Michael Ferro, Margaret Thayer, Alfred Newton, and Jong-Seok Park have created an interactive, online Lucid key to North American subfamilies of Staphylinidae, commonly known as rove beetles. One out of every five beetles in the U.S. is a rove beetle, and their key is designed to make the first step in identification a little bit easier.
The project was funded using a crowdfunding campaign.
According to Ferro, a postdoc at Louisiana State University:
“Basically the story is: Crowdfunding through experiment.com looked like a great way for beginning researchers (undergrads, etc.) to get a little money to help with research, plus they get the experience of creating a project and presenting it to the public. Since I work in taxonomy, I put myself in the shoes of a budding taxonomist. What’s the best, easiest, cheapest way to learn your target taxa before you go into the field or start borrowing specimens from museums? Review the literature, learn the relevant characters, and build a key. The added benefit is that the key is a product that’s immediately available for free use by others. Lucid made the older version of their software free, and they will host a completed key for public use. As a proof-of-concept, I started the campaign, got it funded, took a covey of students to the frozen north to visit the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago — an amazing experience for those who rarely venture out of Louisiana — and eventually finished and uploaded the key. Hopefully it will help others appreciate this amazing and diverse group of beetles. And, hopefully, it will encourage beginning researchers to try their own crowdfunding campaign.”
Staphylinidae is the largest family of animals. It represents an enormous chunk of global biodiversity, with more than 52,000 species known worldwide. However, many more species are undescribed. The identification of known species is difficult due to the wide diversity of body forms that occur among the various subfamilies, so this key will aid in identification and will hopefully encourage more people to study them.
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