Blogs

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Meet the parents!

After a fast paced semester, Stop Day is an exclamation point between formal classes and exams. In spring, exam week is followed by another exclamation point: Graduation weekend. This is a particularly special one as five undergraduates in my lab are graduating. KT and Joe have been here the longest, over two years.  Now they fledge, going off to the Peace Corps and to graduate school respectively. Tom, Reed, and Riley are also heading off to graduate school or research labs. So very special to see them at this great junction in life. And particularly poignant to meet their parents for the first time. We, parents and teachers, have helped them thus far on their journey and now we must take our positions in the back.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Last week of classes!

The end of the semester is approaching fast, with finals just around the corner. Everyone in the lab has made significant strides this semester. Choru passed his comprehensive exams and is now ABD. Mabel presented her paper, ‘Ten new species of Triclistus’, at the Central States Entomological meeting, in Jonesboro, AK; this is her 3rd manuscript this year. Sofia has worked out the protocols and is accumulating PCRs for the first plate of sequences for her project. After submitting grant submissions throughout the semester, then waiting and waiting, Sofia, Mabel and Choru were excited to receive  today's successful award news; these grants are critical to carrying out  fieldwork in Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, and U.S.A. this year. 

Undergrad researchers Reed, Tom, Joe and Riley are getting acquainted with the process of manuscripts – responding to reviews. Dan accepted a tenure track position at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas, to start Aug 1. Matt’s monograph from his dissertation research passed review. He continues identifying new families in the Peru beetle samples — a new discovery today, Lutrochidae (travertine beetles), likely a new species.

In contrast to these guys, the lab PI has been such an underachiever!

Our exhibition, ‘39 Trails: research in Amazon Peru’ (http://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibitions/39-trails.shtml) in the KU Spencer Museum of Art, opened Mar 22. It is so gratifying and wonderful to see the student-produced sculpture, biological prints, photos, insect displays, the creative writing essays, the blog, and the brilliant insect-themed comic book.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New semester, First day

It is the day before classes begin, and I start teaching Intro Systematics (with Dr. Mark Holder and TA Taro Eldredge). Quite exciting to see the 45+ names of enrolled students, review my lecture, and refine the syllabus and lecture notes before we circulate to students.

A new student, Ms. Sofia Munoz from Quito, Ecuador, has joined my lab this semester to pursue M.Sc. research in chrysomelid systematics. The first semester of graduate school is always stressful, and everyone in the division will try to make this an easy transition for Sofia. Welcome to Lawrence, to KU, and to KU-Entomology!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Visit of Peruvian ecologist, Dr. Patricia Alvarez

Dr. Patrician AlvarezDr. Patricia Alvarez, plant ecologist and post-doc at Duke University, visited the Chaboo lab Nov 24-29. Patricia and Caroline participated in a 2008 NSF-funded PASI workshop "Interdisciplinary Studies in Tropical Chemical Biology", Lima and Tambopata, Peru. Since then, we have been trying to combine our research disciplines to examine questions of insect-plant interactions on the south-eastern Andean slopes of Peru. During her visit, we planned our 2012 fieldwork in Peru!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chaboo lab at the 54th Peruvian Congress of Entomology, Cusco, Peru

SEP attendees viewing the Gimmel & Chaboo poster

Luis Figueroa at the SEP congress

Members of the Chaboo lab made presentations at the 54th Peruvian Congress of Entomology, organized by the Peruvian Entomological Society (SEP), during November 5-8, 2012, in Cusco, Peru.  Graduate student Mabel Alvarado presented two posters, “Diversidad del genero Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Ophioninae) en la Zona Reservada Udima, Cajamarca, Perú” [co-author Luis A. Figueroa, Diversity of the genus Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Ophioninae) in Udima Reserve, Cajamarca, Peru] and  “Tres nuevas especies del genero Ateleute Förster (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Cryptinae) con claves para las especies del Nuevo Mundo” [Three new species of genus Ateleute Förster (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Cryptinae) with a key to the New World species].  Drs. Matthew Gimmel and Caroline Chaboo also presented the poster, “Las familias de Coleópteros de Perú” [Beetle families of Peru]. We thank Luis for his great help in so many ways with our field research in Peru and in getting our posters to the meeting.

Friday, April 15, 2011

LUCID Workshop at KU

Caroline Chaboo organized a workshop to train participants in developing online identification species keys using the software, LUCID (Lucid.com). The event was sponsored by Florida A & M University, and led by my FAMU colleagues, Drs. Wills Flowers and Muhammed Haseeb, who teach this workshop frequently.  Twelve participants from KU, K-State and Stony Brook U. spent the entire day working together in the KU insect lab getting introduced to the software (morning session) and developing keys (afternoon). We ended a wonderful day joined by colleagues coming into Lawrence for the annual meeting of the Central States Entomologists.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Forensic Entomologist to the Rescue!

When a chief of police contacts you about insects and dead bodies, a good entomologist hopes that her skills are badly needed to solve the crime of the century…that the insects found on the body are clues to the time and place of death. One of the critical roles of insects in any ecosystem is to break down dead bodies, and this is what they naturally do with any carcass. The first handbook for coroners was written by Song Ci in 13th century China; since then, this field has become professionalized and there is even a North American Forensic Entomology Association. One CSI team member is a forensic entomologist and a real life expert is a consultant for the series (us bug people are hyper-alert to these parts the show!). But back to my police chief. He sent me some photos and sure enough, a carcass….of a dead bird in western Pennsylvania. Riddled with lovely beetles doing their thing: eating it up!

These were Nicrophorus of the family Silphidae, but the species identification would require close examination of the the orange pattern on the elytra (hind wings). They were not Nicrophorus americanus, which is commonly called the endangered burying beetle as it is found in less than 10% of its historic range of distribution. Nicrophorus beetles show an unusual behavior of elaborate parental care: the carcass becomes the site of courtship, and the male and female bury the carcass so they and their offspring can feed. Aren’t insects bizarre and wonderful?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Processing insect field samples

processing samplesFieldwork may be completed for this season in Peru, but now we must shift our focus to processing the thousands of specimens we have brought back with us. Since the specimen bags (whirlpaks) travelled back without preservative Ethanol,we spend a week adding EtOH to this large volume of samples.  It is a smelly job: if the samples were left untreated, these precious specimens would rot.  Finally, we store the collection (in a fridge) to sort each bag.  It is a long road before we can have a beautiful identified pinned collection sitting in a drawer in our entomology collections.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Perú and the Amazon Educator Workshop

Our Perú 2011 expedition and field course was very rewarding, with the research and creative products, and the lovely exhibition in the KU Spencer Art Museum, http://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibitions/39-trails.shtml. We are still experiencing wonderful outcomes one year later. Today, some of us participated in a panel discussion as part of an outreach program with 32 high school and community college teachers from around the U.S.A. The ‘Peru and Amazon Educator Workshop’ was organized by KU’s Center of Latin American Studies and the Spencer Art Museum. After each of the Perú team members spoke about the experience and answered audience questions, we met with these enthusiastic teachers in our exhibition. We touch so many students through their teachers being made aware about insects, biodiversity science, interdisciplinary education, Amazon conservation issues, museums, and the amazing country that is Perú.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jaguar makes the best birthday present!

Timo Förster, an undergraduate from the University of Greiswald, Germany, is conducting a research internship with me, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). We developed a project to study the insect communities that develop in small pools of water that plants retain (phytotelmata). Pitcher plants may be the most familiar and best studied phytotelmata communities. These pools may form in flowers, seeds, leaves, and damaged stems.  Their communities tend to be dominated by insects, especially beetles.  In 2010, KU undergraduates Joe, Riley and Tom studied such communities in two Zingiberales plants at the Los Amigos Biological Station, Peru; our manuscript is going through the review process for publication. Zingiberales are gorgeous plants and make our fieldwork more special.

I conducted fieldwork with Timo in Peru during Oct 2012 and he has stayed in the field collecting data and specimens on these unusual insect-plant interactions.   Such a lengthy field stay and enormous specimen collections will require years of study and will yield many manuscripts. I am still immersed in the fieldwork because of Timo’s weekly emails reporting on our traps, which plants are flowering, and what surprises he uncovers.  His most recent post does not concern insects, but it is quite thrilling:

“We were walking on trail 8 today (Adrian, Nicole, another researcher, and me).  Suddenly Adrian, who was walking in the front, made signs to hide behind a tree. Suddenly a big group (perhaps 20-30 animals) of white-lipped peccaries came across and we were directly in the middle of their group, as we were hiding behind a tree. About 10 seconds later, we saw a huge yellow cat walking silently only about 5 meters behind the peccaries. The Jaguar was stalking them and was walking so close to us that we could almost touch it (less than 2 meters distance). We saw the cat for about 15 seconds, until it saw us and got scared and fled. All of the time, I was absolutely stunned. After that encounter we made a big party on the mountain. That was my first jaguar and it was one of the most impressive things I saw in the wild so far.”

After many months in the field, I can’t imagine a more precious birthday gift for Timo, turning 23 today!  We are fortunate to access such high quality habitat at Villa Carmen.  I hope my June 2013 field course with KU students will return with equally precious sightings and memories.