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Recent SoLS awards to lab members

Some good news came to our lab recently in the form of SoLS-sponsored research awards and fellowships.

  • Undergraduate student  Usmaan Basharat received a SOLUR Apprentice grant for the project “Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of Cuban weevils (Curculionidae)”.
  • Graduate student Sal Anzaldo was awarded a STRI Graduate Fellowship to spend the 2014 Spring Semester in Panama, take a course in tropical field biology, and conduct research on conoderine weevils.
  • Postdoctoral researcher Guanyang Zhang received the SoLS-RTI Postdoctoral Research Award, jointly with Patrick Browne of the Cadillo Lab, for the project “Elucidating weevil-endosymbiont associations and diversity across different ecological and evolutionary scales”‘.

Congratulations to all!

ESA Meeting & Subsequent Collecting

Four members of the Franz Systematics Lab went to the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America: Salvatore Anzaldo, Andrew Jansen, Andrew Johnston, & Guanyang Zhang. Except for Andrew Johnston, we all presented talks on our research. Sal and I presented in  the 10 minute paper competition, while Guanyang presented during a member symposium and as the Featured Young Professional during the SysEB Member Symposium (WAY TO GO!!!). Nico Franz also submitted a poster showcasing the Symbiota project WoNA (Weevils of North America). We attended many interesting and intellectually stimulating presentations during the conference, and made sure to spend time networking and socializing with our peers and fellow researchers during the meetings of the Entomological Collections Network (ECN), and the Coleopterists Society. All in all, it was a blast! Afterwards, we spent 4 days on the road collecting insects. Andrew Johnston sought Eleodes, a genus of Tenebrionidae, while I chased after my weevils in the genus Minyomerus. We met with considerable success in the field, and even managed to bring home live critters. We collected primarily in sand dunes, including one locality north of Austin, as well as the Monahans Sandhills, and the Red Dunes near El Paso. It was a truly memorable experience.

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Coon Bluff Collecting Trip, Round 2

On November 9, several students from our group came out for their 5th collecting trip of the semester. After some confusion, especially with the north-bound 202 being shut down, we all eventually managed to find each other on the banks of the Salt River, Tonto National Forest. We decided to collect further upstream of the previous collecting site. There was water present, but it was not flowing at the time. The area was rich with insects, including multiple odonates. Long-horned beetles (Cerambycidae) could also be found in abundance. It was a successful collecting trip, both in terms of group turnout (keep up the good work!!) and insect activity.

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Paratype specimens of a new Sonoran clubtail dragonfly species deposited in ASUHIC

This week ASUHIC received two paratype specimens of a new species of clubtail dragonfly – Erpetogomphus molossus Bailowitz, Danforth & Upson ((Odonata: Anisoptera: Gomphidae) – from the Yécora Municipio in Sonora, Mexico. Many thanks to co-author Sandy Upson for this deposition. The corresponding Zootaxa publication can be accessed here. Holotype and allotype specimens reside in the collection of the  Instituto Biológico de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City.

Reference: Bailowitz, R. D. Danforth & S. Upson. 2013. Erpetogomphus molossus, a new species from Sonora, Mexico (Odonata: Anisoptera: Gomphidae). Zootaxa 3734: 559–570. Link

New course announcement – Tropical Biology Panama – June 2014

Dale DeNardo and Nico Franz are offering a new, advanced undergraduate course “Tropical Biology” in the summer of 2014. The course is scheduled to take place from June 07-27, 2014, on location in Gamboa, Panama (Canal Zone, Soberanía National Park). It is part of ASU’s Partnership program with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Interested students can contact Dr. Franz, and should also follow updates on ASU’s Study Abroad Office website. Below are links to two pertinent PDFs and a general text introducing the course.

Update – November 26, 2013: We now have an official SAO Web Brochure for the course at https://studyabroad.asu.edu/?go=TropicalBiology. Students can apply using this link.

Update – December 04, 2013: The course is now officially SAO approved, with a course program fee set at $4370. The Flyer has been updated. On-line applications now possible via the SAO link above.

Update – December 06, 2013: ASU’s Study Abroad Office has a comprehensive summary page regarding student financing options – Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants, Community-Based Funding, etc. – for participating in the Tropical Biology course. Students are strongly encouraged to explore this resource and/or contact SAO directly to learn about specific financing options. More information on this soon.


“This new faculty-led Tropical Biology course takes what students have learned in the classroom setting and allows them to expand their knowledge by becoming fully immersed in a field environment. While the field site is a tropical rainforest, the educational value goes beyond tropical biology as students are exposed to topics that broadly integrate ecology, biodiversity, evolution, behavior, and physiology, including but not limited to species diversity, adaptation, biogeography, conservation, and human-wildlife interactions. Even the most complex laboratory environment and design cannot come close to matching the complexity of the tropical forest and the educational stimulation it provides. Students who attend this course will receive a lifetime experience and therefore concepts and skill sets covered will be embedded in their memory.”


Update – June 28, 2014: The trip to Panama has ended successfully. See Tropical Field Biology – Panama 2014 in Review.

Update – November 2013 – Planning and construction of the Alameda Biocollections and Biodiversity Informatics Complex

Nearly two years ago plans were initiated to consolidate all nine School of Life Sciences Natural History Collections into a newly designed, physically coherent space. We expect this space – called “ABBIC” (see post title) – to be ready for move-in in January/February of 2014. In addition to unifying the collections and associated people and activities, the new space nearly doubles the joint collections’ current area of occupancy on the Tempe Campus. It also offers several shared spaces to further develop our collections-centered teaching, informatics, and outreach programs. The SoLS collections group is therefore looking at an eventful 2013/2014 transition, partly documented here.

A map overview of the arrangement and role of ABBIC spaces is available here. (Note: the colored schema is actually not the latest version; for a more technical, up to date blueprint, see this.) ABBIC is located at 734 W Alameda Drive (Tempe). More updates soon.

2013 BIO 386 course – last collecting trip returning to Mesquite Wash

On Sunday, November 17, students of the ASU-SoLS General Entomology course BIO 386 had their sixth and last collecting trip for this semester – once more to Mesquite Wash. We collected insects along the river bed with receding water ponds and still relatively abundant activity; particularly for beetles, butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and true bugs. The proper way to record the locality information is “U.S.: AZ: Maricopa Co.; Bee Line Highway (Rte. 87), Mesquite Wash; 33.732267, -111.519228; general collecting; leg. N. Franz [replace with your name], XI-17-2013″. Thanks to all who participated. See more photos here.

Worthwhile reads on cladistic character coding

Some pointers to literature relevant to one of the most intellectually engaging topics I can think of in systematics – how to properly “code” cladistic characters. “Code” in quotation marks because there is more to it than a single verb or action might denote. For what it is worth, Olivier Rieppel’s (2007) “performance” paper is a must read in my assessment; he talks about the process of character “scoping”. Though practically all papers can be considered sincere (yes, that can matter) and scholarly contributions to advance the field, occasionally in an intellectual discourse setting overshadowed by too-easy dichotomies of pattern versus process, supposed methodological rigor versus eclecticism, or total evidence versus cherry picking (as I said, too easy, and no improvement here either in such a stenographic account).

Franz, N.M. 2014. Anatomy of a cladistic analysis. Cladistics 30: 294-321. pdf

I will update this listing, from time to time. My own current take is here, with corresponding WHS 2012 presentation:

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