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.

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