Insect Survey of a Megadiverse Country (Phase II): Colombia

  • Sharkey, Michael (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Insects and other arthropods are being surveyed in Colombia, one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, and one of the most poorly sampled for arthropods and other forms of life. The arthropod fauna of 10 of Colombia's National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries are sampled employing, at each site, a number of different collecting methods in order to capture organisms in all types of microhabitats from tree canopies to forest ground litter. Samples are sent to the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Villa Leyva (Colombia), where they are sorted and prepared. PI Sharkey travels to Colombia to collect the samples twice per year. He then sends them to almost 100 scientific collaborators across the United States and to 15 other countries around the world. The timing is critical since Colombia is the third worst country in South America in terms of rate of forest loss and the second worst in terms of population growth. Combined with political instability, the high crime rate, and the illegal drug trade, the project might appear to be urgent but impractical; however, these handicaps have been surmounted. The von Humboldt Institute, which is a branch of the Federal Department of the Environment, and the Colombian Ministry of National Parks, is collaborating to overcome the potential logistic problems. Park naturalists are operating the sampling equipment, and send the samples to the Humboldt Institute on a quarterly (or more frequent) basis, thus avoiding dangerous travel in Colombia. Insects and other arthropods constitute more than half of the species level diversity of all life. That is, there are more species of insects and other arthropods like spiders than all other species of life combined! Therefore, the study of this group is fundamental to understanding the diversity of life, which is higher in Colombia than just about anywhere else in the world, due to its varied geography and tropical location. Despite this wealth, the international scientific community has not had access to it for more than 20 years. This project results in the distribution of tens of thousands of prepared specimens throughout the world each year. Collaborating scientists describe new species and higher-level taxa. Using our quantitative sampling data, they prepare estimates of the total number of species throughout Colombia, and compare the Colombian fauna with other areas of South America and the world to obtain a clear picture of the species that are restricted to Colombia.
Effective start/end date10/1/029/30/06


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.