Our 2015 ECN/ESA talks

I gotta say that I am really proud of the talks my lab gave at this year’s Entomological Collections Network and Entomological Society of America meetings. You can find the slides below:

Emily Sandall et al. (2015) Digitization of the Beatty Odonata Collection at the Frost Entomological Museum (PSUC): the terrain of ecological niche modeling. ECN annual meeting 2015. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1602235 (Sandall et al. program link)

Kyle Burks (2015) Revision of Dendrocerus (Hymenoptera, Megaspilidae): Deciphering an esoteric taxon through an integrative approach. ESA annual meeting 2015. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1603028

Carolyn Trietsch (2015) Conostigmus spp. (Hymenoptera: Megaspilidae) of the Holarctic. ESA annual meeting 2015. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1609733

István Mikó and Andrew R. Deans (2015) Insect integument: The link between insect taxonomy and evolutionary developmental biology. ESA annual meeting 2015. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1606223

I also gave my own talk, in which I summarized our experiences with a recent morphology course we offered: Know your insect (ENT 530):

Andrew R. Deans and István Mikó (2015) Know your insects! New approaches to teaching insect morphology and systematics. ESA annual meeting 2015. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1609692

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 11.38.27 PM

It could’ve (should’ve?) been one of the worst talk experiences I have ever had—crackly voice, blistering headache, sore throat, cough of death—except that I was overwhelmed by the massive interest people seemed to have in the topic. The room was completely filled, with every square centimeter of floor space covered by entomologists and a huge overflow out into the hallway. I couldn’t believe it! And, to top it off, there was a massive line afterwards to talk to me about morphology course ideas.

Based on these interactions, as well as some incredible talks by my colleagues (I’m looking at you, Brian Wiegmann), I’m now more motivated than ever to pursue some of the ideas we have for training the next generation of entomologists in core entomological knowledge. Watch this space for a deeper explanation, updates about collaboratively-developed educational materials, and news of an upcoming morphology workshop for graduate students.

Thank you all for making ECN and ESA such vibrant, accepting, and exciting communities!

Our latest preprint: Phenotypes in insect biodiversity research

Our latest preprint is now available!

Mikó, I and AR Deans (2015) Phenotypes in insect biodiversity research. Available through bioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/032425

This is a first (rough!) draft of a book chapter that will accompany several other articles about insect biodiversity research. In it we try to describe some advances in the field of phenotype data representation and how they are infiltrating biodiversity research. We’d love your feedback.

Also, I love bioRxiv, but I admit that it didn’t seem to be the right outlet for what amounts to a review paper. They ask you to classify your manuscript as New Results, which is “an advance in a field” [I guess this is us?], Confirmatory Results, which means “findings largely replicate and confirm previously published work”, or Contradictory Results, which “replicate[s] experimental approaches used in previously published work but results contradict and/or do not support it”. This slight confusion will not stop me from using bioRxiv, however, which is an awesome resource.

#MustReads in entomology

[Note: This post was originally published on the Frost Curators’ blog.]

I’ve been working on my course (ENT 432) syllabus for what seems like forever, though it’s only been eight years. In the latest iteration I’ve tried to incorporate required reading from the primary literature—mostly empirical studies, rather than reviews—for each lecture. This exercise was mush more difficult than I anticipated!

My class is usually made up of incoming grad students and late stage undergrads, 99% of whom have no systematics background. I don’t want to require highly technical papers about phylogenetics and classification, or at least I don’t want that to be the emphasis of our conversation. I wanted to find papers that discuss key innovations, evolutionary trends and processes, and/or that tell compelling (and contemporary if possible) research stories. Two examples:

  • When we reach Hemiptera we could talk about so many aspects of their biology—adaptations for sedentary lifestyle, sucking pump and mouthpart morphology, phylogeny and classification (Homoptera vs. Hemiptera)—that it gets difficult to choose just one paper. For now I am going with sound production: Wessel et al. (2014).
  • For Diptera, it’s a no-brainer. Students should read Wiegmann et al.’s (2011) Episodic radiations in the fly tree of life. Sure it’s technical in its methods, but it also tells an interesting story about how Diptera have been so successful, describes natural history trends we see across the phylogeny, and discusses how robust the current classification is.

Perhaps you can see already the challenges in choosing #MustReads for entomology. Insecta is SO diverse and SO fascinating that numerous cool papers will invariably get left out. When we hit Dictyoptera what do we read about? Bioinspired robots? The evolution of eusociality? Bat detection? What papers do you feel are #MustReads for a course on insect biodiversity and evolution? Here is my first draft of a list: ENT 432 syllabus (2015). I would love some feedback!

scales on a butterfly wing, some flat, some hair-like

We will start discussing and examining Lepidoptera in late November. Scales are certainly a contributing factor to Lepidoptera’s diversity, and their patterns are important for determining species. Is their a great read about lep scales? Or should we focus our discussion on host plat relationships, chemical defense, moth avoidance, proboscis morphology …? Photo by Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Click for original.

Our latest preprint: Generating semantic phenotypes

We recognized recently that our approach to generating semantic phenotype data (e.g., see Balhoff et al. 2013 and Mikó et al. 2014) needed better documentation. Alas, here is the first draft of our manual, available through figshare:

Mikó I, Yoder MJ, Balhoff JP, Deans AR (2015): Generating semantic phenotypes. figshare. DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1314904

We wrote it using Overleaf, which, I have to say, is pretty awesome.

screenshot showing how Overleaf.com appears

Overleaf in action.

Finding our way through phenotypes – our latest open access publication

screen shot of web page where article is


Deans AR, Lewis SE, Huala E, Anzaldo SS, Ashburner M, et al. (2015) Finding Our Way through Phenotypes. PLoS Biology 13(1): e1002033. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002033

Abstract.—Despite a large and multifaceted effort to understand the vast landscape of phenotypic data, their current form inhibits productive data analysis. The lack of a community-wide, consensus-based, human- and machine-interpretable language for describing phenotypes and their genomic and environmental contexts is perhaps the most pressing scientific bottleneck to integration across many key fields in biology, including genomics, systems biology, development, medicine, evolution, ecology, and systematics. Here we survey the current phenomics landscape, including data resources and handling, and the progress that has been made to accurately capture relevant data descriptions for phenotypes. We present an example of the kind of integration across domains that computable phenotypes would enable, and we call upon the broader biology community, publishers, and relevant funding agencies to support efforts to surmount today’s data barriers and facilitate analytical reproducibility.

Folding Wings like a Cockroach – our latest open access publication


Mikó I, Copeland RS, Balhoff JP, Yoder MJ, Deans AR (2014) Folding wings like a cockroach: a review of transverse wing folding ensign wasps (Hymenoptera: Evaniidae: Afrevania and Trissevania). PLoS ONE 9(5): e94056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094056

Be sure to check out our origami supplemental figure (.tif) Can you make it work? And here’s some press!


Latest open access publication: The maxillo-labial complex of Sparasion

CLSM volume rendered image showing the ventral region of the head of Evania sp., medial view, distal to the bottom, DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.956282

Our latest morphological analysis is out! Check it out at the Journal of Hymenoptera Research:

Popovici O, Mikó I, Seltmann KC, Deans AR (2014) The maxillo-labial complex in Sparasion (Platygastroidea: Platygastridae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 37: 77–111 DOI: 10.3897/jhr.37.5206