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USM Professor Organizes Online Insect Data Collection Event for April 24

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 13:31pm | By: David Tisdale

2020 Bugs Outside Your DoorA biology faculty member at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has organized a creative way, via social media, to help scientists and others who study insects to continue important research while also following the parameters of social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Donald Yee, an Associate Professor in the USM School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences (BEES) and a board certified entomologist in medical entomology, reached out on Twitter a few weeks ago to get a sense of a broader interest for his idea for an informal sampling project, now established as “Bugs Outside Your Door” (#BugsOutsideYourDoor), set for Friday, April 24. This online event is an opportunity for entomologists and others to collect insects in their backyard, deck, porch, or space where they can maintain social distancing while obtaining data that could provide a snapshot of the current diversity of insect populations across large geographic areas. Dr. Yee hopes that the results of the data collection will be published in a scientific journal.

Dr. Yee says the available data from research in recent years has revealed shocking depletions in insect species juxtaposed with climate change and human activity, underscoring the importance of continuing to collect data even through unconventional methods. To date, nearly 300 people have responded with plans to participate.

“I felt like this would be a good research opportunity while most of us are stuck at home, so that we’re still doing our science and collecting data, even though we’re not able to physically get out to do research,” Dr. Yee said. “There has been a lot of press about declining insect populations, and one of the issues we face is not enough data to discern what’s declining and what’s not. So, we need to continue to be active in our research with that goal in mind.”

The event will run from dusk to 2 a.m. To set up a light trap, participants will need a light source that attracts insects, such as sodium, nickel-halide, or UV/black light, among others, and a background such as a large white sheet or poster board. Identification of the insects will commence as they land on the light trap and be based on order (moths vs. flies vs. beetles) as opposed to species. Additional identification and collection information, including a form template for submission of data, are found at the event website https://aquaticinsectecology.org/135-2/.

Dr. Yee chose April 24 for the event as the collection time frame coincides with a new moon, so participants will encounter less light competition than from standard moonlight.

“We can’t answer all the questions we have in one night, but more data is always good to have,” he said.

In the event of inclement weather, the project will be moved to April 25 or 26. For more information about #BugsOutsideYourDoor2020, contact Dr. Yee at donald.yee@usm.edu; follow him on Twitter at @MosquitoLab; visit the Yee Mosquito Lab site at https://aquaticinsectecology.org/.