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UC Riverside entomologist to oversee centralized database of bee specimens
Date:6/30/2010

s dating back more than 200 years, often from habitats that have long since vanished. The picture of biological and ecological history that emerges from studying millions of specimens is impossible to imagine or obtain without first databasing those specimens."

UCR and the American Museum of Natural History, which is also being funded through the same grant, are the primary institutions collaborating on the project. Other partners are UC Davis, UC Berkeley, the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, the California State Collection of Arthropods, Utah State University, Cornell University, Rutgers University, and the University of Connecticut.

In order to database the bee specimens, Yanega and his colleagues first will capture as much data as they can on each specimen, then they will clean these data to make them intelligible and decipherable.

"This is crucial because the original specimen labels are typically incomplete, ambiguous, or even incorrect," Yanega said.

He explained that before a specimen can be databased, taxonomists need to be confident that the identification of each specimen is accurate, a step that requires an expert bee taxonomist to confirm that each specimen does indeed belong to the species it is registered under in a given collection.

"It would be a major problem if the records for one species such as a species on the verge of extinction, as many of our native bees are are mixed up with the records for species that are not threatened," Yanega said. "Such mix-ups could prevent the proper conservation of threatened species, or create imaginary threats where none actually exist. We want the science to truthfully inform the decision-making public, not misinform them."

At UCR, the grant will support, besides Yanega, a data entry technician. Yanega expects ecologists will use the data from the project to model geographic and temporal trends in bee populations, including California's vanishing
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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