Leveraging museum specimens to understand how insect populations are responding to environmental change
Working with museums across the UK, we have been involved in the digitization of insect collections spanning from the mid-1800s to the current day. Focusing on bumblebees and butterflies, we have been extracting specimen label information and taking measurements from digital images to determine how populations are responding to high rates of environmental change experienced over the past century and a half.
Our work includes studying:
1) Phenological shifts
2) Changes in body morphology
3) Signatures of developmental stress by measuring wing fluctuating asymmetry
4) Diversity loss or gain
The goal of this research is to understand where and when specimens have been placed under the highest pressure(s), and determine how species and key functional groups have been responding. From this, we can identify which associated factors are driving insect declines, and improve forecasting of spatiotemporal risk to insects.
Arce AN*, Cantwell-Jones A*, (+20 co-authors) & Gill RJ (2023). Signatures of increasing environmental stress in bumblebee wings over the past century: Insights from museum specimens, J. Animal Ecology, 92, 297-309
Mullin (14 authors), Gill RJ & Barnes I (2023). First large-scale quantification study of DNA preservation in insects from natural history collections using genome-wide sequencing. Methods in Ecology & Evolution, 14, 360-371