Seeing TIGER for the bees: digitizing apian specimens from Thailand's national parks

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Disjunct resin bee (Megachile disjuncta), Thailand. Photo 2021 Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The seven extant families of bees form one of the worlds' most important groups of insects, and publicly accessible data on their distribution is an invaluable resource for conservation and pollination ecology. However, most records are biased toward specimens collected in North America and Europe, whereas bees from Southeast Asia (SEA) are poorly understood. This project will build on the results of a previous BIFA project that provided GBIF's first dataset of bees in Thailand and Southeast Asia whose records were largely assembled from specimens collected through active sampling.

In the mid-2000s, a Thai-U.S. collaboration operated the TIGER project (Thailand Inventory Group for Entomological Research), a large-scale collection expedition in 24 of the country's national parks. While more than 150 bee specimens were DNA sequenced and the resulting data deposited in BOLD and GBIF, half of the bee specimens from TIGER languished at the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden (QSBG) without being properly processed and curated into the collection. In 2019, the project lead and QSBG initiated an effort to process and inventory these specimens.

This project will sort, identify, georeference and image at least 3,000 bee specimens from the QSBG, assembling data on Thai bees collected in hard-to-access protected areas—and providing an important complement to the previous BIFA-supported dataset and barcoding data in BOLD and GBIF.

Project progress
The project started with attending the Data mobilization workshop in November 2021 and a project team member being awarded an advance badge.

By midterm reporting and after two visits to the QSBG in Chiang Mai to obtain bee specimens from the depository at the botanical garden, the project has published its first dataset for which the transcription of the label data is completed for 1,687 specimens (89 species). In addition to this, it has completed the photographing of 401 specimens, making a total number of 1,597+ images that are currently published in its dataset on GBIF. Georeferencing data are completed and validated for 1,687 specimens.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, project implementation has been slightly delayed; however, the project has met regularly to monitor progress and has been able to adapt to compensate for time lost and to maintain work.

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Duration
1 November 2021 - 31 October 2022
Project identifier
BIFA6_009
Partners
Contact details

Natapot Warrit
Chulalongkorn University, Department of Biology
254 Phayathai Road, Wang Mai, Pathum Wan District
10330 Bangkok
Thailand