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Expeditions

The 2010-2012 LSAM expeditions to the Chiricahua Mountain region of SW New Mexico and SE Arizona.

For the past three years we've caravaned to a quaint little field station in Rodeo, NM at the base of the Chiricahua Mountians for 10 days of research on the forest litter fauna of the SW AZ mountains. We gathered baseline data during 2010, then after the Horseshoe 2 fire of 2011, we obtained immediate post burn data documenting immedate catastrophic impacts on the forest litter beetle community. We are about to embark on our one-year post burn sampling expedition. For lots of pictures of our 2010 trip. See the photo galleries posted here and here.

The 2009 John McBride Foray to Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana.
Click here for the McBride Foray.
(PDF ~4.5MB)

During 2008 the LSAM received a generous donation from John McBride Jr. honoring his parents for their long time love and support of the natural habitats of Louisiana. These funds supported a weekend collecting foray to document the insect diversity of the Kisatchie District of Kisatchie National Forest.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 2001-2011.

Smokies trip 2011. Mike Ferro provided these nice shots taken during his and Jong-Seok Park's trip to the Smokies during April 2011 for a few days of research. https://picasaweb.google.com/108279953306115325580/GSMNPApril2011

Smokies trip 2010. Mike Ferro wrote this very entertaining adventure travel book featuring family and friends before and during the Smokies trip of June 2010. You can download it free, or better yet you can order your very own hard-copy for only a little more. http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/gsmnp-adventure-2010/11495441

Click here for the Smokies Project.

During the most active period of this project (2004-2008) members of the LSAM typically traveled to the Smokies to conduct research related to the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) 3 or 4 times a year. Highlights of these trips and other activities associated with this project are summarized on the linked pages.

Puerto Rico 2006, 2007, 2009

Graduate students Stephanie Gil, Matthew Gimmel and Jong-Seok Park traveled to Puerto Rico with Dr. Timothy Schowalter as part of his long-term monitoring research program on the effects of hurricane disturbance on canopy arthropod communities.

Foreign Expeditions

Ecuador 2008

Western Australia and New Zealand 2007.

During October and November 2007, as part of a one year sabbatical, LSAM Director Chris Carlton traveled to New Zealand to work on research planning and conduct natural history pilgramages to some famous localities in Western Australia (WA). Rich Leschen and I traveled to Perth and rented a car for the trip north to Geraldton and finally to Denham and Sharks Bay to say hello to the stromatolites. North of Perth we had opportunities to visit Kalbarra and Lesueur National Parks, home of some of one of the most unusual floral assemblages in the world, during blooming season.

We came back through Perth and traveled south as far as Margaret River, with trips to the coastal areas south and the great Karri forests inland. We returned to Auckland and traveled to South Island for a one week collecting trip with our colleague John Early from the Auckland Museum.

Lots of pics here.

Taiwan 2006
Click here for the entertaining write-up and beautiful photos by Mike Ferro.

Australia 2005

During July and August Rich Leschen and LSAM Director Carlton met in Darwin for a couple of weeks of vacation style beetle collecting, natural history study, and enjoyment of the finest wines, beers, and food that the Top End had to offer. The food was mainly unspectacular but the wines and beers were good and the natural history unsurpassed. Highlights of the trip included Aquascene in Darwin, herp spotting on the roads of Kakadu National Park, crocagator watching, hanging out with the Darwin Rocksitter's Club, and bird watching. Lowlights were beetle collecting (height of dry season), a rip off fishing trip, and too much hot sun. We spent a week in the vastly overpriced Crocodile Holiday Inn in Jabiru (http://gagudju-crocodile.holiday-inn.com/) while in Kakadu N.P. but it was worth it to spend a few days in the belly of the only crocodile-shaped motel in the world. Of many places we dined at our favorite turned out to be eating seafood on styrofoam plates at the wharf in Darwin, complete with tossing leftover chips to the seabirds and batfish. 

Mullet and catfish

Mullet and catfish at the Aquascene feeding station. They've been
feeding the fish everyday for 50 years at this same spot in Darwin.
A lot of fish know about it.

Me demonstrating a bush fire.

Birdwatching at one of the billabongs in Kakadu N.P.

Big python on road at night. A local fellow stopped and
grabbed its tail. It didn't like that.

Me demonstrating a cathedral termite mound.

One of the BEST reasons to stay alert while driving in Australia.

Costa Rica 2005

Mike's often misspelled, poorly punctuated; rambling on and on and on, zany adventure tale of two months in Costa Rica with Organization of Tropical Studies... with lots of pictures!

India 2004

What a long, strange trip it was. Appropriately documented in this photoset. And supplemented by my obsession with Indian Ambassadors, seen here.

Taiwan 2004, 2005

Lots of pics here.

Panama 2003, 2004

Team IBISCA. Tishechkin is front row, fourth from right.

As a part of the Project IBISCA team, Alexey Tishechkin traveled to Panama during September-November 2003 and May 2004. IBISCA (Investigations of BIodiversity of Canopy and Soil Arthropods, http://www.naturalsciences.be/cb/ants/projects/ibisca_main.htm) is an international project aimed to study the vertical stratification and beta diversity of arthropods in a rainforest in Panama using state-of-the art methods of canopy access and sampling under scientific direction of Yves Basset (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, STRI), Bruno Corbara (Universite Blaise-Pascal, France), and Hector Barrios (Universidade de Panama). The project is sponsored by Solvin-Bretzel, STRI, United Nations Environmental Program, European Science Foundation and Global Canopy Program. A series of coincidences led to the participation of LSAM members in this project with Tishechkin as a regular member and Chris Carlton and Andrew Cline as associated taxonomic experts.

The fieldwork was carried out on the STRI San Lorenzo canopy crane site in Colon Province, on Atlantic side of the Panama Canal area. The IBISCA crew was stationed at Barro Colorado Island (BCI). On average, five days a week we left the island at 6:30 in the morning for an hour-long trip by boat and trucks to reach the field site in mainly primary lowland wet (ca. 3000 mm annual rainfall) forest situated in the ex-military range of Ft. Sherman. At 4:30 pm we usually began our trip back (some collecting protocols required occasional overnight stays at the site) to refresh ourselves with numerous fruits of civilization available on BCI and proceed with long night-time sample sorting, often followed by participation in the island's rich social nightlife.

As a novice canopy biologist specializing in mainly understory- and litter-dwelling beetles, Tishechkin was relegated mostly to dirty work in the lower strata. He took part in pitfall trapping and ran the ground flight intercept trap program. Servicing the projects four major sites scattered in a 2 km radius around the crane and running up to 15 replicates took a lot of time and effort, but there were some possibilities for chasing army ants in search for their inquiline beetles, to master collecting tropical longhorns on tree falls, to participate in exciting canopy fogging and hunt for flowering tree visitors in the canopy during the early rainy season flush in May and to do some bird- and monkey-watching.

In addition to numerous new contacts, Tishechkin's great memories of nice places and team work, and new friendships, the LSAM obtained thousands of specimens, mainly beetles. All the project specimens of target taxa covered by the expertise of our staff (Ceratocanthidae, Histeridae, Pselaphinae and Nitidulidae, between several hundred for the former and several thousand for the latter) will stay at LSAM. They are pointed and labeled and are at different stages of identification. Furthermore, material collected by Tishechkin outside the formal IBISCA protocol will be incorporated into the collection. Several hundred cerambycids and some interesting inquilines (including new taxa) and canopy specialists are the highlights of this collection.

Ghana 2001

Australia 2000

New Zealand 1998, 2000

Ecuador 1999

View of the rainforest canopy from the 30 m
tower at Yasuni by Vicky Moseley.

One of a series of photographs of a monk
saki monkey taken by Alexey Tisheckin.

With funding from the National Science Foundation and the LSU Agricultural Center's International Programs office, Chris Carlton, Victoria Moseley, Alexey Tishechkin, and Debra Murray traveled to Ecuador during June, July, and August, 1999. Most of the expedition was spent at Yasuni Biological Station external link in Napo Province in eastern Ecuador. The station is owned and operated by Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador external link in Quito, and is located in the western part of Yasuni National Park. Yasuni is the largest national park in Ecuador and consists mostly of pristine upper Amazonian rainforest, one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world. We estimate that over 1200 species of butterflies and 600 species of birds occur in forests near the field station. Habitats available to us in the vicinity of the station included seasonally flooded and terra firma rainforest. Our objectives were to study elements of the beetle fauna under a National Science Foundation grant to Carlton and Tishechkin, to conduct research on satyrine butterflies that are the subject of Debra Murray's dissertation project, and to collect insects for the LSAM collection that will be made available to other researchers through our loan program.

Our time at Yasuni was occupied according to our specific interests and objectives. Carlton sampled the arthropod fauna of the forest floor by collecting sifted organic matter and extracting the organisms using Berlese funnels and assisted Tishechkin in locating ant colonies. Moseley operated malaise and bait traps, collected from foliage, and ran mercury vapor and ultraviolet lights. Murray devoted most of her time to the capturing euptychiine butterflies, documenting larval host preferences, and rearing larvae. Tishechkin searched for social insects, especially army ants, which harbored the specialized beetles that are the subjects of his research and the NSF project. The flight intercept traps captured insects relevant to all our objectives. During our forays into the forest in search of insects, we had plenty of opportunities to observe the rich flora and fauna of the area. We saw six species of monkeys, freshwater pink dolphins, caimans, piranhas, capybaras, and a variety of small mammals. Our resident ornithologist, Victoria Bayless, dutifully registered the hundreds of birds species, not all of which are outrageously colorful, to my chagrin. We enjoyed good weather during most of our visit to Yasuni, with a mixture of warm to hot days, short (usually) periods of heavy rain, and cool, sometimes spectacularly clear, nights. If anything, the weather on the equator was cooler than what we found in south Louisiana upon our return.

 

 

Living specimen of Dynastes hercules external link taken by Debra Murray.

The Yasuni area has been opened up to oil exploration and production in recent years. The impact of the oil industry and access to the park is currently monitored and carefully controlled under agreements between the oil companies, the Ecuadorian government, and local indigenous peoples, particularly the Huaorani people that have lived in this part of the Amazon for many thousands of years. Ecuador has a sad recent history of oil exploitation in its eastern rain forests. During the 1980's, a series of disastrous oil spills and unregulated dumping of petroleum wastes destroyed much of the Cuyabeno wetlands north of Yasuni. The hard lessons of Cuyabeno seem to have had a positive impact on the extraction methods that are being used in Yasuni and elsewhere in the Oriente. Only time will tell whether the forest and the indigenous people who live there can survive the demand for oil and the opening of the western Amazon.

Large (calc. 20 cm) unidentified gecko photographed under palm leaf by
Debra Murray. Are there any herp people out there that know this one?

 

 

In addition to our extended stay at Yasuni, Murray spent two weeks at Maquipucuna Reserve and Research Station external link on the Pacific slope of the Andes northwest of Quito. Maquipucuna is owned by Fundacion Maquipucuna and comprises premontane to montane Pacific cloud forest, one of the most endangered habitats in Ecuador. The cloud forests of the Andes have levels of diversity equal to or greater than those of the Amazonian lowlands, with an added element of high local endemism due to the historical isolation of areas of forest by the rugged topography and active geology of the Andes. Since the days of the Incas, much of the human population of Ecuador has been concentrated in the higher elevations and along the coast. Thus, the native forests in these areas have been subjected to exploitation and deforestation for a long period of time and there is precious little left to protect.

 

Costa Rica 1998

Left. The bicolored snailsucker, Dipsas bicolor (ID by Rich Sajdak), eating a snail. Right. A large fulgorid planthopper displaying warning coloration. Photos C. Carlton.

In June, 1998, Chris Carlton, Vicky Moseley, and Alexey Tishechkin traveled to LaSelva Biological Station, near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica northeast of San Jose. The purpose of the trip was to initiate field work associated with Mr. Tishechkin's dissertation project on social insect associated hister beetles, to conduct surveys of forest litter inhabiting insects and establish working relationships with the Organization of Tropical Studies external link (OTS) and the University of Costa Rica. OTS, which owns and operates LaSelva, assisted with logistics and obtaining the necessary permits. In return, we will be contributing specimens and information from our collections to the Arthropods of LaSelva (ALAS) project. ALAS seeks to document arthropod species diversity on LaSelva within a broad range of taxa. Focal taxa change depending on the availability of taxonomic expertise through time. We will be contributing inventory data for pselaphine beetles and hister beetles, and will forward representatives of other groups to cooperating specialists which will provide additional data.

Dictyophora indusiata

A tropical stinkhorn mushroom,
Dictyophora indusiata
external link, growing at
La Selva by C. Carlton (ID by Alex Weir). 
Actual size was about 15 cm in height.

LaSelva Biological Station external link is a 3,700 acre "natural laboratory" consisting of lowland tropical rainforest and a limited area of plantations that are ecologically compatible with the area's natural landscape. The station is a full service facility for students and researchers, with roomy dormitories, a large cafeteria serving three meals a day, and an air conditioned laboratory for researchers and students enrolled in OTS tropical biology courses. OTS is a consortium of educational institutions with a common interest in promoting studies of tropical biology and training in the appropriate management of tropical ecosystems. LSU is a charter member of OTS, and many LSU students have been introduced to tropical biology through its membership.

Non-entomological highlights of the 1998 trip to LaSelva included opportunities to observe a great variety of wildlife; snakes with strange eating habits (above), two species of sloths, three species of monkeys, and strange fungi (below). The entomological rewards of working in a tropical forest during the rainy season are great too. Most days and some nights were spent following army ant columns through the forest in search of their nests or bivouacs. These were then harvested in a bizarre ritual that involved donning a bee suit and scooping out the masses of ants to be transported back to the laboratory. During the evening the tiny beetles that are the focus of Tishechkin's research were sorted from the ants using a series of different sized sieves and more exotic methods, most of which proved ineffective. When not chasing or sorting ants, we were able to enjoy the many large, gaudy insects that are usually associated with tropical forests.

Belize 1996, 1997

Moonrise over Rio Bravo.

For three weeks during May and June, 1997 the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM) sponsored an expedition to the Central American country of Belize to conduct entomological research initiated in 1996. Thanks to a Summer Research Stipend awarded by the LSU Office of Research and Economic Development's Council on Research, seven scientists were able to make all or parts of the trip. The expedition was led by Chris Carlton and Victoria Moseley, Director and Curator of the LSAM, respectively, with participation by students, faculty and Research Associates from the Department, and Dr. Mark Muegge, an authority on primitive arthropods called diplurans, from Texas A & M University.

The first half of the expedition was conducted at Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a 230,000 acre nature preserve in the northwestern corner of the country. The objectives of this portion of the expedition were to survey forest litter insects at Rio Bravo and develop further research projects on comparative insect biodiversity, systematics, and conservation biology in the area. Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area is uniquely suited to these types of research because elements of sustainable forestry and natural product harvesting, ecotourism, and education are integrated into a single comprehensive long-term management plan developed by Programme for Belize, the private conservation organization that manages Rio Bravo and holds it in trust for the people of Belize. Rio Bravo is a beautiful mosaic of semitropical moist forest, savanna, and wetland habitats with over 230 species of trees, 70 species of mammals, and approximately 400 species of birds. Among large animals, the area has healthy populations of jaguar, puma, Baird's tapir, and two species of monkeys. There are also significant Mayan archeological sites, and the area has a colorful recent history of mahogany logging, chicle extraction, and marijuana farming.

The primary objectives of our ongoing research is to study the beetle fauna of the area, including analyses of species richness and habitat associations, and to document species previously unknown to science. To date, detailed study by Carlton of pselaphine rove beetles has resulted in the discovery of 60 species that represent new records for the country. Twenty of these 60 represent species that have never been described or named, and their formal description is the subject of an upcoming publication. Study by Dr. Muegge has documented at least four new species of diplurans, including one that represents a family never recorded from Belize. The beetle research is being conducted in collaboration with scientists at Florida A & M University and elsewhere.

Butterflies puddling at Cockscomb Basin. Photos C. Carlton.

With help from the Belize National Plant Protection Service, our research will be expanded to forest reserves in other areas of the country in the coming years, and the second half of the expedition was devoted to identifying biologically unique areas for future work. We visited the headquarters of the Belize National Plant Protection Service and the Belizean National Collection near the capital, Belmopan, then traveled to nearby Mountain Pine Ridge, in the Maya Mountains, where the landscape was reminiscent of the Kisatchie National Forest of Louisiana if you ignored the exotic understory. We also spent several days at Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve, the only forest preserve in the world devoted specifically to the protection of jaguar. Neither of these areas has been studied in detail from an entomological perspective. Following publication of the results of the Rio Bravo research, we will turn our attention to these and other areas with the long-term goal of developing a comprehensive comparative baseline of the insect faunas of major habitats represented in the system of nature preserves and national forests of this beautiful country.