Pros and cons of specimen collecting

There’s no need to call anyone a killer.

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Yes, all those evil warblers.They just kill kill kill all day long. No wonder insects have died out.

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Yes! I saw a post on Facebook recently about how we used to have to wash our windshields whenever we drove anywhere at night, but not anymore. The change happened so gradually I never realized it. :pensive:

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I, similarly, took an entomology class many years ago and learned many a thing about insect pinning. Years later, I typically avoid killing anything (even the invertebrates) intentionally. Maybe I’m just a hippie at heart.

This definitely limits me on some identifications, but I think it is worth it to give all creatures (minus the invasives) the best chance I can. Sure, I may be only putting a tiny dent in an insect population, but I personally think insects are putting up enough of a fight when it comes to human activities. I place no judgment on those who collect and further our knowledge of the insect world, but I think it should be done as mindfully as possible.

Note:
-I also rarely handle sensitive animals like amphibians.
-I talk to animals that I meet.
-I might be a little bit strange. :)

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I talk to the animals I meet too! And I am strange.

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oh hey a little off topic so i will leave it at this but have you showed your autistic friend iNat? [There are a lot of us on here! (https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/neurodiversity-and-inaturalist/17268) :)

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on iNat you would probably be regarded as strange … if you didn’t, talk to the animals ;~))

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@dianastuder @mamestraconfigurata I’m soooo thrilled to be in good company! <3

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A number of years ago, I wrote an article summarizing why it’s sometimes important to collect insect specimens. It’s a bit dated now, but mostly still pretty relevant. You can find it here: http://www.albertalepguild.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Why_we_kill_bugs.pdf
If people choose not to collect that’s certainly their prerogative. But if you want to contribute data points of poorly known species, there are many good reasons to take that specimen.

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You misunderstand me. Mainly, I was trying to counter the thinking that we have the right to kill things even if they have a central nervous system. Nonviolence toward other taxa has to start somewhere, and I choose to start with the most easily defensible.

The paradox is that the notion of plants being ethically equivalent to animals was promoted mainly by anti-vegetarians who have few qualms about killing either plants or animals.

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while i am not certain i think this belief has been around in many indigenous groups for thousands of years

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And I suspect those indigenous groups have few qualms about killing either plants or animals, if they are hunter-gatherers. Perform the right ceremony to honor its spirit, and killing it becomes okay.

i don’t think this conversation is going down a path that is going to lead anywhere good so i am not going to respond further to that.

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Another reason to collect specimens that I haven’t seen in this thread (unless I missed it), specimens are the gold standard for documentation. Taxonomy changes, identification errors, or other issues can be addressed if specimens exist. There have been ecological and behavioral studies that lost value when the identity of the subjects fell into question. My professors always recommended depositing a few voucher specimens in a museum.

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Good point. Yes, there have been ecological and behavioral studies in which having preserved voucher specimens allowed positive ID of the subject organisms, or allowed correction of the organism IDs that were used in the study but that were misIDed at the time (and sometimes, unfortunately, in a publication).

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Here is an article on collecting Lepidoptera digitally and physically. iNaturalist is cited as a source for scientists.
https://next.massivesci.com/notes/insect-specimens-database-community-science?__s=n5zfgy1wygsb8z2jtcoo&utm_source=drip&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Save+the+Butterflies+(08-10-21%2C+Dan)+(Weekend+Reads)&utm_content=Saving+the+butterflies+🦋

This is such a delicate and sensitive issue! I’m actually against amateur collecting for a whole load of reasons, some of which have been said here already, but rather than try and explain my own personal conviction, I would like to recount an episode that happened to me a few years ago when I contributed photos regularly to a specialist entomological identification forum in internet where the vast majority of contributors were collectors. To my surprise, one day I received a mail from a professional entomologist, a taxonomist, who thanked me for having, through my photos, reminded him that the insects he examined day after day through a microscope were not just “specimens” but living creatures with their own unique part to play in the ecology of the world we live in. And how much more fascinating is that role than the mere name we have decided to label that particular creature with… a name that may well change who knows how many times as we decide it is more/less like other creatures named with other labels, especially at a time when the very concept of species is being reconsidered in the light of ever-new discoveries at genetic level.
Don’t get me wrong, I can spend days fretting over an ID, I imagine like most of us, that’s one of the main reasons I joined iNat. But as with all things, I believe moderation is the key and if you have to kill something to find out what label us humans have given it today (but maybe not tomorrow), then to me it simply seems like going unnecessarily far. Unless of course you’re a professional entomologist and knowing as much as possible about that specimen could really help preserve others of its kind or the ecological web with which it interacts. But that’s quite another story.

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Mistyped. Will get back to it later

Sorry about that. Had to go for a bus.

I think Lynkos is suggesting collecting is only acceptable if the specimens are put to good use, which is a reasonable point, but amateur/professional is the wrong dichotomy to reflect this. Many taxonomic experts are amateurs. The much missed Michael Ackland was a world authority on the fly family Anthomyiidae but earned his living from theatre. Several of the current leading British entomologists are not paid to be entomologists. I think D.J. Scourfield, an early authority on microcrustacea, worked at the Royal Mint. And Michinomiya Hirohito was an enthusiastic amateur student of Hydrozoa. It is a shame nobody found him a job in a museum to occupy him.

Also, experts are not experts from birth. If beginners are discouraged from taking specimens, how are they to develop expertise in their chosen branch of natural history? OK, I know that doesn’t apply to ornithologists or primatologists. But if budding entomologists are restricted to species that can be recognised from field photos, they are never going to learn how to tackle the more difficult stuff that needs comparison with reference specimens or dissection.

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There is also a practical side to personal collections. Entomologists, perhaps moreso than other zoologists, are able to keep a personal collection in their home because it does not require a lot of storage space or maintenance. (I don’t know of anyone maintaining a personal collection of vertebrates, which require a lot more space and care.) I know of a number of Odonata students who have personal collections which they use for reference when making difficult IDs on photos or other specimens. Not all are professional entomologists but all are experts or at least have substantial expertise in these organisms. In most cases, their personal collections eventually will go to an institution, such as a university research museum. Personal collections are perhaps more vulnerable as they are more likely to be lost/destroyed than an institutional collection.

Not sure about personal botanical collections … I have a small one myself I’ve added to over the years, although the specimens are not on standard herbarium sheets which require a lot more storage space.

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