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?

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