Caroline Chaboo, curator, focuses on the biology, behavior and systematics of chrysomelid leaf beetles.
In the summer of 2010, KU entomologist Caroline Chaboo conducted a collections and research expedition with several graduate students in the Amazon rainforest of Peru. Professor Chaboo is conducting a similar expedition in 2011.
One of the interesting aspects of field research is having the opportunity to experience the culture of the community and the country we visit. For our varied group on the Peru trip, we are going to see places in Lima such as cathedrals, monasteries, museums and historic centers. But while we are there, something else will be happening: a presidential election. In Peru, it's mandatory to vote, so on voting day, most everything in Lima closes as 9 million people try to get around town to vote.
I specialize in chrysomelid leaf beetles. Chrysomelidae (about 40,000 species) forms one of the largest radiations of animals, and they present many interesting research problems. My approach is holistic, with extensive fieldwork to explore life histories, ecology, behavior, and laboratory study of morphology and molecules.
One of the things that I forget when getting ready for an expedition is how much I have learned about field research in the past and how much there is to learn if you are new to fieldwork. I'm not just speaking of learning field collection methods or processing insects in our field lab station. When you are going on your first expedition experience, you don't know what gear to bring. What will the weather be like? What shoes are best in the muggy Amazon rain forest? What socks should you bring? What will best carry it all from Kansas to Lima to the field station and back?
In June 2011, a team of eight University of Kansas students and two professors will participate in a unique interdisciplinary expedition to Peru. Unlike many Biodiversity Institute expeditions, this one brings together people from several backgrounds, among them entomology, ecology, English language history, journalism, graphic novels, and art. Join the group through this website as they learn field methods, experience the varied cultural landscape of Peru, and explore the Amazon rain forest at the Los Amigos Biological Research Station.
Prominent on the institute's new web site, biodiversity.ku.edu, are the research, collections and discoveries of its scientists and graduate students who explore and document the life of the planet.
The Biodiversity Institute has a new home on the web and a new site for the institute's Natural History Museum. Revamped websites for the Biodiversity Institute's research divisions, such as mammalogy, herpetology and botany, are also in development.
Other obvious hymenopterans at our field site include the eusocial wasps of the family Vespidae. Sure, in the temperate regions we have our hornet nests and paper-wasp nests, but these types of wasps really become conspicuous in the tropics. There are just so many more elaborate mud and paper domiciles hanging about trees, bushes, and buildings built by a number of interesting genera that are sadly missing from higher latitudes. In fact on one cool day, when few insects were flying about, I took the opportunity to collect these nests and their occupants.
We occasionally noticed a bat flying around our lab space but didn’t pay too much attention to it. On our last night however, when it was unseasonably cold, several bats decided to use our lab as shelter. Often when the door opened one would fly in and around and then perch underneath one of our lab benches; five in fact were roosting together there at one point. I didn’t think too much of it until I recalled that bats have some pretty bizarre fly parasites that wander about through their fur. Suddenly this became an opportunity to make a novel entomological find.