I have reached out via email to specialists in over a dozen countries seeking help in identifying arthropods pictured on bugguide. Although some are too busy to help, I usually get at least a polite reply from them. Most are willing to look at images linked in my email and offer an informed opinion.
I used to email photos to authorities but eventually realized the smaller message size and ease of clicking on a hypertext link made that method outmoded. Besides, by introducing specialists to bugguide there is always the chance they will register and return on their own to browse through their taxon. They might then begin offering unsolicited IDs or even image contributions.
My most intense effort in this vein has been to reorganize and identify the growing mite section (Acari). I obtained email addresses of specialists from a variety of Internet sources, most notably the taxonomy pages of the Acari Project
, but also the Tree of Life
site, and a large list of acarologists on the Acarology
How did I know where to look for email addresses? I didn't, not at first anyway. I didn't even know what the study of mites is called. I seem to recall finding out by doing a google search on "the study of mites is called," then doing searches on acarology, Acari, etc. to discover sites containing email addresses. Someone endeavoring to find help for other taxa should be able to follow the same approach.
Armed with names, specialties, and email addresses, I drafted a stock letter which I modified as needed to send individually to each specialist. (I have had limited luck with obvious broadcast emails. The personal touch is far more successful.)
I have used both formal and informal approaches and have seen no great difference in results. My salutation on a letter to a Dr. John Bandicoot might be "Dear Dr. Bandicoot:" or "Hi John," whichever strikes my fancy.
Here is a stock letter body I personalized to contact many of the acarologists who have lent a hand with our mites:
Dear Dr. [insert name]:
I need a little help to organize the Acari images (per the Acari Project) on bugguide.net, a site begun privately but transferred to Iowa State University. It is nearing 100,000 mostly live images taken by skilled-to-beginner arthropod photography enthusiasts. Acari are only a tiny fraction of this and your groups make up an even smaller portion.
Although a number of the photos are mine, any expertise I have pertains to Coleoptera, not Acari. I am strictly a beginner, which is why I am appealing to you and other specialists who might recognize their groups among the modest-quality photos we have assembled. I've gotten educated guesses on our velvet mites and water mites from Drs. Joanna Makol of Poland and Heather Proctor of Canada respectively, plus Hans Klompen, Dave Walter, S.V. Mironov, and Pekka Lehtinen have named a few images for us. Dr. Eddie Ueckermann of South Africa has IDed many Anystoidea and some other groups for us.
I am pretty ignorant about [insert name of mite group he/she specializes in]. Supposing we have images of any, they are mixed in with the rest of the unidentified mites. Anything smaller than 0.2mm we don't yet have.
If you can spare a moment to browse through several pages of clickable thumbnail images, you may find that either you can easily identify some for us or possibly can't help us at all.
The Acari thumbnail pages begin here: http://bugguide.net/node/view/91197/bgimage
There are two ways of providing IDs. Either you can register as a bugguide user and comment directly under any image or you can email me with your comments on specific image numbers (above left hand corner) and I can relay your comments and move the images to their taxons.
Thank you for hearing my plea.
- Jim McClarin
Notice that I provided hypertext links not only to the images I was inviting them to look at but also one to my personal page so they could have some idea who was writing them.
There are many, many thousands of specialists who might be willing to devote a little of their time to making bugguide more valuable. All it takes is contacting them and asking. Why not consider taking on a similar project for some under-identified group of images on our site.