Lepidoptera of North America Network
Digitization TCN: Lepidoptera of North America Network: Documenting Diversity in the Largest Clade of Herbivores
Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are one of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet: worldwide there are approximately 160,000 species, including around 14,300 species in North America. Moths and butterflies are a conspicuous component of terrestrial habitats and one of the most diverse groups of plant-feeding animals worldwide. This group insect includes species of great economic importance. Their juveniles feed on plants useful to humans, including grains, cotton, tobacco, and timber and shade trees. However, many of the adults are beneficial as pollinators and are icons of conservation as evidenced by Monarch butterflies. Given their economic importance and sheer beauty, butterflies and moths are one of the most abundant insect group in museum collections, but only a fraction of the approximately 15 million specimens in non-federal collections have had their specimen label information digitally recorded and accessible to researchers and educators. Of those specimens that have been digitized, fewer than 10% of the North American Lepidoptera species have sufficient, accessible occurrence data to make reliable predictions about habitat use, susceptibility to global change impacts, or other ecologically important interactions. This project will digitize and integrate existing, unconnected collections of lepidopterans to leverage the outstanding potential of this group of organisms for transformative research, training and outreach.
The Lepidoptera of North America Network (LepNet) comprises 26 research collections that will digitize approximately 2 million specimen records and integrate these with over 1 million existing records. LepNet will digitize 43,280 larval vial records with host plant data, making this the first significant digitization of larvae in North American collections. LepNet will produce ca. 82,000 high-quality images of exemplar species covering 60% of North American lepidopteran species. These images will enhance remote identifications and facilitate systematic, ecological, and global change research. In collaboration with Visipedia, LepNet will create LepSnap, a computer vision tool that can provide automated identifications to the species level. Museum volunteers and student researchers equipped with smartphones will image >132,000 additional research-quality images through LepSnap. Up to 5,000 lepidopteran species will be elevated to a "research ready" status suitable for complex, data-driven analyses. LepNet will build on the existing data portal (SCAN) in consolidating data on Lepidoptera to the evolution of lepidopteran herbivores in North America. Access to these data will be increased through integration with iDigBio. Data for a broad range of research, including the evolutionary ecology of Lepidoptera and their host plants in the context of global change processes affecting biogeographic distributions will be generated. The LepXPLOR! program will spearhead education and outreach efforts for 67 existing programs, engaging a diverse, nationwide workforce of 400+ students and 3,500+ volunteers. Overall, LepNet will generate a sustainable social-research network dedicated to the creation and maintenance of a digital collection of North American Lepidoptera specimens (http://www.lep-net.org/).
Proposed research themes and uses for the data digitized and mobilized through the Lep-Net project include:
Project Websites & Social Media
Citizen Science & Outreach Projects
Project sponsor: Northern Arizona University (NSF Award 1602081)
Principal Investigator (PI): Neil Cobb
Co-Principal Investigator: Ben Brandt
Arizona State University - Nico Franz, Melody Basham, Sangmi Lee (NSF Award 1601659)
Clemson University – Michael Caterino
Colorado State University - Boris Kondratieff, Paul Opler (NSF Award 1600937)
Denver Museum of Nature and Science - Frank Krell, Jeff Stephenson (NSF Award 1601275)
Drexel University, Academy of Natural Sciences – Jon Gelhaus
Harvard University - Naomi Pierce (NSF Award 1601124)
Kansas State University – Gregory Zolnerowich
Michigan State University - Anthony Cognato (NSF Award 1600556)
Mississippi State University - Richard Brown (NSF Award 1601164)
New Mexico State University – Scott Bundy
Ohio State University, C.A. Triplehorn Insect Collection – Norman F. Johnson
Oregon State University - Christopher Marshall (NSF Award 1601888)
Purdue University - Jennifer Zaspel (NSF Award 1601957)
University of Alaska-Fairbanks - Derek Sikes (NSF Award 1600774)
University of California-Davis - Lynn Kimsey (NSF Award 1601443)
University of Florida - Akito Kawahara, Jaret Daniels (NSF Award 1601369)
University of Georgia - Joseph McHugh (NSF Award 1601002)
University of Idaho, William F. Barr Entomological Museum – Stephen Cook
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities - Robin Thomson, Ralph Holzenthal (NSF Award 1601461)
University of Nevada – Reno – Lee Dyer
University of Utah, Natural History Museum of Utah – Christy Bills
Western Washington University - Merrill Peterson (NSF Award 1600824)
Yale University - Lawrence Gall (NSF Award 1600616)
Tall Timbers Research Station – Gil Nelson, Kevin Robertson, Jim Cox
University of Oklahoma, Sam Noble Museum of Natural History – Katrina Menard
Protocols & Workflows
Belitz, M., Hendrick, L., Monfils, M., Cuthrell, D., Marshall, C., Kawahara, A., ... & Warren, A. (2018). Aggregated occurrence records of the federally endangered Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek). Biodiversity Data Journal, 6, e29081.
Kawahara, A.Y., Breinholt, J.W., Espeland, M., Storer, C. Plotkin, D., Dexter, K.M., Toussaint, E.F.A., St Laurent, R.A., Brehm, G., Vargas, S., Forero, D., Pierce, N.E., Lohman, D.J.(2018. Phylogenetics of moth-like butterflies (Papilionoidea: Hedylidae) based on a new 13-locus target capture probe set," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2018.06.002
Kitching I, Rougerie R, Zwick A, Hamilton C, St Laurent R, Naumann S, Ballesteros Mejia L, Kawahara A (2018) A global checklist of the Bombycoidea (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Biodiversity Data Journal 6: e22236. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.6.e22236
Rund, S. S., Braak, K., Cator, L., Copas, K., Emrich, S. J., Giraldo-Calderón, G. I., ... & Lawson, D. (2019). MIReAD, a minimum information standard for reporting arthropod abundance data. Scientific data, 6(1), 40. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-019-0042-5
Seltmann, K.C.; Cobb N.S.; Gall, L.F.; Bartlett, C.R.; Basham, A.; Betancourt, I.; Bills, C.; Brandt, B.; Brown, R.L.; Bundy, C.; Caterino, M.S..; Grinter, C.C.; Harp, C.E.; Hawkins, R.L.; Heydon, S.L.; Hill, G.M.; Huber, S.; Johnson, N.; Kawahara, A.Y.; K. (2017). LepNet: The Lepidoptera of North America Network. Zootaxa, 4247(1): 73-77. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4247.1.10
Other project documentation
Integration of data from the San Diego Natural History Museum with the Lepidoptera of North America Network
An award is made to the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM) to join with the Lepidoptera of North America Network Thematic Collection Network (LepNet TCN) as a Partner to Existing Network (PEN). The main goal of this project is to integrate information from butterfly and moth specimens at the SDNHM with LepNet to facilitate the use of museum specimens for research and education. Publicly accessible data resources like LepNet are increasingly being used to study the impact of environmental change on the natural world and to develop conservation priorities. The information associated with the SDNHM specimens fills major data gaps from southern California and the Baja California Peninsula. In addition, the project will add species currently not represented in LepNet and a quarter of the data predates the 1920s, a period currently underrepresented in the portal. Along with these scientific outcomes, the project will engage dozens of high-school interns and volunteers and provide science-related work experience for at least six undergraduate students. The researchers will also be producing public-friendly social media and blog content that highlights the aesthetics, diversity, and biology of butterflies and moths.
This NSF-ADBC funded project will transcribe label data for over 150,000 Lepidoptera specimen records from the SDNHM and incorporate it in into the LepNet data resource. All specimens will be barcoded, databased, and georeferenced, and at least 4000 exemplars will be imaged and available online. The project will increase the current number of accessible specimen records for southern California and the peninsula of Baja California by 684% and 241% respectively. The SDNHM has maintained over 140 years of research on this region, which will provide a substantial increase in the temporal diversity currently documented in LepNet, enhancing the portal's utility for change over time research. The participating undergraduate students, high school interns, and volunteers will be trained and mentored in museum curation, imaging, databasing protocols, and collections-based research. Digitized data will be shared with iDigBio (idigbio.org) where it can be accessed for research, education, and public use.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Project Sponsor: San Diego Society of Natural History (NSF Award #1903299)
Principal Investigator: Michael Wall (PI), Pamela Horsley (co-PI)
Enhancing LepNet: Digitization and integration of significant butterfly and moth collections from the upper Midwest Tension Zone region
Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are one of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet: worldwide there are approximately 160,000 species, including around 14,300 species in North America. Moths and butterflies are a conspicuous component of terrestrial habitats and one of the most diverse groups of plant-feeding animals worldwide. This insect group includes species of great economic importance. Their juveniles feed on plants useful to humans, including grains, cotton, tobacco, and timber and shade trees. However, many of the adults are beneficial as pollinators and are icons of conservation as evidenced by Monarch butterflies. Given their economic importance and sheer beauty, butterflies and moths are one of the most abundant insect group in museum collections, but only a fraction of the approximately 15 million specimens in non-federal collections have had their specimen label information digitally recorded and accessible to researchers and educators. This award will allow the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection (WIRC) at UW-Madison to join with the Lepidoptera of North America Network Thematic Collection Network (LepNet TCN) as a Partner to Existing Network (PEN). A floristic ?Tension Zone? separating temperate and sub-boreal biota passes through the Great Lake Region; Wisconsin contains a greater portion of this zone than any other state in which it is found. The majority of Lepidoptera specimens in the WIRC were collected in Wisconsin and their data will thus fill a significant and critical gap in our knowledge of Lepidoptera species in the upper Midwestern United States.
This project will provide digitized and georeferenced data for nearly 70,000 North American Lepidoptera specimens. Currently, Wisconsin records for Lepidoptera are scarce in the LepNet SCAN portal. Inclusion of the WIRC dataset will significantly increase the number of species-level occurrences for the Great Lake Tension Zone region for most Lepidoptera superfamilies, greatly enhancing the target number of species for ecological niche modeling. Project personnel will develop and implement a workflow that involves transcribing data to add new specimen records to the WIRC?s existing Specify database. These data will be available through the LepNet SCAN portal, iDigBio.org, and GBIF.org, where they can be accessed for research, education, and public use. High-resolution images will also be generated for about 1,500 adult exemplar specimens for Lepidoptera species in and around the upper Midwest tension zone. Participating undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interns and volunteers, will be trained and mentored in databasing workflows, specimen curation, imaging, and collections-based research.
Project Sponsor: University of Wisconsin-Madison (NSF Award #2001548)
Principal Investigators: Craig Brabant (PI), Daniel Young (co-PI)
Integration of data from the UNH Insect Collection with LepNet.
An award is made University of New Hampshire for the Don Chandler Entomological Collection (UNHC) to establish a Partner to Existing Networks (PEN) collaboration with the Lepidoptera of North America Thematic Collection Network (LepNet TCN). The LepNet TCN unlocks data from North American Lepidoptera holdings across the US that provides a baseline to track changes in species and communities, and to correlate them with climate and other human-related changes in the environment. This PEN will complement the Lepnet TCN by adding underrepresented historic New England moths and butterflies including species from the unique pitch pine / scrub oak ecosystems. The project will increase the number of currently digitized New England species in LepNet by 63 percent and the number of digitized specimens by 40 percent. Data from this project will be made available on the LepNet portal for the research community, government agencies, students, educators, and the general public. Undergraduate students will be trained in all aspects of nature history collection curation. The general public will be engaged through Bioblitz and annual Open Day events at UNHC, which includes yearly tours for visually impaired students.
The 700,000 specimens of the historical and taxonomically important holdings of the Don Chandler Entomological Collection (UNHC) have been partially inaccessible to researchers and the general public, and digitization effort will increase research and public access. During this project students and technicians will image and transcribe the label information of 50,000 specimens, generate 35,000 specimen images and create the dorsal and z-stack image sets of the dorsal and ventral sides of 15,000 microlepidoptera specimens using a Macropod imaging system. This project will utilize a new, cell phone-based imaging workflow that increases the speed and accuracy of the digitization of entomological collections. Locality data for 30,000 specimens will also be georeferenced. Undergraduate students will be trained throughout this process and data recorded during this project will be integrated into undergraduate courses at the University of New Hampshire to model changes in distribution of Lepidoptera. The UNHC will display results from the proposed project in 3 public exhibits at the Spaulding Life Science Complex. Data produced by this project will be shared through the LepNet portal, iDigBio.org, and GBIF.org.
Project Sponsor: University of New Hampshire (NSF Award #2001589)
Principal Investigators: Istvan Miko (PI)
Small and Hungry: Enhancing LepNet TCN with microlepidoptera and 50 years of host plant data from the Essig Museum
Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) is the most diverse order of insect herbivores. Rich in ecological data they are often models for co-evolution, population dynamics, and environmental change. Because of their dependence on particular plant species and climate zones, many species are used as environmental indicators of habitat quality and climatic shifts. However, digitization of insect collections, particularly Lepidoptera, lag far behind most other groups due to the large size of collections, the small and delicate nature of specimens, and the tiny, difficult to read specimen labels. The Lepidoptera of North America Network (LepNet) TCN is addressing this paucity of data by digitizing occurrence records of butterflies and moths from over 28 institutions across the United States, along with high resolution images of over 95,000 species. The Essig Museum is contributing to this effort by adding over 100 years of specimen records and ecological data from western North America. All data and images are freely and immediately available online through aggregators, including iDigBio, GBIF, SCAN, and the Essig Museum Database, to researchers, educators, land managers, conservation planners, and the public.
The Essig Museum is a leading collection of Lepidoptera in the western US with extensive taxonomic breadth and occurrence density, particularly for microlepidoptera in northern California and Mexico. Past and ongoing projects of the Essig Museum focus on specialized habitats such dunes, coastal scrub, and offshore islands, as well as recovery from wildfires and long-term sampling of regional preserves. Moreover, a long tradition of rearing specimens from host plants, including fruit and stem borers, gall-formers, and leaf-miners, has resulted in many decades of detailed records of interaction data including host plants and parasitoids. This project will disseminate georeferenced digital data for 125,000 butterfly and moth specimens, along with high resolution images of 2000 species, including 608 holotypes. These data will fill many gaps for western North America to improve niche modelling efforts and investigate population dynamics for the past 100 years. High resolution images are used to train automated identification services to address bottlenecks in ecological and conservation research and rapid identification of pests. Much of the digitization work will be carried out by undergraduate students who will also receive training in biodiversity informatics and insect biology. Data and analyses derived from this effort will be used in online and public exhibits related to insect evolution, global change biology, and natural history of western North America.
Project Sponsor: University of California-Berkeley (NSF Award #2101816)
Principal Investigators: Peter Oboyski (PI)