Knowing your study organism(s) is one of the most important things for an ecologist as it can lead to amazing insights and future ideas about how the natural world works. For me, those study organisms are the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). With help from collaborators and friends, we have started to publish exciting, but relatively small, publications on new distributional records and checklists of ants from mostly southern Oklahoma. And to date this has led to new latitudinal, state, and county records at the species, genus, and subfamily level. We have a couple more of these projects in the works, but looking forward I can’t help but think we could go bigger. So what do I have in mind?
The Ants of Oklahoma project!
I have been thinking about this idea since I attended the Oklahoma Biodiversity Network and I believe it is time to move forward. The goal of this project will be to:
(1) Organize what we know already about ant distributions across Oklahoma from literature sources, museum collections, and online digital repositories.
(2) Create a database of distributional information that will be available to the public directly from the Ants of Oklahoma tab on this webpage.
(3) Encourage citizen scientists to partake by sending specimens for identification (more on this later as it will also require some additional locality information).
(4) Create a map that will be updated with each new submission to identify key areas for targeted biodiversity surveys that have low or no previous ant records such as Cimmaron, Marshall, and Stephens County.
(5) Publish a comprehensive list of the ants of Oklahoma, open access for all to view.
This should be a great starting point for a new project and I hope many will partake. In order to get the word out, I have been thinking about giving a quick 5 minute talk at the next Oklahoma Biodiversity Network about this project. When more is finalized, I will be posting about it on social media sites like twitter and facebook to garner interest. Please contact me if you are interested!