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Hunting beetles in Central America: a talk in Vancouver by museum entomologist Bob Anderson

Images: © Canadian Museum of Nature

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“I feel like an old warhorse at the sound of a trumpet when I read about the capturing of rare beetles.” Charles Darwin, as written to botanist J.D. Hooker in 1858, endearing him to the hearts of coleopterists (people who study beetles) ever since. 

It’s no wonder that Canadian Museum of Nature beetle expert Dr. Robert (Bob) Anderson would be inspired by this quote from one of history’s greatest naturalists. After all, Bob’s 28-year career has included a range of fieldwork in exotic locales, often in search of rare or new species of beetles. His research on beetles, specifically those in the weevil family, has been used in identifying hotspots of biodiversity, in conservation planning and in work on endangered species.

Bob brings his skills as a scientific raconteur to Vancouver’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum on February 16 with a public presentation, "Scraping the Surface: Hunting beetles in Central America". The event is part of the Beaty Museum’s FestEVOLVE, an annual celebration of Charles Darwin and the evolution of life.

Bob will recount his journeys across Latin America, New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea. Specifically, he will delve into results from the Leaf Litter Arthropods of MesoAmerica (LLAMA) project (2008-2011), which he co-led with Dr. Jack Longino of Evergreen College in Washington State. This collaborative investigation aimed to collect and identify species of beetles, ants and other insects that populate the forest floor in five Central American countries.  

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this project involved some 40 students and scientists, and collected over a million specimens of arthropods, many new to science. See how successful fieldwork is carried out and review some of the exciting new beetle discoveries made during the project that suggest we are really still just scraping the surface of insect diversity.

The presentation starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 16. Admission is by donation. The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is on the campus of the University of British Columbia at 2212 Main Mall. The museum is a partner with the Canadian Museum of Nature in the Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada.

Read more of Dr. Bob Anderson’s accounts of fieldwork and species discovery in his museum blog.