Digitizing AMNH Meliponini

The stingless bee Melipona quinquefasciata
Image of the stingless bee, Melipona quinquefasciata, in the tribe Meliponini
Jovani Gonzalez

This focus of this grant (NSF ADBC iDigBees 2216947) from the National Science Foundation is  to database and image the Central & South American Meliponini collection at AMNH as part of a larger Thematic Collections Network project, iDigBees. Bees are critical pollinators in both managed and natural landscapes. Concerns about declines in bee diversity and numbers continue to grow, yet only a small fraction of the ~4,000 known bee species in the United States (US) has adequate data to assess the status of populations and species. The iDigBees TCN addresses this dilemma. The digitization project will escalate the number of bee occurrence records up to 60% of all holdings in US collections. Thus, bees will be the first major group of insects to be digitized enough to both promote scores of research projects and assess the potential shortcomings of arthropod specimens to address a full spectrum of research needs. The data mobilized through iDigBees will allow us to: (1) identify patterns of bee biodiversity across the US, (2) document changes in species distributions over time, (3) document the impacts of a changing climate on bee and plant phenology, (4) track the spread of non-native bee species, (5) identify critical taxa and geographic areas for conservation, and (6) establish a network of researchers, conservationists and land managers to rapidly utilize data for research, education, public policy, and land management.  iDigBees will integrate specimen data with ongoing biodiversity research initiatives directed at monitoring and landscape engineering.

The Meliponini are known as the stingless bees, although they are not really stingless. Their diversity is greatest in Central and South America. Some species of meliponines produced honey.

The result of our work will be a more complete and robust understanding of species diversity and representation of current and past ecosystems and the impact of natural and anthropogenic activities. Localities will be georeferenced so specimens can be mapped in space and time, species distributions can be refined and models of distributional, ecological and diversity changes can be improved.

To accelerate these efforts, we are using the "robotic" capabilities of the GIGAMacro system.

You can search for the bees digitized for this project and other specimens in our collection in our IZ Division Database

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