The Collections team has worked hard the past 2 weeks sorting and preparing samples collected from schools around the country for this fall’s School Malaise Trap Program. Our first step was to count the specimens in each sample bottle and our grand total from 59 schools was 61,052 specimens! Our team then sorted through all those specimens to choose a select number from each school to represent the diversity found at all locations. We choose 16,045 specimens for DNA barcoding.
There was plenty of diversity of organisms found, ranging from 5 classes of animals – Insecta (insects), Arachnida (spiders, mites and their relatives), Gastropoda (snails and slugs), Diplopoda (millipedes), and Collembola (springtails). Within the insect group we revealed 14 orders including the more common Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, and ants), Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (true bugs). Some uncommon insects found were one odonate (dragonfly) from St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Elementary School in Guelph, Ontario and one plecopteran (stonefly) from Carleton North High School in Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick.
The next step is the DNA barcoding process in the lab where DNA is extracted, amplified and sequenced to give us our barcodes for each specimen. We target a specific piece of DNA that can help us identify what we found. The sequences are uploaded to our online database BOLD and compared to known sequences to confirm identification of the specimens.
Results will start pouring in the next few weeks… I wonder what school will have the highest diversity? What school collected the most specimens? Who discovered a new species?
After 1 week of processing, we are already 85% done! It’s been quite a busy week on our end, counting and observing all the amazing bugs that were collected in your school backyard. We have already counted more than 55,000 specimens and more to come! Some schools did collect quite a fair bit of insects in their trap as you can see in the photo below!
There is still more processing to be done and more plates to be sent to the lab, but we can’t wait to receive all the sequences back to share our discoveries with you!
The Collections Unit at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) is extremely excited that we’ll soon be helping out with this fall’s edition of the School Malaise Trap Program (SMTP). We are anxiously awaiting the samples to arrive next week, when we finally get to do our part in the ‘DNA barcoding’ process. Our unit is basically responsible for all the steps leading up to the lab work – we collect specimens in the field, sort the trap samples and specimens, then database, photograph and tissue sample. That small piece of tissue (or the entire specimen for very small organisms) is then handed off to the laboratory where that unit is responsible for DNA extraction, amplification of the DNA barcode region, and finally DNA sequencing. For the SMTP, we’re getting hundreds of young biologists helping with the field collection, and we can’t wait to see what they trapped in their schoolyards. Who knows – maybe they’ll collect species we’ve never found before and they’ll have to give us advice!
Stay tuned for an update from us next week when the samples have arrived and we’re ‘forceps-deep’ in all the great trap samples collected through the SMTP.