Current Research at LSAM
Two American burying beetles (Nicrophorus
americanus) enjoy a meal of ripe chicken gizzard
The greatest gaps in understanding the insect fauna of the eastern United States is our ability to characterize diversity in natural ecosystems and anticipate the arrivals of unwelcome pests through the agency of man or range expansions. Many of our naturally occurring forests and wetlands are in danger of disappearing before their diversity has been adequately characterized and invasive pests threaten food production and human well-being in human dominated landscapes. Major research projects funded through a grants from the Louisiana Board of Regents, Louisiana Nature Conservancy, and U.S. National Science Foundation have included surveys of insect faunas in longleaf pine savannahs, mixed mesophytic hardwood forests, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Work in Louisiana and other states has documented many beetle species that are unique to these areas and resulted in the description of over 60 species new to science.
An insect-like japygid dipluran.
These arthropods have been the
subjects of recent Louisiana surveys.
Monitoring for newly introduced pest species in collaboration with other members of the Department of Entomology Faculty has resulted in the documentation of several new potential pests for the state since 1995. The hairy maggot blowfly is an Australasian species that has become established in Louisiana via Texas. A neotropical leaf-footed bug and the Diaprepes root weevil are recent arrivals that cause economically significant damage to citrus. The Mexican rice borer has entered the state's southwestern sugarcane growing region from Texas. The brown marmorated stink bug and kudzu plataspid are on the radar for arrival soon from eastern states. Properly diagnosing the identities of these pests and providing early warning of their presence will remain top priorities for the LSAM and may very well increase in importance with increasing economic cooperation and trade between the U.S. and Latin America. Moreover, if long range projections of a warming climate prove correct, the number of neotropical species becoming established in the southern U.S. will increase. These factors reinforce the need for strong neotropical representation in the LSAM collections.
The LSAM has been involved in the All Taxon Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 12 years and serves as a sorting center for Coleoptera specimens collecting in the park as part of that ambitious project (see related web pages). The LSAM successfully completed a four-year project funding by the National Science Foundation to focus intensively on the documentation of the Smokies beetle fauna and we continue to contribute important findings as we work through the massive amount of material collection during field work there. A closely related research initiative has been the ecology of beetle succession in dead woody debris and much of that work was conducted in conjunction with the Smokies project, led by Ph.D candidate Michael Ferro. We have expanded this area of research to include a complimentary study conducted in south Louisiana, and a study of post fire recovery in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. Recent Ph.D. graduate Matt Gimmel completed the first ever generic revision of the ubiquitous beetle family Phalacridae and co-described a new family of beetles, the Cyclaxyridae, from New Zealand.
Projects on the staphylinid fauna of the southern U.S. by C. E. Carlton include a revision of the genus Reichenbachia (at least ten species in Louisiana), new species descriptions of pselaphine staphylinids from Louisiana and adjacent states, and the first records of truely troglobitic beetles (i.e., cave adapted) from Arkansas. He is also involved in long term studies of the pselaphine staphylinids of Ecuador and New Zealand. Revision of the predominantly south temperate pselaphine tribe Faronini is the topic of Ph.D. candidate Jong-Seok Park's dissertation research. His developing specialization on pselaphines will complement his well developed prior specialization on the aleocharine staphylinids.