Please note that some parks, refuges, and similar locales might not allow collecting, or require permits. As with any private property, please inquire with owners for collecting permission.
Collection of any species listed as threatened or endangered in the state of Michigan is prohibited by law without a state endangered species permit. If you have found a state-listed species in a new locale that you believe should be sampled, you can contact Julie Craves or Darrin O’Brien, who have this permit.
Why is the michigan checklist based only on voucher specimens?
Some state groups build their checklists using both specimens and photographs. The decision was made when the MOS was formed to base the checklist only on specimens.
1. While some species or individuals may be conclusively identifiable via photographs, many are simply not able to be identified except in the hand, and some not even then. Please see this post – Identifying Odonata from photographs – for some examples and more information on this topic.
2. The identity of a physical specimen can be verified. A photograph is just a snapshot of a particular pose or angle. Even a series of photographs cannot give all the information provided by a specimen. And while the data attached to a specimen, such as date or location, can surely be manufactured, this risk is also present for photographs — but the photos themselves can be fairly easily doctored. For those that doubt people would bother altering a and posting it online in order to get recognition of finding something or adding it to a “list,” look no further than some of the elaborate scams that have been perpetrated on eBird, the birding community’s premier citizen science database.
3. The value of a specimen that can be examined, measured, genetically or molecularly tested, or analyzed in some way that we have yet to develop can reveal an enormous amount of data that no photograph will ever be able to convey. For an example of “lost opportunity”, see this post: Striped Saddlebags and the value of vouchers.
4. Photographs posted online are often extremely ephemeral. Some significant photo records end up online in personal photo galleries, in newsletters, on social media, or in online repositories. People remove their data or close their accounts. Web hosts go out of business. Websites get hacked. Even major websites on the servers of universities, governmental bodies, or NGOs have been taken down due to lack of funding, or reconstructed so that the original information is no longer where it was referenced or cited. The disappearance of the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre’s Atlas of Ontario Odonata is a great example. We do not have the ability to curate and archive digital photo files (or print material) in a central, safe, and permanent location.
Here are a few additional resources discussing the value of whole-body voucher specimens deposited in curated collections:
- The Role of Voucher Specimens in Validating Faunistic and Ecological Research (PDF) Biological Survey of Canada.
- Specimen collection is essential for modern science. Open access paper in PLoS Biology.
- On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy. Open access paper in Systematic Entomology, Royal Entomologial Society. Although focused on new species, it raises many critical points regarding the pitfalls of photographic “vouchers.”
- State and county records. The basis of this project, solid evidence of distribution. If you collect anything, collect these new records
- New locations. Perhaps a locality has not been surveyed in decades. Or a county has limited habitat, areas under restoration (or development), or more than one watershed. In these cases, voucher specimens can help delineate habitat requirements, change in distribution over time, extirpations, etc.
- Unusual or aberrant specimens.
- Early or late flight dates. These can be useful to establish ecological parameters. For species where there is sufficient historical data, it can help shed light on the effects of global climate change. For those without enough historical data, we may as well start now.
How to prepare specimens of adult odonata
We have a page at Urban Dragon Hunters that explains how to properly prepare and document adult dragonflies and damselflies. View it here.
Ideally, vouchers should be submitted to a stable and accessible museum collection. The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology has one of the premier insect collections in the world. The Odonata collection is also one of the best and largest in the world, and formed the basis for the Michigan Odonata Survey. The collections are housed at the Research Museums Center in Ann Arbor. The Cook Arthropod Research Collection is located at Michigan State University and also well-represented in the MOS database, and both of us serve as Adjunct Curators of this collection. The MOS database also includes vouchers from other museum and institutional collections and, in some cases, private collections as well.
We can help facilitate the process of depositing vouchers in a collection by providing a spreadsheet template and other assistance. Please contact us for more information
Collecting and preparing nymphs and exuviae
Ethan Bright authored an excellent guide to sampling Odonata larvae for the MOS. You can download the PDF here.
Mark O’Brien authored a similar guide to sampling Odonata exuviae (the shed larval skins) in 1999. You can download that PDF here.