Insect conservation

I am not an entomologist, but through my interests in evidence synthesis and the need for better use of evidence to guide conservation decisions, I’ve become involved with several research projects linked to insect conservation.

Status of Insects: An International Research Coordination Network (RCN). Working with collaborators Dave Wagner, Eliza Grames, Christie Bahlai and Jessica Ware, this NSF-funded project seeks to build links between researchers around the world who are interested in how global change is affecting insects.  Launched in late 2022, the network seeks to better synthesize information on the state of insect biodiversity, develop tools that will allow us to combine and analyze disparate data sets, identify the causes and consequences of insect declines, and inform future actions to produce solutions. It is both ridiculously ambitious, and vitally important. Achieving our goals will require the participation of a large, diverse, network of participants, with expertise across disciplines. For information on how to get involved, go here.

The Entomological Global Evidence Map (EntoGEM). Created by Eliza Grames and Graham Montgomery, when they were both graduate students at UConn, EntoGEM is an open-access, community-driven, endeavor to find and synthesize as much information relevant to understanding insect decline as possible. Eliza continues to lead the project, which is now central to the Status of Insects RCN, as part of her postdoctoral work, but our lab remains deeply involved, primarily by engaging (and funding) undergraduate researchers to participate in paper screening and data extraction, as a precursor to more detailed analysis. An initial paper describes the project and uses odonates as a case study to illustrate its application.  Additional subprojects focused on moths, hymenoptera, desertification, and the links between ornithology and entomology are in progress.

Birds and insects. Our group has conducted several projects that connect birds with insects. As a spin-off from the EntoGEM project, MS student Danielle Schwartz has led a project to scour the ornithological literature for insect data sets that could be used to inform questions about insect biodiversity loss (see this news piece). In another synthesis project, led by Eliza Grames as part of her PhD, we have investigated the links between insect abundance and avian reproductive success (see here). Undergraduate students have also played an important part in our work, with Will DeMott developing an independent study on the use of radar to quantify the abundance of declining insectivorous birds at large noctural roosts (see here) and Carlin Eswarakuma initiating studies of insect populations at our saltmarsh bird study sites in Connecticut.

Urban insects. Graduate student Kelsey Miles is leading a new project in the lab, focused on understanding how street trees shape the insect fauna of urban areas.