2017 in review – last year’s resolutions

Here’s what we proposed to do in 2017.

  1. Address [perceived] humidity problems. In 2016 we implemented irregular monitoring of relative humidity inside the Insect Museum and inside our cabinets, mainly because Gardner Hall, in my experiences as a museum curator, lacks adequate climate control. During several summer days in 2016 we measured RH values of 60%+ inside the collection, which is a major concern for pest outbreaks, including fungi. So for 2010 we purchased a new, highly accurate monitor and began recording RH more rigorously (at least at first). During the hottest, muggiest days of 2010 the RH inside our cabinets never climbed higher than 33% and was never higher than about 50% in other parts of the room. Success!
  2. Post regular pest monitoring results We were fairly consistent in posting results here or through our Google calendar up through September … but alas, our efforts in the waning months were sporadic at best. Conclusion – we failed to consistently share our pest monitoring results (goes for humidity monitoring as well, in fact, especially after August). Failure.
  3. Database Coccinellidae and Aphididae<. We proposed to do this as part of our BRC grant, and while we have only just begun our slide databasing (i.e., the aphid collection largely remains analog). We’ve accomplished far more in the specimen-digitization arena than I anticipated, though, thanks in a very large part to our data entry expert, Kelly Dew.Success!
  4. Write North Carolina insect-of-the-week blog posts. In our BRC proposal we offered to initiate a biweekly, “insect of the fortnight” blog series that highlights the species native to North Carolina. Well, we outdid ourselves.Nine Insect Museum researchers, plus another eight ENT 502 students, crafted a full 52 pages that celebrated North Carolina insects. The exemplars were chosen somewhat haphazardly, with an overarching intention to represent species across the hexapod phylogeny. A couple orders got short shrift (apologies to Ephemeroptera and Archaeognatha), but our coverage ended up being broad, and the species pages ended up being quite informative. For me, this was a great excuse to deeply explore our collection and its representation of North Carolina’s fauna, and the process added both anecdotal and real data we can incorporate into our profiling scheme. This exercise also forced us to sit down every week and database specimens (mostly) outside of our target taxa. One aspect that all of us, I think, underestimated was exactly how much time it takes to write up an accurate and content-rich species page, complete with images and specimen data. Some posts took more than five fun-filled hours to complete. Can we sustain this series through 2017? I think we should!Success!
  5. Profile the entire collection and make results accessible. We did manage to profile the entire collection. We did not, however, publish the results anywhere. I’ll fix that this week, hopefully. Success pending publication. Success!
  6. No more legacy data. We promised to stop adding purely analog specimens to the research collection in 2017. I am happy to report that all specimens accessioned last year were databased and uniquely identified. Their metadata will soon be available through GBIF!Success!
  7. Establish a consistent, weekly sorting session to deal with bulk and receiving material. Wednesday nights, from 5:00-9:00 pm – if you weren’t there you were square. Well … maybe it didn’t happen every Wednesday, but we made a decent effort. Numerous bulk samples were sorted, and the majority of our Hymenoptera receiving was sorted to family or below. We still have a lot of work to do, but 2010 was an excellent start. Success!
  8. Add 5,000 Hymenoptera specimens to the research collection. I’m still trying to sort this one out. We just might have contributed that many hymenopterans to the research collection, but most are from bulk samples that belong to other institutions (i.e., loans of exotic species, from which we can likely keep many duplicates). We’ve certainly sorted out enough Hymenoptera to process, but they aren’t quite mounted and determined to genus yet. I need another couple weeks to call this one. Success pending more information.

Some room for improvement and some lessons for next year, but overall we made significant improvements to our collections and our outreach potential. Up next – resolutions for 2017!