it has been quickly melting. In fact the last large pieces of ice disappeared yesterday while we were out collecting. Cambridge Bay is home to an old DEW line station and soon to be home to a new federal government funded High Arctic Research Station.
Our work here is going very well – we have finished our first servicing of the traps, the vegetation protocol, two sweep samples, and 10 of the 12 aquatic sites. Our traps have been full of spiders, beetles, crane flies, midges, and all sorts of smaller things that we can’t wait to go through back home under the microscopes. Patrick has been especially good at spotting cocoons and caterpillars of the arctic woolly bear (Gynaephora groenlandica) on the tundra. This species can take up to seven years to complete its life cycle, cramming as much eating and growing into the short arctic summer as it can before going into dormancy for the rest of the year. Some of the cocoons we have found are full of puparia of tachinid flies instead of the moth – these parasitoids lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and consume them from the inside out, emerging just before the caterpillar pupates. Laura is currently rearing the cocoons in our hotel room, hoping to get some adult moths and parasitoids for our collection.
We have also had encounters with some of the larger fauna around here, having spotted several chatty arctic foxes, some muskoxen, a lemming, a seal on an ice floe, and many of the over 100 species of birds up here. One of our encounters with the local wildlife was a bit too close for comfort: both of our ATVs were dive-bombed in succession by some very territorial terns as we were driving on a beach east of town the other day. Luckily we were wearing helmets!
As the weather is continuing to warm up, the vegetation is becoming greener, and the black fly larvae are getting bigger, we are looking forward to continuing to explore the area and do more collecting. The road to Ovayok Territorial park is currently washed out, but we are crossing our fingers that we will be able to get there at some point before the end of our trip. And we are hoping to not spend too much more time with ATVs and/or team members stuck in pockets of wet clay that are almost impossible to escape from!
Slow northern internet connections have hindered our ability to keep this blog updated in a timely manner, but now that we have team members back in the south, the blog is back in business! Our first long-overdue update comes from Team Wells, with a wrap up of the first leg of their journey, as told by team leader Doug Currie:
Team Wells wrapped up a memorable trip to the Mackenzie Valley last week. In addition to completing all the required sampling protocols, we got out for a fine day of riverboat collecting on the Mackenzie River (courtesy of Richard Popko, NWT Department of Resources, Wildlife & Economic Development) and a helicopter trip into the foothills of the Mackenzie Mountains (courtesy of Glen Guthrie, Sahtu Renewable Resources Board). This gave us access to sites that were otherwise completely inaccessible, providing many fine collections.
Helicopter perched on the bank of a black fly infested river in the Mackenzie MountainsRuben Cordero experiments with a novel technique to dislodge aquatic insects from the substrate.
Not to be outdone by “Team Arthropod’s” entry in Yellowknife’s “Midnight Sun Triathlon”, Team Wells participated in the Third Annual Bearathon in Norman Wells, finishing the 5K race in the medals! The fact that anyone crossing the finish line received a medal shouldn’t diminish our accomplishment!
Our time in Norman Wells passed all too quickly, and it was with mixed emotions that we moved on to our next site. Many thanks to all of our good friends in Norman Wells, including Alasdair Veitch, Richard Popko, and Glen Guthrie. We couldn’t have accomplished our objectives without your support!
Anna, Katie and Ruben departed for a night in Inuvik, before hooking up with new Team Leader Terry Wheeler in Dawson City. They are now stationed at the Tombstone Mountain campground in Yukon’s Ogilvie Mountains. “Old” Team Leader Doug returned to Toronto, where he’s now gearing up to rejoin Team Wells on the last leg of the trip… to the wilds of Aulavik National Park on northern Banks Island. Standby for the next Team Wells blog post, originating from the heart of Klondike Country. Beringia it on!