Insects Galore

Hi everybody, I’m Kylee and I work in the archives in the collections department. I’ve been with BIO since September 2013 and worked in collections for a year previous to moving to the archive in the summer of 2014. I love working with BIO and I’m really looking forward to completing some field work this summer on the BIObus. This will be my first time doing any sort of field work, besides a lab component of a first year biodiversity course. I have always loved being outdoors and adventuring in my free time, as I grew up in a small farming community in the Bruce Peninsula that had extraordinary scenery. I’m currently one semester away from finishing my B.Sc. degree in Biological Science at the University of Guelph, with a minor in German Studies.

Our fluid archive cabinets are full of specimens stored in ethanol in microplates and matrix boxes.
Our fluid archive cabinets are full of specimens stored in ethanol in microplates and matrix boxes.

I have a lot of work to do in the archive that keeps me busy. I maintain the fluid archive, but I have recently learned how to archive the dry, pinned specimens. Databasing is a large portion of what I do every day. Specimens and containers need to be uploaded to the database so everyone can find them, as well as parafilmed to reduce the amount of ethanol evaporation from the vials. After processing, sampling, sequencing, imaging, and voucher recovery, the specimen plates arrive in the archive for permanent storage. Usually throughout the day, I will archive fluid specimens around three times; morning, noon, and before I leave.  I try to make sure that I complete an hour of archiving dry, pinned specimens as well.

We archive our dry specimens in Cornell boxes.
We archive our dry specimens in Cornell boxes.

I weigh many different insects and use calipers to determine the size of the specimen pins and enter all this information into the BIO MassBase database. This weighing is useful to determine the weight of the insect as body mass can be variable between insects of the same species. Weighing specimens from all around the world allows us to learn about patterns that occur across species and families. Both weighing and dry archiving requires good organization and a steady hand to ensure that no insects are damaged.

Weighing a grasshopper on a highly sensitive scale.
Weighing a cricket on a highly sensitive scale.

Alongside my coworker Allison, we collect specimens that will be loaned to other organizations for their research and collaboration. These loan materials are sent all around the world, such as Australia, Germany, and Mexico. We also get loan materials returned regularly, which have to be databased and re-archived.

– Kylee



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