Catch this at a park near you: The Ontario Malaise Program

This week marked the start of BIO’s field season with the deployment of Malaise traps all over Southern Ontario! Two teams set out to visit over 15 provincial parks each in Ontario’s Southwestern and South-central regions. One team travelled from Guelph through the Hamilton and Niagara regions, down along the Lake Erie coast to Windsor and then up to the Bruce Peninsula while visiting parks along Lake Huron as well. The other team travelled to Wasaga Beach, Awenda, Silent Lake, and Petrogylphs among other provincial parks. The weather was definitely not on our side this week with non-stop rain and even some hail coming down on the teams at some point. But despite the wet and soggy conditions, and even after getting a flat tire on the first day, the first week of deployment was successful.

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In total, 36 Malaise traps are now collecting arthropods for BIO’s Barcode of Life Project as part of the Ontario Malaise Program, a new collecting effort that was initiated this year. This program will lead to the mapping of arthropod diversity at a finer level by concentrating on a regional scale. As BIO is transitioning from reference library construction to utilizing DNA barcoding for large-scale monitoring, Ontario will lead the pack in regional biodiversity assessments. Additionally, this program will be the introduction of bulk sample processing with the use of next-generation sequencing technology enabling much faster species identifications. In collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Ontario Parks, this program will develop preliminary species inventories for a large number of Ontario’s provincially protected areas.

Next week will be another week of Malaise deployment, with 20 more traps being set up in Southeastern Ontario this time. A BIO team will visit the sand dunes in Presqu’ile and Sandbanks, explore the rich ecosystems of Frontenac and Bon Echo, sample the Madawaska waterways, and finally deploy traps in the largest Southern Ontario park, Algonquin. Once all 56 sampling sites are set up (see map below), one BIO member is in charge of servicing all the traps throughout the summer for a 20-week period, alternating Eastern and Western routes. At the end of the collecting season, the bulk analyses of the samples will lead to a more detailed understanding of Southern Ontario’s biodiversity and may lead to future collaborations to monitor terrestrial arthropods.

The Ontario Malaise Program is a unique, ambitious, and worthwhile endeavor that is a testament to BIO’s passion for Canadian biodiversity and using the most technologically advanced tools to assess it.

– Kate Perez, BIObus coordinator

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