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CSBR: Natural History: Facilitating Collections-Based Research on Insect Pollinators of the Sonoran Desert Region

Sponsored by National Science Foundation

$347.4K Funding
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Bees, butterflies, moths, and flies are considered among the most efficient insect pollinators of flowering plants. This project will protect specimens of pollinators collected within the Sonoran Desert and Madrean Sky Island regions that are presently at risk since they are housed either in personal collections or at universities that do not support broader research collections of insects with curatorial staff that would foster future care of the material. The resulting professionally curated, comprehensive collection will reflect the outstanding diversity of species found within this biodiversity hotspot. The collection will also facilitate several ongoing research and training initiatives at the University of Arizona, including our program providing molecular identification resources for pollinators, long-term monitoring projects of native bees in the region, and research projects linking pollinators with their host plants by examining the eDNA of pollinators left on the flowers they visit. The project will benefit the public and students at all levels (K-12, community college and university undergraduates, and graduate students). Curatorial teams, led by graduate students, will be directly involved in all aspects of this vertically integrated project, providing them leadership opportunities and training in museum science. Researchers will capture label data from specimens and publish those data on the Ecdysis, Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN), iDigBio, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). In addition, 1,200 native plant specimens, which have already been digitized and georeferenced and which are associated with 66,000 native bee specimens that pollinate them, will be mounted on herbarium sheets, accessioned into the UA Herbarium, and added to the Southwestern Environmental Information Network (SEINet). Extended Specimen Network functions in Ecdysis and SEINet will allow scientists to link specimens of pollinators with their host plant species and specific host plant specimens when those are available, thus making a formal association between these two large Symbiota database networks which will promote pollinator-plant research and continued specimen digitization efforts. A well curated, comprehensive collection of insect pollinators and digitization of associated metadata will directly and immediately benefit several student training projects including Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) at two Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Pima Community College (PCC) and the University of Arizona (UA). This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.