Update May 28, 2012: My project and, I assume those for other amateurs (Canadians might still be on board), has been suspended due to reduction of funds to operate iBOL. They posted costs for researchers who can pay for the analyses. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to participate over the last four years. If the funding situation improves, the project might be reactivated. However, it had become increasingly difficult for me to avoid duplication of species and needless expense on their part. So, my project is complete as far as I am concerned.
This is a review of my experiences over the year that I have been submitting moth specimens to Paul Hebert at the University of Guelph for the International Barcode of Life Project. See request for participation at All Leps
The research team at Guelph is not simply interested in building barcode coverage for Lepidoptera, but also for other groups of insects.
Bob Patterson suggested that I open a topic here on DNA barcoding of moths.
I responded to their request for specimens because of my frustration with the identifications of micro moths and from a comment once received that there were likely many undiscovered micro species in my area (east central Great Plains)
Paul Hebert responded with interest in collecting specimens from this area and offered to send all necessary materials and to pay shipping. I took the materials but pay the shipping. The ~$8 every couple of months is a small price to pay for such an improvement in the hobby. They assigned a contact and created an account where I can follow the progress and see the results - here - BOLD
I pin the moths without spreading. I have no doubt that they would be thrilled with properly pinned specimens. The tiniest micros are put into 2" x 2" Ziplock bags. There is a backlog there on pinning micros so they sent me a shipment of minuten pins, curved tweezers and foam strips. If I do that pinning the specimens can be advanced in the queue by avoiding their need to do that step.
Initially, I tried to rely on a match of my images with their photographs after sequencing. This was not a good way to go. I had lost some of my images and their images were many times taken at an angle and quality that made the correlation very difficult. This year, I have been transmitting my images by ftp to their computer soon after the photography. I identify each photo by a sample number that includes the date and logbook number. This has eliminated confusion at my end. They are now using those images in the BOLD - such as BOLD - Acontia
Initially, I submitted almost everything found leading to excess duplication for some common species. The bad part was that it might have been some wasted effort on their part. The good part was that some of these look like local variations - such as BOLD - Galphyria
I see my role as just one who submits specimens and then am on my own. It seems to me that the priority there should be to improve the database with properly identified specimens. This may delay my results but improves the chances for my identifications.
Next year of I will be dropping way back on submissions. I will try to avoid species already sent unless they are under-represented in BOLD or have already shown up as possible local variations.
I keep summaries of a few of the many interesting cases here: pbase
. Feel free to make comments there.
Here are some rough categories of results - pretty much what one would expect.
Common moths with dead-on identification.
Common moths that seem to show a local variation by my interpretation of the taxonomy relationship tree.
Common moths that seem to show a local variation by their expert and have been given a code (see the Galphyria above)
Moths that are difficult to pin down by wing pattern and for which the taxonomy identification tree shows the same confusion.
Moths that I have identified but not in their database. (Their taxonomy experts take a look and sometimes agree as in the Acontia above))
Species that are not yet in their database or are just new - such as pbase
I try to report to BugGuide based using reasonable interpretations of the relationship tree results and using a good image.
After some discussion with Bob it seems that an appropriate way of reporting these could follow these guidelines.
"Supported by DNA at the species level (or as species name) by BOLD (specimen ID)"
"Suggested by DNA as very near (species name) by BOLD (specimen ID)"
"Identified only at the genus/family level by BOLD (specimen ID)" – only when other moths of that genus are nearby in the relationship tree.
"At present, identified only at the genus/family level by BOLD but appears to be (species name) based on photos in Guide or at MPG"
My specimen IDs look like "LPOKA111-08" or "LPOKB222-09"
Variations of these descriptions have been used depending on the situation. When the specimen has been included in BOLD as a reference, I include a link and a pointer to the image - such as BG
I have restricted my submissions to BugGuide to those where species identification are difficult by wing pattern such as - BG
, where the species is new to BugGuide or MPG, or where only the genus is identified and identification here could be passed on as a suggestion to BOLD.
I would encourage anyone interested to apply for a project but would suggest reading up some on the technique. I have done this but by no means have become an expert. My career was in experimental solid-state physics and I still feel like a novice about the DNA interpretations.