The 2012 Australian Entomological Society Conference

25 - 28 November 2012

Hobart, Tasmania

Symposia 2012

Bush Blitz Synergies: Surveys supporting management of the National Reserve System (Dr David Yeates, Dr Catherine Byrne)

Blitzing the other 99%

Bush Blitz is Australia’s largest nature discovery project – a three-year multimillion dollar partnership to document the plants and animals in hundreds of properties across Australia’s National Reserve System (NRS).

Since the program began in 2010 Bush Blitz has discovered about 600 new and undescribed species and has added thousands of species to what is already known – providing baseline scientific data that will help us protect our biodiversity for generations to come. This symposium will address the benefits to taxonomic and phylogenetic research on insects and spiders that the Bush Blitz program has delivered.  As a broader outcome, the symposium will also address how the Bush Blitz program can increase our understanding of biodiversity contained within the NRS.

Progress in Australasian Arachnid and Myriapod Systematics in the 21st Century (Dr Michael Rix)

Recent developments in evolutionary biology, molecular phylogenetics, digital microscopy, imaging and GIS technologies have had a profound influence on systematic biology. Approaches to taxonomy, phylogenetics and biogeography are all evolving rapidly, as methods of analysis are developed or refined to keep pace with rapidly changing methods of data generation. Recent research into the Australasian arachnid and myriapod faunas highlights many of these developments. The process of species discovery and description continues unabated, and phylogenetic studies are providing fascinating insights into the evolutionary and biogeographic history of the region. In at least some parts of Australia, whole new arachnid faunas are being discovered and gradually described, while a growing population, economy and burgeoning resources sector provide a suite of new challenges to the protection and documentation of biodiversity.

This symposium – to be held over 30 years since the Australasian Arachnological Society was founded (see – aims to highlight recent systematic research into Australasian arachnids and myriapods, covering both research progress and prospects. Papers will broadly cover aspects of taxonomy, phylogenetics, genetics and biogeography, across a range of arachnid and myriapod taxa from Australasia.

Fruit fly management and threats (Dr Olivia Reynolds)

Fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) are probably Australia’s most significant horticultural pests, causing barriers to trade both domestically and internationally. The adults oviposit into mature ripe fruit and the developing larvae feed on the flesh of the fruit rendering it unmarketable. There are several species of major biosecurity concern, both present in Australia, in neighbouring countries or in those countries with which we conduct trade. These include perhaps our most significant horticultural pest, the Queensland fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni (Froggatt) present in south-eastern parts of Australia and the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) which is only present in the west.

This symposium will explore the science and research behind the management of these pests. Topics will explore the physiology, behaviour and ecology of flies, population structuring and dynamics, biogeography, bacterial symbionts and other supplements to increase the performance of flies in culture and as part of the sterile insect technique, effects of host plants on trap catches, novel post-harvest disinfestation technologies and alternatives, nutritional quality of treated fruit and quarantine distances for market access.

Digitisation and biodiversity informatics initiatives in invertebrate collection (Dr Beth Mantle)

Natural history collections are important libraries of data for the presence and distribution of both historical and present-day flora and fauna. Of the potential three billion specimens available in collections worldwide, only a small fraction have been digitised; approximately 50 million specimen records according to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (of which Australia is a contributing member). Entomology collections are particularly challenging: insects are generally mounted on pins with very small labels attached beneath the specimen. To access the data, the specimens must be handled, the label removed from the pin and the associated data decoded and entered into a database, which places the specimen at risk of damage through handling. Furthermore, entomology collections are large and contain significantly greater numbers of individual specimens than other zoological collections, of which up to 70% may be unknown to science.

This symposia will explore emerging technologies being used to improve digitisation of entomology collections. Presentations will include imaging of specimens and collection drawers, methods for capture and delivery of biodiversity informatics data, use cases of invertebrate  primary biodiversity data in research, the unique challenges facing invertebrate collections regarding digitising collections, and showcases from the Atlas of Living Australia.

Signalling in insects and spiders: conflict and cooperation (Prof. Mark Elgar and Dr Andrew Barron )

Signals are cues that have been acted on by natural selection to communicate information between two entities, and arthropods exploit a stunning array of stimuli across diverse sensory modalities as signals.  Many of these signals occur in modalities inaccessible to human senses.  Investigations of arthropod signalling and communication have typically fallen into two distinct silos.  Proximate analyses of how signals function have revealed a great deal about species’ perception, ecology and cognition. Meanwhile a framework for considering signal evolution, inspired to a large degree by honest signalling theory, has developed largely in parallel to these mechanistic studies.  This has emphasised that most signals operate in a situation of evolutionary tension resulting from divergent fitness outcomes for signaller and receiver.  For example, for a signal operating in a predator prey interaction the evolutionary forces acting on a signal are completely different for the predator as for the prey.  Even for a signal acting in sexual or social interactions it is unlikely the fitness outcomes for signaller and receiver are completely aligned.  However, fully understanding signal evolution demands a synthesis of both these perspectives. The nature of the signal, how it is produced and how it is perceived can constrain the evolution of the communication system, whereas the ultimate evolutionary function of a signal for signaller and receiver can constrain how the signal operates.  Our aim in this symposium is to use the rich diversity of arthropod signalling systems to explore a synthesis of proximate and ultimate investigations of signal function.

Urban Ecology (including mosquitoes)
(Phil Weinstein and Cassie Jansen)

In 2007, the global proportion of urban population passed 50%, up from about 10% one hundred years ago.  Urban ecology has therefore emerged as a major new discipline, loosely definable as the interaction between organisms (including people) in urban environments. The discipline is arguably of greatest importance in the most urbanised nations – of which Australia is one of the world leaders at 89%.  Such a high concentration of humans, and the resources that they consume, has dramatic implications for biodiversity conservation and the ecosystem services upon which human health is dependant. In particular, the emergence of urban pests, including mosquitoes, creates unwelcome disease risks and nuisances.

Urban communities can support a rich and diverse fauna, but not all arthropods are welcome, particularly mosquitoes. An ecological approach is necessary when attempting to understand the factors that make some species successful in urban environments while other perish. As urbanisation increases, so too does the demand for measures to preserve urban biodiversity and decrease risk posed by urban pests.

This symposium highlights the value of an ecological approach to understanding insects in urban environments, both from a conservation perspective and from a public health perspective – and we have deliberately mixed these themes to emphasise their links: the Symposium unites diverse entomological subjects in a shared urban ecology framework.  Presentations will showcase the breadth of interactions occurring in human modified urban environments, and includes discussion of invasive urban mosquitoes, biodiversity consequences of urban habitats, and insect adaptations to urban stressors. Of particular interest is the unique interface between urban and non-urban sites as urbanisation encroaches on natural systems.

We are privileged to introduce Urban Ecology as theme to the Australian Entomological Society Scientific Conference, and anticipate that it will spawn many new research ideas and collaborations.