Biosystematics, informatics and genomics of the big 4 insect groups: training tomorrow's researchers and entrepreneurs


Greetings from the 9th International Congress of Dipterology in Namibia

This article was written by Trevor O. Burt.  I am happy to report back from the 9th International Congress of Dipterology (ICD9), which took place in November, 2018, in Windhoek, Namibia.The International Congress of Dipteralogy (ICD) is a meeting that brings together dipterists from all around the world every four years to present their scientific findings, discuss and debate the latest research projects, converse and coll... show more

Hard work is being acknowledged

We are happy to announce that Anne-Sarah Ganske received a grant from the "Network of Biological Systematics Austria" (NOBIS Austria) for her research entitled "Lithobius - A big genus in a small subphylum: phylogeny and evolutionary history", which she carried out within the BIG4 project. NOBIS Austria is a network for scientists working in the broad field of biological systematics – on evolutionary ... show more

When dreams come true

The New Year 2019 has just begun! In this year, BIG4’s training network will formally not exist anymore. The generous EU Horizon 2020 ITN grant, awarded to us in 2015, was completed on December 31st 2018. There are still some important reporting activities ahead and many project-bound students continue to work on the projects, but technically the grant is over. As the BIG4 coordinator, I have to admit I am a bit sad about this. We had re... show more

BLOG POST: OpenBiodiv: The Semantic Web comes to biodiversity informatics

This post was written by Viktor Senderov.  The Semantic Web is a vision for the future of the web where not only documents but also data are connected. As part of the Semantic Web, the goal of the Pensoft-based OpenBiodiv project is to create a system for management of biodiversity knowledge extracted from scientific articles and shared as Linked Open Data. The system consists of our ontology OpenBiodiv-O, a knowledge graph, the RDF4R pac... show more

BLOG POST: Taking the right steps is good, showing the path to others is even better

This post was written by Miroslav Valan. Human impact on nature causes insects to die out and disappear at a faster pace than they can be studied. Any survey on biodiversity requires expertise, but those who may help with identifications - taxonomists - are always in shortage. Thanks to new technologies in computer vision and machine learning, which could automatically interpret objects captured in the images, and together with the members of ... show more

BLOG POST: Investigating the mysteries of gall-wasps biology

This post was written by Erik Gobbo.  Among gall-making insects, the Cynipidae (gall-wasps) are probably the most fascinating, for many reasons: they are capable of inducing extremely complex galls that often constitute a small ecosystem of their own, they are extremely diverse (counting more than 1300 known species) and most importantly, the nature of their gall-induction process still eludes our understanding. Although it is still ... show more

BLOG POST: Can we resolve the evolutionary relationships of the world’s largest animal family? - Challenge accepted!

This post was written by Janina Lisa Kypke. You might be wondering what animals am I talking about and how large is the largest animal family? Meet the rove beetles or Staphylinidae! If you have never heard of them, here are the cornerstone facts:- Rove beetles consist of more than 63.137 fossil and living species. This is the last official number published in 2017, which means it is already outdated by now since more species are being des... show more

BLOG POST: Visual exploration of taxonomic, phylogenomic and biodiversity data

This post was written by Ashish Tomar.  A tree or hierarchical representation of data is commonly observed in biology. This is due to interlinked information, and the complex hierarchical nature of biological systems. Advanced data visualization in scientific communities is becoming a trend to help researchers discover hidden pattern in such systems.   The aim of my project was to create novel, innovative and interact... show more

BLOG POST: Butterfly and Moth Diversification Dynamics

This post was written by Hamid Reza Ghanavi. Lepidoptera (i.e. moths and butterflies) is one of the four most diverse orders of organisms - BIG4 - on earth. Despite a wide variety of research being undertaken, there is still a lot to discover about them. Scientists are discovering new species, studying ecosystem interactions, and the list goes on.  I am interested in addressing questions such as: How are they related? When did a par... show more

BLOG POST: An integrative approach helps us understand the phylogeny of a challenging centipede taxon

This post was written by Anne-Sarah Ganske.  The main goal of our BIG4 project is to shed light on the phylogeny of the species-rich genus Lithobius Leach, 1814, which belongs to the centipedes (Myriapoda). On the pursuit of this mission, we are searching for new morphological characters and acquiring molecular data from representatives of the genus Lithobius and other Lithobiidae mainly from the European continent.One achiev... show more

BLOG POST: Building from the ground up – towards a classification of the rove beetle subtribe Amblyopinina

This article was written by Josh Jenkins Shaw.  The rove beetle subtribe Amblyopinina is a signature group of about 400 species in the southern hemisphere with major species diversity in Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, New Caledonia and South America. Most Amblyopinines are free-living rove beetles, which can be found in leaf litter and other decaying materials. About 65 species are adapted to live in the fur and burrows of mamma... show more

BLOG POST: Evolution of leaf-litter insect fauna as a bioindicator of evolutionary change

This post was written by Matthias Seidel.  In my project I investigate the systematics, phylogenetics and biogeography of terrestrial water beetles across the Southern Hemisphere. This relict group of beetles is called Cylominae and it is restricted to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile and Peru. In our fieldwork in New Zealand and South Africa we discovered many new species and genera that will result in several publications.... show more

BLOG POST: BIG4 Phylogenomic research on Syrphidae: Scope and Collaboration

This post was written by Trevor Burt. Over the last couple of decades, the global syrphid community has been progressing towards a focused picture of the origin and diversification of hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae). Given the growing concerns about climate change and biodiversity loss, this work, along with revising the taxonomy of hoverflies, is extremely important. Syrphids are also critical pollinators of flower plants and crops underscoring... show more

BLOG POST: An X-ray vision into the evolution of Hydrophilidae

This post was written by Emmanuel Arriaga Varela. In order to understand the Hows, the Whens and the Whys of the evolution of insects and other animal groups, it is necessary to take a look at the past. Fossils embedded in amber give us the unique opportunity to take a deep and intimate look at a moment frozen in time. Through careful examination of the morphology of these organisms and a comparison with extant gr... show more

BLOG POST: Raiders of the Lost Museums – Next-Generation Sequencing for museum specimens

This post was written by Elsa Call. Natural museum collections around the world are extremely abundant. All of these specimens are highly valuable for a wide range of research applications, such as systematics and taxonomy,  biodiversity studies, habitat loss and investigations into the history of infectious diseases or environment contaminants. For a long time, these museum specimens were only used to study morphology because their DNA w... show more

BLOG POST: Metabarcoding approach answers key questions about our ecosystem

This post was written by Daniel Marquina.  How unique is this habitat? Is this a biodiversity hotspot? Should we invest public resources in preserving it? Is this a healthy environment? Have our conservation efforts done any good? How does the food web look like in this habitat? How many species are there?  Answering this type of questions is a key point for an ecologist, a nature reserve manager or even for the governme... show more

BLOG POST: One hand is tradition, one hand is innovation – morphological challenges in present times

This post was written by LIU Si-Pei. To adapt to different environments, some of the BIG4 insects - which usually fly well - abandon their flight ability and develop some other specialised structures. With modern morphological techniques such as scanning electron microscope (SEM), computer based 3D-reconstruction and traditional hand drawings, I demonstrated these specialized thoracic structures in detail. The reduced or absent flight rel... show more

BLOG POST: Getting close to the first major phylogenetic analysis of Aleocharinae

This post was written by Igor Orlov. Aleocharinae are one of the biggest monophyletic groups of living organisms on Earth and include about 16,200 described species worldwide. They are a subfamily of Staphylinidae, a mega-diverse insect group, also known as Rove Beetles. Although this group is an important component of the biosphere and several species are used in the biological control of pests in agriculture, the poor knowledge and undevelop... show more

BIG4's fifth and last workshop is taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria

Starting today, 16 April 2018, the last BIG4 workshop will take place over three busy days in Sofia, Bulgaria, where our MSCA fellows will have the chance to present their results and learn from invited professionals in the scientific, business and publishing fields alike. Close to the end of a very successful project where 15 early career researchers had the opportunity to be part of 15 PhD projects, focused on the biosystematics, informatics... show more

BIG4 Fall Workshop in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, Oct 29- Nov 3 2017- By Trevor O. Burt

The BIG4 Autumn workshop was held October 29th to the 3rd of November on the idyllic La Palma of the Canary Islands, Spain. A better backdrop could not have been selected for all BIG4 students, supervisors and many other participants to discuss and workshop a number of subjects relating to phylogeography, citizen science, publication and manuscript development, and entrepreneurship. Students were also granted opportunity to outline progress in th... show more