The LepNet research advisory board (RAB) is a subgroup of our TCN’s CoPIs charged with developing guidelines for research projects and grant proposals that are requesting digitized specimen data ahead of online publication. LepNet is receiving requests for Lepidoptera on a regular basis, including requests for student research projects and conservation projects that include sensitive data. Thus, the goal of the RAB is to establish a process that maximizes efficiency of digitization for LepNet, opportunity for collaboration, and publications for those involved (as appropriate). We are tracking LepNet’s collaborative research projects online and engaging in regular discussions with PIs and at RAB monthly meetings.  While project tracking will help our TCN become more organized, we also hope this new pipeline will generate even more energy and excitement for research that uses digitized collections data.

The initial project that precipitated the creation of a research advisory board was the Poweshiek Skipperling project, which was so successful in terms of soliciting participation by museums, we wanted to expand the projects program.  We hope that we can ensure that participants are provided attribution (e.g. authorship in checklist publications) and project leads let participants know exactly what they need.

We have identified nine projects to date, each one is described below.

Project No. Priority Project Name Name, Affiliation (contacts)
# 1 high Puerto Rico Hurricane RAPID Project Catherine Hulshof
# 2 high Woolly bear tymbal morphology Project Nick Dowdy, MPM
# 3 high Colias eurytheme Project Matt Neilsen, UNC-Chapel Hill
# 4 high Agriculturally significant Lepidoptera Project Zaspel, Bledsoe, Cobb, Klem (Zaspel student)
# 5 Pieris biocontrol Project JJ Weis, MPM
# 6 Mimallonid biogeography Ryan St Laurent, UF (Kawahara student)
# 7 ? Collection patterns of North American Lepidoptera Erica Fisher, Mich State (Cognato student)
# 8 Medium Catocala Akito Kawahara, Larry Gall
#9 Poweshiek skipperling Project Anna Monafils, Central Michiagn University


The Wooly Bear Project (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Tiger moths (Erebidae: Arctiinae) are a diverse group of Lepidoptera which are known to sequester host plant toxins and produce ultrasonic signals in response to bat echolocation as well as during courtship. These traits are known to vary between species, but we lack knowledge about how traits like these vary within a species. Our research team is interested in studying the variation in a number of behavioral traits exhibited by Pyrrharctia isabella. This moth is an ideal organism to study as it can be highly abundant, easy to identify, and has an extremely broad range occurring between 25* N and 40* N and from coast to coast.

We want to sample individuals of this species from the extremes of its range and everywhere in between to document whether differences in behavior exist in different locations and what factors might be driving those differences.  In order to study the behavior of this interesting moth, we need to know where and when we can reliably find it, especially near the extremes of its range. Unfortunately, there are only 2,600 records for this widely-distributed species, which is why we need YOUR help!

Please help us document the range and activity period of this species across North America by uploading occurrence information for this species!

Some things to keep in mind before uploading:

1. Please only include information about individuals seen in the wild

2. Information from adult moths is preferred, particularly at southern locations. This is because 1) the larval stage of Pyrrharctia isabella can be difficult to reliably discriminate from that of other species that occur in the southwestern United States and 2) our study is focused on adult behaviors, so we need to know at what time of year the adults are flying

3. Places where we desperately need more information include all locations north of 50* N and any location south of 30*N. BUT we greatly appreciate all occurrence data! Every record increases the definition and confidence in the range of this species. You don’t have to upload records from places like Florida, Mexico, or Northern Canada to meaningfully contribute to this project.

Please also visit the Wooly Bear Project on iNaturalist.

Thank you so much for your time, interest, and uploads!

– Dr. Nicolas J. Dowdy, Purdue University, Milwaukee Public Museum 

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