Tri-Trophic Thematic Collection Network
Collaborative Research: Plants, Herbivores, and Parasitoids: A Model System for the study of Tri-Trophic Associations

Intellectual Merit: All of the nearly 20,000 species in the North American flora are attacked by phytophagous insects, and many of those insects are attacked by parasitic Hymenoptera. Data on plant taxa, insect herbivores, and their parasitoids are currently not accessible in a uniform manner nor are they integrated online. This project will mobilize an extensive workforce that will utilize the combined resources of 34 museums in one of the most relevant database projects ever, to capture and make available ~4 million specimen records and to unify a total of >7.8 million records. Our tri-trophic approach will have benefit for a wide range of research questions and practical applications, including agricultural sciences, conservation, ecosystems studies, climate change, and biogeography.

This Thematic Collection Network (TCN) will focus on one of the major herbivorous insect clades, the Hemiptera (aphids, scales, hoppers, cicadas, and true bugs), their host plants, and their parasitoids in a Tri-Trophic Databasing and imaging project—the TTD. It will treat the North American biota utilizing collections within the USA. Not only is the size of the problem tractable, but also nearly all of the collections relevant to the United States biota reside within the United States, with substantial amounts of material from Canada and Mexico also being available in US institutions. The TTD will be coordinated by seven collaborating institutions. Each possesses necessary taxonomic expertise, proven leadership skills, and the ability to form networks with another 27 large and small institutions, to capture and deliver specimen data for organisms in all three trophic levels.

Hemiptera, the largest clade of non-holometabolous insects, is represented in North America north of Mexico by >11,000 species. Many are agricultural pests, including such economically devastating examples as armored scales, mealy bugs, black bean and peach aphids, potato leafhoppers, and Lygus bugs; some are beneficial as predators of other insect pests. Their specialized sap-sucking habits make many aphids, psyllids, and plant hoppers effective vectors of plant diseases, and therefore of extreme economic importance.

About 85% of Hemiptera are herbivorous and many show high degrees of host specificity. In addition, Hemiptera exhibit preferences for certain groups of plants, including the very large families Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Poaceae, and Rosaceae, and it is the >8000 North American species in these groups that will be the primary focus our botanical digitizing efforts.

Parasitic Hymenoptera, especially Chalcidoidea, exploit Hemiptera. They are major natural population-control mechanisms that are widely used in biological control efforts. This relevance as natural enemies attests to the value of resources organized for understanding their distributions and phenologies and how these relate to their North American hemipteran hosts.

This project will build on results of prior NSF-support, including the Planetary Biodiversity Inventories award for Miridae and digitization of parasitoids and botanical specimens. Specimen data will become available for more than 1.64 million hemipterans (10-fold increase), 200,000 parasitoids (20- fold increase), and more than 6 million plants in 20 families (2-fold increase for participating herbaria). Data capture will maximize taxon-taxon information across the three trophic levels. Data will be made available through web portals including GBIF, Discover Life, and a project-specific web page.

Broader Impacts: This proposal will create a cross-cutting network to integrate information from 15 botanical and 19 entomological collections. It will build a database of specimen information relevant for studies of climate change, plant-herbivore-parasitoid phenology, pest status and distribution, biological control, systematics, and biogeography. Technological tools and methods will be introduced through a short course, at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Richard Gilder Graduate School, to a broad range of graduate students at the AMNH, affiliated universities, and grant-sponsored students from other institutions. A data mining and species-distribution modeling symposium at the University of California Riverside will foster interaction between the systematics and ecological research communities and explore the TTD database as a platform for instruction and inquiry. A large cadre of undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in the data capture process, exposing them to a range of issues surrounding the nature, collection, organization, and use of such biodiversity data. 

Rolling Updates

  • A summer learning R to clean up data with the iDigBio portal recordset correction feature (this is a reposting from the iDigBio blog, October 2015)by Heather Appleby, former undergrad intern, Tri-Trophic Thematic Collection Network (TTD-TCN). Katja Seltmann (TTD-TCN), Deb Paul, Alex ...
    Posted Oct 15, 2015, 10:31 AM by Katja Seltmann
  • Digitizing the U-M Herbarium collections: tri-trophic update This is a reposting of an article by Richard Rabeler for the University of Michigan, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology news.Jul 21, 2015Richard Rabeler, associate research scientist ...
    Posted Jul 24, 2015, 7:58 AM by Katja Seltmann
  • Field to Database (F2DB): field-data collecting trends and 21st century data skills From Deb Paul, @idbdeb (a reposting of the iDigBio blog post)This 4-day hands-on short course in March investigated current trends in collecting, and focused on best practices ...
    Posted Apr 28, 2015, 1:02 PM by Katja Seltmann
  • Field To Database Workshop The Field to Database workshop is almost here! The third workshop in a series of biodiversity informatics, Field to Database is being held at the University of Florida, iDigBio from ...
    Posted Feb 26, 2015, 2:48 AM by Katja Seltmann
  • Data Carpentry Workshop: a iDigBio and TTD-TCN Collaboration (This is a reposting from the iDigBio Blog, November 2014)Data Carpentry - Please can we have some more?!iDigBio and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) co-hosted a ...
    Posted Nov 11, 2014, 11:31 AM by Katja Seltmann
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 28. View more »

Partner Institutions:

Many partner institutions are involved in this project:

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Texas A&M
University of California, Davis


Recent Files

  • Symbiota Guidelines   0k - Aug 15, 2014, 1:05 PM by Mari Roberts (v2)
    ‎Data entry manual for the Tri-Trophic Thematic Network Portal.‎
  • Crowdsourcing Guidelines   0k - Aug 15, 2014, 1:03 PM by Mari Roberts (v2)
    ‎Data entry manual for Crowdsourcing Module in the Tri-Trophic Thematic Network Portal.‎
  • NYBG_Imaging_Equipment_Specifications_Nikon_Jun2014.pdf   0k - Jun 20, 2014, 12:28 PM by Kim Watson (v2)
  • Adding and deleting images   0k - Apr 15, 2014, 8:44 AM by Katja Seltmann (v2)
    ‎Introductory video for adding and deleting images.‎
  • Adding and editing host names   0k - Apr 15, 2014, 8:41 AM by Katja Seltmann (v2)
    ‎Introduction to adding and editing host names in Edit and Museum Mode‎
Showing 5 files from page Project Documents.