Category Archives: Fall 2014

Fall 2014 SMTP Results Have Been Issued!

PicMonkey CollageThe results are in for the Fall 2014 School Malaise Trap Program and they are truly remarkable! This Fall marked the first nationwide offering of the program, with students from across Canada exploring the biodiversity in their schoolyards and discovering how we can use DNA barcoding to inventory life on our planet. In all, 2,479 students from 92 classrooms, 59 schools, 46 cities, and 6 provinces and territories participated in the program. The 59 Malaise traps collected specimens from September 22 to October 3.

The 59 traps on average collected 1,034 specimens for the collecting period. Our staff sorted 61,052 specimens and 13,846 of these primarily insect specimens were barcoded. The DNA barcodes allowed us to determine that 3,402 species were collected over the two week period of the program, more than twice as many as any of our previous School Malaise Trap Programs! We are excited to report that 324 of these species were brand new to our DNA barcode library (BOLD), representing a significant contribution to the International Barcode of Life project.

To view the full results of the program, including an overall detailed program report, full species list, and full image library, please click here. You can also access our “winners” ranking sheets here.

PicMonkey Collage1Not only were your collection numbers astounding, your species discoveries were even more exciting! Over the next few weeks the SMTP team will be highlighting your discoveries through our blog posts and we hope that you will do the same! First off, let’s get a sense of what you collected in your Malaise trap.

Most of the 3,402 species that you collected were arthropods — invertebrates with a hard external skeleton. If you look at the pie chart below, you’ll notice that many (36%) of the species were flies (scientific name: Diptera). Some groups of flies were particularly diverse; there were 285 species of midges (Chironomidae), 116 species of fungus gnats (Sciaridae), and 95 species of scuttle flies (Phoridae). In addition, just like Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 programs, the most abundant species was a midge. After flies, the next most species diverse group was bees, wasps, and ants (Hymenoptera), followed by the true bugs (Hemiptera). Most of the species in these groups have wings, so it’s not surprising that they were collected in your Malaise traps. However, you also collected some groups that don’t fly such as springtails (Collembola), spiders (Araneae), and snails (Stylommatophora).

Fall 2014 SMTP Detailed Program Pie Chart


Stay tuned for our Fall 2014 interesting species discoveries!

“Why We Kill Bugs – The Case For Collecting Insects” – Greg R. Pohl

An array of pinned specimens ready to be sampled for DNA barcoding
An array of pinned specimens ready to be sampled for DNA barcoding

One of the main questions that we receive from educators who are participating in the School Malaise Trap Program is “how do I discuss the ethics of insect collection and study with my students?” This is an excellent question which we are hoping to address during this blog post.

Upon researching this topic, we came across an excellent resource titled “Why We Kill Bugs – The Case For Collecting Insects” by Greg R. Pohl. In his work, Pohl outlines several reasons as to why insect populations are resilient to collecting. Furthermore, he discusses the necessity of collecting insects for a range of purposes including taxonomy and diagnostics. He also takes the time to discuss insect conservation, the difference between insects and other animals, and the extensive need for both “amateur” and “professional” insect collectors.

His work speaks to the many ethical questions surrounding the collection and study of insects during the School Malaise Trap Program. We hope that this paper will assist you while facilitating this important discussion with your students!

Why We Kill Bugs – The Case For Collecting Insects (PDF)



BIO is heading to STAO: Join Us In Inspiring Innovation!

Banner400Each year, the Science Teacher’s Association of Ontario hosts an interactive and educational three day STEM conference in Toronto for elementary and secondary teachers from across Ontario. This year, the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario’s (BIO) Education & Outreach Team will be in attendance and will be presenting two workshops regarding the School Malaise Trap Program (Friday, Nov. 14th, 3:45-4:45pm – Session #2510) and DNA Barcoding applications for the classroom (Thursday, Nov. 13th, 8:30 – 9:30am – Session #1013). We are extremely excited to be able to participate and contribute to such a passionate community of STEM educators!

This year’s STAO conference theme is “inspiring innovation” and was chosen in order to “help science educators in Ontario better understand the significance of STEM education and how it can prepare students for a rapidly changing global world.” We could not have said it better ourselves, as we too have a deep connection to these values!

DNA Barcodingibol2, a genetic technique used to identify species, is a relatively new addition to the Ontario curriculum. Its applications are far reaching, and astounding initiatives have been created through utilizing this technology – most notably, the International Barcode of Life project (iBOL). This project is the largest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken and aims to create a barcode reference library (BOLD) of all the species found on earth.

LifeScanner Kit

Feeling inspired and innovative yet? We thought so! The best part about the International Barcode of Life project is that anyone can contribute to it, as well as access the data (found online at BOLD). Classroom projects and programs ranging from DIY lab studies, participating in the School Malaise Trap Program, and submitting a LifeScanner kit for analysis are some of the many ways that students can contribute valuable data to iBOL!

Through these innovative citizen science initiatives, BIO hopes to inspire students to contribute to, and prepare for, a bioliterate future.  Although we live in a fast-paced and rapidly changing world, DNA barcoding is a key piece of technology that will help us to slow down and truly assess, protect, and monitor all levels of biodiversity found around us.

Announcing the #SMTPselfie Winners!!

LifeScanner Kit

We are pleased to announce the winners of our #SMTPselfie contest! Thank you to all who entered, and don’t worry…we’ll have another contest as soon as you receive your School Malaise Trap Program results! The winners for the #SMTPselfie contest will receive a LifeScanner Kit which is a new tool for exploring the biodiversity around you. This species identification kit will allow students to fill four vials with a whole organism or a piece of tissue and send it back to BIO for analysis!

And without further ado…the winners of the #SMTPselfie contest are:

1) Jack Chambers Public School

2) St. Charles College

3) Forest Avenue Public School

4) St. Paul Elementary School

5) Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School

Congratulations to the winners, and a big thank you to all who participated! The LifeScanner Kits have been mailed and are on their way to you!

We look forward to sharing the School Malaise Trap Program results with you soon!

Step 1: Sorting and Imaging your Samples

Hello School Malaise Trap Program participants,

So far, our Collections team here at BIO has provided you with amazing first-hand accounts of what happens to your specimens once they arrive at our facilities to be DNA barcoded. During this blog post, we are going to show you what our facilities and the DNA barcoding process looks like.

Below, you will find an educational video which explains the first steps towards ultimately obtaining a DNA barcode – sorting and imaging your specimen.

Stay tuned for our next video which will showcase our lab and sequencing processes!

Processing Malaise Traps from Schools Across Canada

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.

A large spider from the malaise trap samples
A large spider from the malaise trap samples

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.

An array of pinned specimens ready to be sampled for DNA barcoding
An array of pinned specimens ready to be sampled for DNA barcoding

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?

Malaise Trap Walk

We did the School Malaise Trap Program. I am telling you about my walk to the trap.  It was quick and there were a lot of leaves.

There were lots of homes; too many homes and they were big homes, almost too big. Miss Manicom’s backyard is where the trap was. We went through the the back and it was fun.


After the walk, we saw the trap. It had no bugs when we put the bottle on but after a couple of days we had more bugs. We received two bottles, one for week one and one for week two. It has been 2 weeks already and we have sent the bottles back to BIO in Guelph. In a few weeks, we will see how many insects and how many different kinds of insects we caught.

Samples are Arriving at BIO!

Hello School Malaise Trap Program Participants!

We are happy to say that we have received almost all of your Malaise trap samples for the Fall 2014 program! The rest of the samples are on their way, and we can’t wait to see what you have all collected.

Once your samples arrive at BIO, they go straight to our Collections unit, where they will be sorted by insect Order. As you can see from the photo below, this can be quite a long and meticulous process.


Stay tuned for an update from our Collections unit soon!

Final Count @ 40 For St. Ignatius

The final count for St. Ignatius of Loyola for Week 2 reached about 40 insects (Level 1). Although our trap was taken down on Monday, we still have a few exciting reports: 1) a large dragonfly was the newest addition to our collection; 2) rabbit droppings were sighted beside the trap; 3) a black-and-orange caterpillar was seen on the trap; and 4) some white mushrooms are growing beside the trap… take a look!

IMG_0676 (1)