Location: Systematic Entomology LaboratoryTitle: USDA's Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL): Global leadership and innovation in insect systematics Author
Submitted to: Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/14/2010
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: A longstanding agreement between the USDA and the Smithsonian Institution created the National Insect Collection, one of the premiere entomological resources on the planet. Since its inception, USDA scientists associated with the National Insect Collection have been at the forefront of documenting insect biodiversity and providing research results critical to solving agricultural problems worldwide. Currently, 17 USDA-SEL scientists curate 642 families of insects and mites comprising over 15 million specimens. Their combined dedication produces more than 50 research papers, book chapters, and books each year in systematics to address fundamental issues in insect and mite variation and evolution, including species discovery and diagnosis, nomenclature, character evolution, molecular phylogenetics, phylogeography, and multilevel-trophic interactions. The research results are used to identify potential biological control agents of pests and weeds, detect and exclude invasive species, identify interceptions for quarantine action at U.S. ports-of-entry, and establish baseline data on insect diversity in natural and agricultural ecosystems. SEL is on the technological forefront of imaging, databasing, and molecular systematics using the existing collection and newly acquired material to provide innovative tools for end-users. SEL scientists are involved in high-profile global community-level inventories and phylogenetic projects such as the NSF-funded Planetary Biological Inventory, Tree-of-Life, DNA Barcode of Life, PEET projects, and are major contributors to the development of “e-type” collections at the Smithsonian Institution, a significant resource for the systematic community worldwide. SEL continues building on its 150-year legacy and crafting the future of insect systematics through innovation, cooperation, and leadership.