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Great Smoky Mountains Beetle Project News and Events 2006 - 2007

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The Coleoptera Taxonomic Working Group (TWIG) at the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum
Christopher Carlton, TWIG Coordinator

Beetle Blitz 2006
Victoria Bayless, Chris Carlton, Igor Sokolov, and Mike Ferro, Louisiana State University, Department of Entomology, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Top left, Vladimir Gusarov talks to the press; top right, Chris and Victoria waiting for the cruise across Fontana Lake in Jim Lowe's boat; bottom left, Family Education Day in front of the Visitor Center; bottom right, Adriean Mayor gets a surprise while sweeping on Gregory Bald (photos and Pleistocene rewilding, Mike Ferro).

During 15-28 June 2006, 30 scientists, students and volunteers participated in the Beetle Blitz component of our NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventory grant.? This Blitz focused on ecological and biogeographic aspects of our project in addition to the usual array of collecting and educational activities. We introduced two new researchers to the project.? Igor Sokolov is a ground beetle (Carabidae) taxonomist and ecologist who recently joined our group at the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM). Dr. Sokolov is interested in vertical distributions of carabid species as they relate to habitat types and abiotic changes with altitude.? This is important in a topographically complex area such as the GSMNP because changes in climate not only affect altitudinal distributions of extant species but also create conditions that may facilitate evolution of new species.? This fragmentation across the rugged topography of the smokies probably explains proliferation of certain diverse genera such as Anillinus and Trechus..? Dr. Sokolov is examining the ecological preferences of individual species, including photo-documentation for presentation in species webpages to provide a better visual understanding of where these species may be found.? He is particularly interested in mapping distributions and documenting habitats of endemic southern Appalachian species. Many high altitude endemics in GSMNP are at risk from climate change and long term studies will document whether these populations are able to adapt and persist or go extinct.?

Significant contributions of Dr. Sokolov's Beetle Blitz field work included documentation of 19 newly recorded species from GSMNP (of 55 total) from two fruit and terpenol baited Lindgren Funnel traps. Regrettably a bear claimed a third funnel trap even though it was 10 meters high in a tree.? He also discovered a single specimen of a species new to science during the blitz. This undescribed Arianops?brings to six the number of new species in the staphylinid subfamily Pselaphinae from GSMNP. Eventually, we expect Igor will examine the undersurfaces of every rock in the Park.

Vladimir Gusarov is a specialist of staphylinid beetles (Staphylinidae) at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum in Norway who is developing a collaborative research program to examine fine scale biogeographic patterns in the southern Appalachians. Vlad participated in the Blitz to sample high altitude species assemblages of aleocharine staphylinid beetles. He will be using these patterns to develop predictive models of the impacts of global warming on high altitude endemics.?

The highlight of our educational program for the 2006 Beetle Blitz was "Family Education Day" at Sugarlands Visitor Center. ?We set up displays and interpretive materials in a covered pavilion manned by researchers and volunteers.? Over the course of the day we spoke to hundreds of? visitors and spread the word about the ATBI in the GSMNP, the value (as well as fun) of documenting the biodiversity in any natural area and of studying beetles in particular.?We handed out full color brochures explaining our research, allowed those who were brave enough to hold live beetles, and enlightened visitors about the wonders of our natural world.?Additional highlights of this year's Beetle Blitz included presentations by PhD candidates Mike Ferro and Matt Gimmel at a teacher workshop at Tremont Institute, a combination picnic and light trapping social at Greenbriar pavilion, Nancy Lowe's Green Eggs, No Ham breakfast, dinner at Susan and Gregg's, and a voyage across Fontana lake in Jim Lowe's biodiversity cruiser. That boat trip produced another reminder that our inventory is not finished yet. A single specimen of a large, showy longhorn beetle (Cerambycidae) turned out to be a new park record for Purpuricinus paraxillaris, a species that was only described in 2000.?Despite heavy bear predation, full or partial samples were collected from four of the seven flight intercept traps put out by Mike Ferro and Matt Gimmel. Mike and Matt sampled rotting logs, took sweep samples and litter samples, and hand collected whenever the opportunity arose. It was nice to spend some time at Purchase Knob and learn of the resources and opportunities available on the Eastern edge of the park where we were able to spend time with other researchers working on water mites and planthoppers.?

LSAM Fall Field Trip?2006
Chris Carlton, Louisiana State University, Department of Entomology, Baton Rouge, LA 70803.

Left, sulphur shelf mushroom near Cataloochee; right, bull elk at Cataloochee.

October 3rd-8th Ferro, Gimmel, and Carlton squeezed a quick trip in during Fall Break to the north side of GSMNP so Mike could revisit his sampling sites and collect 36 Berlese samples to test whether samples of rotten wood were any different in beetle composition from those consisting solely of leaf litter. Your's truely tagged along, avoided work with a high degree of success, and mainly took "point of capture" photographs of creatures as they appear in nature for webpage presentations. Highlights of the trip included hanging out with Keith and Adriean, and cooking gourmet meals for Adriean and ourselves. The last day was spent touring the Mt. Sterling Gap and Cataloochee areas, complete with getting led into a mire by Keith, watching the rutting elk trumpet and chase their cows around, and witnessing some spectacularly bad decision making on the part of some human spectators. At this writing two weeks hence the samples are still running and producing beetles unabated.

LSAM Spring Field Trip?2007
Michael Ferro, Louisiana State University, Department of Entomology, Baton Rouge, LA 70803.

Click here. Be patient with the chapter and movie downloads. Mike's opinions are his own and no one else's, though they usually reflect the consensus views of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum's staff and students, except for inflammatory content that might get us in trouble.