How (and why) do we count living things?
How (and why) do we count living things?


How many species of beetles and trees are in the Amazon rainforest? And why should we care? Entomologist C. J. Geraci and colleague Michael Biondi explain the importance of this information and demonstrate a new way of precisely measuring biodiversity — a web-based application for mapping the distribution of beetles and canopy trees in two rainforest plots. They then show how to use basic spatial statistics to examine distribution patterns of species.

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Christy Jo Geraci studies the biodiversity of Amazonian rainforest beetles with Terry Erwin, using insects as environmental indicators of forest health in a region of eastern Ecuador impacted by road building and oil extraction. Their research team uses digital imaging, DNA technology, Geographic Information Systems, and classical morphological taxonomy to study insect biodiversity, ecology, and evolutionary relationships. Geraci earned a PhD in 2007 from Clemson University, where she focused on aquatic insects important for monitoring water quality in streams and rivers.

As a recent graduate of the Master’s program in Entomology at Clemson University, Michael Biondi has spent the last year working on the digitization of the beetle type collection in the National Museum of Natural History’s Entomology Department. Michael is also using his experience and knowledge with geographic information system software and insect taxonomy used as bio-indicators of eco-regional health to collaborate with Drs. Geraci and Erwin on their research in Ecuador.

  1. Sarah Festa
    4:15 pm on April 22nd, 2010

    What age range would this be good for?

    Stevie Engelke Reply:

    All conference sessions are intended for a general audience, Sarah — all ages. In planning, though, we keep a middle school audience(grade 7-9)in mind. We’ve found that with extra class discussion this level of presentation works for the earlier grades as well as for high school students. And C.J. and Michael’s beetles are truly fascinating for everyone!