46 A Well-Curated Bee In A Museum Is Worth A Thousand Pictures


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Dr. Chris Marshall is the curator of the Oregon State Arthropod Collection (OSAC) located at Oregon State University. In this episode, Dr. Marshall discusses the value of museum collections in being able to piece together patterns of bee biodiversity across space and time (OSAC’s collection was started around 1860). Dr. Marshall also talks about a newly funded initiative (through the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s Pollinator Health Fund) to develop interactive museum tools to help people in the Pacific Northwest better understand the native bee fauna here. Before assuming the curatorship of OSAC, Dr. Marshall was at Cornell University (where he did his PhD), the Smithsonian and the Field Museum in Chicago.

Listen in to learn the role of a museum in biodiversity and pollinator research, how citizen scientists can help, and OSU’s new grant-funded bee project.

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“[The Pollinator Health Fund grant] allows us to do two foundational things. First it will allow us to make the historical records of native bees in our collection available to be part of an Atlas, that is both graphical – essentially a road map you can view online – but also the map would be interactive so that the data underlying that point on the map are accessible allowing a person to examine, critically, the basis for the points on the distributional map for themselves. But also, as museums, we see ourselves contributing to the task of building the collection over time. So we see the project as being interactive not just for the user of the data, but also to researchers who want to add to that Atlas for future researchers use“. – Dr. Chris Marshall

Show Notes:

  • What role museums play in understanding pollinator diversity
  • How field research on biodiversity only gives a small sample of a species’s timeline
  • What is a plant host record and how it is used
  • How museum collection of specimens have evolved over time
  • Why the ability to extract DNA from older specimens used to prove so difficult, and is now much easier
  • What the important elements of a properly curated pollinator specimen are
  • Chris’s advice for people starting their first collection
  • What citizen scientists and hobbyists provide by collecting and properly curating specimens
  • Why creating a regional bee atlas will be so helpful to understanding of bee biodiversity
  • The checklist of regional bees Chris is developing and what it will be used for

“Natural history museum specimens provide the ability to sample past ecosystems in a way that you might not have thought of before.“ – Dr. Chris Marshall

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