A Great Start To The Summer

Hello everyone!

My name is Dan Engelking, and I am currently working in Collections as a Collections Technician for BIO this summer. I would like to officially welcome you to my portion of the blog!

I have been working in the same position as a work study student for all of the last school year through the University of Guelph, so as soon as I started up again after exams I hit the ground running.

Schmidt box, matrix box and microplate
Schmidt box, matrix box and microplate

I have been assigned to process Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia. For those of you that are unsure of what processing a park means, I will give you a quick description. The BIObus team goes out in the summer and collects insects and many other invertebrates in many different types of traps and collecting methods. These collected specimens are then put in ethanol and stored until we can do the actual processing, usually on a later date. The act of processing is taking these specimens and putting them in specific containers depending on size. You can pin the larger specimens in a Schmidt box, store the medium specimens in a matrix box, or plate the small specimens in a microplate. I took a picture of the containers so you can see what they look like! (Schmidt box on the left, matrix box in the middle, microplate on the right).

All sizes of specimen usually require the use of my trusty microscope. While you place the specimens in their corresponding container, you need to identify and record the specimen’s taxonomic order. For example, you see wasp you would identify that as Hymenoptera, a moth would be Lepidoptera, a mosquito would be Diptera, etc. Once you get through a sample lot, then you input all of that information into the database and you send your microplates and Schmidt boxes to be tissue sampled and your microplates straight to the DNA lab.

Western Red-Back Salamander that was unknowingly trapped in our insect trap!
Western Red-Back Salamander that was unknowingly trapped in our insect trap!

This is pretty exciting for me because I am still somewhat new to processing so every new bottle I get to open up and process is a whole new adventure for me! So far the most surprising specimen to find in a lot was a Western Red-Back Salamander! You can see the little guy in the pic next to this paragraph.  I have also seen some very large coleopterans (beetles), and much more cool stuff as well. I will for sure be posting pictures of anything really interesting that I find in future blog posts!

I'm working hard counting all the specimens for the School Malaise Trap Program
I’m working hard counting all the specimens for the School Malaise Trap Program

The collections lab has also been hard at work counting and processing all the School Malaise Trap Program specimens. These specimens are collected by elementary schools in Malaise traps all across Canada. They are then shipped here for us to process and barcoded so we can tell the children everything that they helped collect. We first count the amount of specimens in each bottle and then they are passed to another staff member to process.  I have been doing a lot of counting. Here I am with my state of the art insect counting Tupperware in the middle of an intense counting session.  You can really see the raw determination and focus. I think there were over 1000 specimens in that lot I was counting!

A malaise trap at the rare Charitable Research Reserve
A malaise trap at the rare Charitable Research Reserve

Starting last Thursday, I have also been doing some weekly fieldwork! Every Thursday morning I get to drive out to a study site in Cambridge in the rare Charitable Research Reserve to retrieve the specimens collected in the Malaise and pitfall traps that have been set up there. The morning consists of me driving out to the site in the van (or as I like to call it, the van-borghini). I stop at four different Malaise traps that are each surrounded by three pitfall traps. I change the bottle on the Malaise traps and collect the specimens out of the pitfall traps and then refill them with ethanol.  All-in-all it was a great way to spend a Thursday morning at work!

Servicing a pitfall trap at the rare Charitable Research Reserve
Servicing a pitfall trap at the rare Charitable Research Reserve

That’s it for this blog post.  Stay tuned for more great action shots and some more info on what I do here at BIO.

Thanks for reading!

Dan