The Manchester Museum holds a fantastically diverse collection of insects, with over 2.5 million specimens deposited, which represent an important scientific resource for taxonomic, biodiversity and conservation studies. One of such academic studies is now being undertaken by Ms Roisin Stanbrook, a postgraduate student reading for a MSc. in Conservation Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is lucky enough to be travelling to Tanzania this summer (2013) to conduct research for her final project. Her dissertation investigates the use dung beetles (Scarabaeinae) as bioindicators of habitat disturbance in African savannah ecosystems. Habitat fragmentation, hunting, logging and other changes in vegetation usually cause a reduction in species richness, abundance and biomass when compared to undisturbed habitat. Roisin’s study will measure each of these variables to ascertain which type of ecosystem: disturbed pasture, upland secondary forest and pristine primary forest contains the greatest abundance and dung beetle species richness. Many invertebrate groups, especially dung beetles are used as focal taxa in disturbance studies because of their abundance, habitat specialization and response to small-scale habitat heterogeneity. In fact, such is the adeptness of dung beetles, previous studies have demonstrated that composition changes distinctly across habitat types and a complete species turnover have been observed in as little as 100m! In addition, many dung beetle species show a graded response to various kinds of disturbance. Therefore, measuring dung beetle response to human activity can help us assess the functional consequences of human disturbance and aid implementation of appropriate conservation policies to combat habitat and species loss. By studying the extensive dung beetle collection held at the Museum Roisin is able to gain valuable ‘eyes on’ experience before she begins her research and becomes acquainted with her favourite beetles up close!
Any researcher is most welcome to come over to the Manchester Museum and to work with what we think is the best entomological collection in North-West.