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 Many biologists believe we are in the early days of a major biodiversity crisis, and that an enormous number of species will soon become extinct. The Global Biodiversity Assessment recognizes a possible 1.8 million described species out of a projected 14 million worldwide. This illustrates the fact that basic questions of identity and naming remain, not to mention researching their biology.
 
Before effective conservation measures can be implemented, more information is required on species numbers, identification, life history, ecology, demographics, genetics and phylogeny. Species names and unambiguous means of identification are required for people working in agriculture, conservation, ecology, environmental assessment, molecular biology, law, and public policy. Now that society is becoming aware of the impacts of habitat destruction, global climate change, and overpopulation, the assessment and conservation of biodiversity is more important than ever.
 
We recently completed a five-year study of the leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) of Kentucky. An examination of specimens in the largest beetle collections in Kentucky, collecting in state nature preserves and other protected areas, and review of the literature revealed 283 species and 132 of these were new state records for Kentucky. This serves to illustrate how little is known about the biodiversity around us, even in the continental United States.
 
The leaf beetles genus Pachybrachis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cryptocephalinae) is a large genus with 160 species recognized in the United States. A long-term study is underway to review and re-identify every specimen ever collected east of the Mississippi River to determine spatial, temporal, biogeographical, phylogenetic, and ecological relationships of this large and diverse genus of relatively common to rare, relict species. This work entails site visits and/or loan of specimens from all major insect collections and museums, both public and private.
 


 
For more information, please contact:
 

Robert J. Barney, Ph.D. (Bio)
 rbarney@wvstateu.edu 
(304) 204-4318

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