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New postdoctoral position in revisionary insect systematics

We are excited to have the opportunity to recruit a new postdoc into our lab. This is ASU job # 10742; please contact me (details below) if you are interested in applying.

Postdoctoral Researcher – Revisionary Insect Systematics
School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University

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New publication: Anatomy of a cladistic analysis

My “Anatomy” paper went from on-line only preprint to officially published. I intended this to serve as a use case-centered companion paper to this:

Franz, N.M. 2005. Outline of an explanatory account of cladistic practice. Biology & Philosophy 20: 489-515. PDF

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Collecting adventures in Panama

My second semester as a graduate student has been spent conducting research with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Since February, I have been dividing my time between working in STRI’s Insect Collection in Panama City and traveling around Panama collecting insects. In the Collection I’ve been making an interactive identification key to the 29 currently described Panamanian genera of weevils in the subfamily Conoderinae, available shortly in SCAN. This has been possible thanks to the collecting of Henry Stockwell in the 1970s and 1980s, whose large collection of conoderines contains numerous undescribed species.

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Trucks and Trogloderus

Yesterday was a day of firsts.

image

Dumont Sand Dunes, California.

It it was the first time I got a truck stuck in a sand drift. It was also the first time I dug a truck out of a sand drift.

But it was all worth it, yesterday yielded our first specimens of Trogloderus! We were camping behind the Dumont Dunes north of Baker, CA.  They appear to be a different morphotype than any of the four known from Mono Lake located a few car hours north.

The next stops are northern Nevada and southwestern Idaho.

Collecting from collections when the field doesn’t play nice

Trogloderus

Drawer of Trogloderus specimens in the Aalbu Collection.

Franz lab members Andrew Johnston and Andrew Jansen took off on the summer’s first collecting trip last Wednesday, May 7th. And the first two days were a bust!

The goal of this trip was to collect the somewhat rare and enigmatic genus Trogloderus LeConte. Trogloderus is a sand-dune-dwelling tenebrionid endemic to the Western United States. The plan was great – spend a night at each type locality and hit dune systems in between; collect specimens from as many places as possible for sequencing in hopes that a molecular phylogeny would help to sort out the complicated morphology of the group.

So far we are 0/3 at type localities. Not only are Trogloderus elusive, it seems there is no insect activity at all right now, our Mercury Vapor light traps have only netted a single insect specimen (Hyles lineata) each night. There seems to be a low pressure system we are following North through California, suppressing insect activity. The good news is that there is high pressure system pushing its way North now, so we are calling an audible and straying from our scheduled road map and getting in place to follow the high pressure system to the rest of the type localities. Hopefully things will turn around!

While the field has been entirely disappointing, we just borrowed what is almost surely the world’s largest representation of Trogloderus from the collection of Dr. Rolf Aalbu (partially pictured above). Fresh specimens are incredibly important and worth the effort, but the amount of specimens and data contained in Natural History collections cannot be overvalued.

When collecting in the field doesn’t work out, collecting from other collections might save the day!

Core ASUHIC conventions for geo-referencing

An updated summary of conventions used in our insect collection to ensure consistent and accurate geo-referencing. [Prequel: Go to SCAN and log in; then proceed to “My Profile”, then “Specimen Management”, then select ASUHIC.] Blog post in development!

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Franz Lab in the field – summer 2014 plans

The Spring 2014 semester is ending and plans and actions are underway to collect beetles, moths, and other insects in throughout the U.S. Southwest and in Mesoamerica. Here is a quick rundown of lab members, field trips, and dates for the hopefully productive summer of 2014. Post still in development.

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Taxonomic names, identifications, and concepts – how to reconcile?

This post is motivated by my (late) discovery of the GBIF “Guidelines for the capture and management of digital zoological names information” (Version 1.1, released in March 2013), authored by Dr. Francisco Welter-Schultes who is (i.a.) the project leader of the resource http://www.animalbase.org/. Jump to the Addendum [response to Stephen Thorpe, May 06, 2014].

The GBIF Guidelines, a dense, informative, and authoritative 126-page document on representing and managing zoological names (which, as GBIF makes clear, ultimately reflects the author’s perspective), also include (pages 3-5) a Section 1.1.2 on Taxon concept models. I found this section to contain a mix of more or less accurate statements and assessments of the interaction among taxonomic names, identification events, and taxonomic concepts. This issue is of interest to me, and has on occasion been discussed on Taxacom, in the TDWG community, and elsewhere. I (henceforth NMF, regular font) will take the opportunity to examine Dr. Welter-Schultes’ (henceforth FWS, italics) perspectives and examples, point by point. Hopefully some readers will find this post helpful.

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