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Scarab Central


The superfamily Scarabaeoidea is one of the largest and most diverse superfamilies of Coleoptera, including over 31,000 described species. Current estimates suggest that the Scarabaeoidea includes at least 50,000 species worldwide; therefore, only 62% of all scarab species have been described. Based on the current rate of description, and because of the recent decline in scarab systematists, it will take over 150 years to describe the scarab fauna of the planet. This project creates keys and databases to ALL genera of New World scarab beetles (approximately 600), and it builds on our existing foundation in scarab systematics to monograph poorly known groups of New World scarab beetles and train students in scarab systematics.

Chrysina photo

Scarab beetles are prominent members of the entomofauna and are important biocontrol agents, agricultural pests, and habitat indicators. Despite the economic importance, diversity, and ecological significance of scarab beetles, less than 50% of the New World genera can be identified with reliablity. The New World tropics contains the greatest diversity of scarab species, yet it is the poorest known taxonomically. Thus, we have targeted scarab groups from this region for training in monography, phylogeny, and bioinformatics. Study of extensive museum holdings will be supplemented with field expeditions to regions where diversity is poorly represented in museum collections and where target taxa are distributed. Morphological and molecular characters will be integrated as part of monographic and phylogenetic analyses with attention to synthesizing information from the literature and resolving nomenclatural problems at all taxonomic levels.

The proposed research will create comprehensive catalogs and electronic databases of specimen-level information, including character data, geographic and temporal distributions, host plant associations, and images. It will produce monographs, an identification guide to genera of New World scarabs, and a database of New World genera of scarabs that are retrievable electronically. Phylogenetic research will stabilize the higher-level classification of the Scarabaeoidea by targeting enigmatic and long-neglected groups. The research will contribute to the development of computer infrastructure for organizing and accessing knowledge about scarab beetles, and it will provide the foundation for future work in scarab systematics.

Systematics is the prime source of discoveries and new ideas in biology. Implementation of this proposal will help to train a new generation of systematists as well as advance our taxonomic knowledge of a prominent but poorly known superfamily of insects. The taxonomic monographs published as a result of the research will help to strengthen the foundation for all fields of biology.

PEET1 and PEET2 Summary

Team Scarab was fortunate to receive ten years of NSF-PEET funding. In this time, the Team transformed scarab systematics from a science based on multi-lingual, inaccessible taxonomic papers to one of electronic resources, including an On-Line Guide to New World Scarabs; from note cards and notebooks to databases of specimens and accompanying DNA sequence data, image data, and ecological data; from a plodding, scientific effort to a faster, more efficient process with high-quality digital imaging and molecular tools; and from one scientist working in isolation to a networked collaboration of scientists all working together to understand scarab biodiversity. As an integrated Team, we have transformed scarab systematics and have taken strides to better understand scarab biodiversity and evolution… but more work awaits.

Monographs and Revisions
Syntheses of higher-level groups
New species described
New genera described
Larval genera new to science described
Larval species new to science described
New fossil species described

Where Are They Now? Location of PEET1 and PEET2 Trainees

Dr. Andrew Smith (began August 1997; received Ph.D. August 2002)
2002-2004: PEET Post-Doc, University of Nebraska State Museum
2004-2007: Received the prestigious Canada Postdoc Fellowship (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) to conduct research at the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa
2007-present: Interim Head, Biological Survey of Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Karla Villatoro (began June 1998; received M.S. December 2000):
2000-present: Biology Instructor, El Camino College, CA

Aura Paucar-Cabrera (began August 1999; received M.S. December 2001):
2002-2004: Research Technologist, Veterinary Diagnostic Center, University of Nebraska
2004-2006: Freelance scientific illustrator and web page designer
2006-present: Proprietor, Bio-Graphica International, a company that provides high quality graphic and translation services to scientists and environmental organizations

Dr. Federico Ocampo (began July 1999; received Ph.D. May 2004):
2004-2007: Entomology Collections Manager, University of Nebraska State Museum
2007-present: Researcher, Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones de Zonas Aridas, Mendoza, Argentina

Katherine Swoboda (received undergraduate training 2002-2003):
2003-2008: Obtained M.S. from Utah State University, Logan on pollination ecology

Stephanie Westergren (received undergrad training 2002-2003):
2003: Summer internship at American Museum of Natural History with Dr. Mark Siddall
2004: Avian Keeper, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE
2005: Hawaii with endangered species
2006: California studying nesting bird biology
2007: Internship studying bowerbird sexual selection in Australia with Dr. Gerald Borgia
2008-present: Technician, Midwest Laboratories, Omaha, NE; seeking graduate program in systematics

Shauna Hawkins (began July 2003; received M.S. May 2005):
2005-present: Received the prestigious Canada Graduate Scholarship (National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada) and began Ph.D. at Waterloo University, Canada.

Aaron D. Smith (began Ph.D. July 2004, transferred out of UNL in August 2005):
2005-present: Continuing Ph.D. at University of Michigan

Elizabeth Reike (received undergrad training 2003-2004; began M.S. degree July 2004, then transferred out of UNL in August 2005):
2005-2006: Received art degree from Ashland Art Academy, Ashland, Oregon
2006-present: Freelance artist in Lincoln, NE

Matt Moore (received undergrad training 2005-2007):
2007-present: Continuing B.S. in Entomology at UNL

Jonathan Heinemann (received undergrad training 2005-2006):
2006: Transferred to University of Minnesota

Dr. Matt Paulsen (began June 2002; received Ph.D. May 2006):
2007-2008: Employed as technician at Florida State Arthropod Collection
2008-present: Entomology Collections Manager, University of Nebraska State Museum

Julia Colby (began August 2006; received M.S. May 2008):
2008-present: Entomology collection assistant at Chicago Academy of Sciences

Jesus Orozco (began August 2007)
2007-present: Continuing Ph.D. at UNL (funded by BS&I to Ratcliffe and Cave)

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