Museum projects

Introduction

To study tropical biodiversity it isn’t necessary to travel far. A long account of field surveys, expeditions and research resulted in extensive natural history collections worldwide. A lot of these samples were collected a long time ago and information is not readily accessible. Often, deposited specimens were never examined and many of these collections house species new to science. As part of BINCO’s mission to study biodiversity and make data available, we collaborate with museums and institutes to help fill this gap. A compartmentalized approach is taken where small and well identified blocks of the collection are studied, specimens digitized and data made available in databases. The subject of study is decided in collaboration with the institutes and is often in support of ongoing research and field work. Over the years BINCO developed a cheap and reliable approach to rapidly make this information available. 

These projects are only possible due to the dedication and enthusiasm of our volunteers. Are you interested in working with us on our digitization project? Don’t hesitate to send a message to the project coordinators.

In collaboration with these museums

Ongoing projects


Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)  2018–…

 Martijn Van Roie, Lukáš Sekerka, Wouter Dekoninck, Jonas Merckx

This project is ongoing, more information will be added once available.

While most of the specimen in the RBINS are deposited in the collections, additional unsorted material from expeditions is available in supplementary collections. The RBINS contains a large quantity of unidentified leaf beetles in the supplementary collections, possibly with some species new to science.  For this project we look through parts of the supplementary collections for tortoise beetles (Cassidinae), a subfamily of leaf beetles. Specimens will be identified with Lukas Sekerka, an expert on this subfamily, and incorporated in the collections. This study will generate additional information on the distribution of tortoise beetles and will make this part of the collection accessible to third parties.

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)  2019–…

 Martijn Van Roie, Camille Locatelli, Willem-Jan Emsens, Babette Muyshondt, Wouter Dekoninck

This project is ongoing, more information will be added once available.

A type specimen is the reference voucher for a species. Type material plays a crucial role in the identifications of species and description of new species. Many species were described a long time ago and the location of type specimens is not always clear. The RBINS collections house hundreds of type specimens of leaf beetles, but a clear overview is lacking. In this project we will catalogue, validate and photograph the leaf beetles type material in the RBINS collections. This overview will be an important contribution to the study of this fascinating group.

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)  2019–…

 João Dealmeida, Stefan Kerkhof, Wouter Dekoninck, Martijn Van Roie

This project is ongoing, more information will be added once available.

A type specimen is the reference voucher for a species. Type material plays a crucial role in the identification of species and description of new species. Many species were described a long time ago and the whereabouts of the type specimen is not always clear. In this project, we catalogued the types of the moth family Noctuidae from the Fastré collection in the RBINS. A published overview like this will help experts access the information in this collection.

Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA)  2019–…

 João Dealmeida, Jan Mertens, Merlijn Jocqué, Martijn Van Roie, Didier Van den Spiegel, Marc De Meyer, Stéphane Hanot

This project is ongoing, more information will be added once available.

In 2019, BINCO collected Sphingidae and Saturniidae from central Madagascar. In preparation for the identification of the species collected on this expedition, we conducted a digitisation project in the RMCA. We catalogued and photographed all specimens in these families from Madagascar in the collections. The collected information will be included in a small publication to increase the general knowledge about the diversity and distribution of these moth families in Madagascar.

Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA)  2020–…

 Koen Martens, Lore Geeraert, Merlijn Jocqué, Martijn Van Roie, Jan Mertens, Didier Van den Spiegel, Marc De Meyer

This project is ongoing, more information will be added once available.

A type specimen is the reference voucher for a species. Type material plays a crucial role in the identification of species and description of new species. Many species were described a long time ago and the whereabouts location of the type specimens is not always clear. In this project, we digitised the type species of the carabid subfamilies Galeritininae, Dryptinae and Zuphinae present in the Basilewsky collection at the RMCA. This is the first step towards a complete photographic overview of the ground beetle types in the museum.

Finalised projects


Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)  2016–2017

 Martijn Van Roie, Jan Mertens, Jonas Merckx, Wouter Dekoninck

Mertens J.E.J., Van Roie M., Merckx J. & Dekoninck W. 2017. The use of low cost compact cameras with focus stacking functionality in entomological digitization projects. Zookeys 712: 141–154.

A method for digitization was developed to meet two main requirements: low cost and quick processing. These aims were met by using a compact camera with focus stacking functionality in combination with a simple light box. We compared our method to that of the professional RBINS digitization setup by testing photo quality, cost and processing time. Results showed our method is a good alternative to the expensive museum setup and achieved similar results, although important specimens such as type specimens would still benefit from being photographed with a professional setup. At the moment, two of our camera setups are operational in the RBINS.

The results were presented at a symposium organized by the Belgian Entomological Society in November 2017. The presentation slides are available here.

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)  2017–2018

 Martijn Van Roie, Jonas Merckx, Jesús Gomèz-Zurita, Wouter Dekoninck

Merckx J., Van Roie M., Gomèz-Zurita J. & Dekoninck W. 2018From theory to practice: using a photographic inventory of museum collections to facilitate species identificationsBiodiversity Informatics 13: 38–48.

A pilot study was set up to test our digitization method by digitizing one specific genus: Calligrapha (Coleoptera – Chrysomelidae). Most species within this genus can be identified by the markings on their elytra, which made it possible for Dr. Gomèz-Zurita to identify all specimens based on photographic material alone. This allowed for more efficient and correct sorting of the museum specimens and showed how our method could also improve collaboration with experts abroad by reducing costs and the ability to plan taxonomic research more.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH)  2012–2013

 Merlijn Jocqué, Maarten Vanhove, Thomas Creedy, Oliver Burdekin, Jose Nuñez-Miño, Jeroen Casteels

 Jocqué M., Vanhove M., Creedy T., Burdekin O., Nuñez-Miño J. & Casteels C. 2013. Jewel scarabs (Chrysina sp.) in Honduras: Key species for cloud forest conservation monitoring? Journal of Insect Science 13, art.nr. 21.

Jewel scarabs (Chrysina) are wonderfully coloured large beetles living in the canopy of central America. Habitat destruction and a high demand from beetle collectors worldwide are major drivers endangering their survival. In this museum project, we studied a collection of Chrysina from Cusuco National Park in Honduras. Species were plotted again an elevational gradient and an identification key was assembled. An as yet undescribed species was discovered.

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)  2018–2019

 Frederik De Wint, Ayse Gungor, Charlotte Huyghe, Martijn Van Roie, Wouter Dekoninck, Lukáš Sekerka

Van Roie M., De Wint F., Güngor A., Huyghe C., Dekoninck W. & Sekerka L. 2019An annotated checklist of the leaf beetles (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae) from El Salvador, with additions from the Bechyné collection in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. ZooKeys 856: 137-196.

The RBINS collection includes leaf beetle specimens from El Salvador which were identified by J. Bechyné. As an expert in entomology, Bechyné studied numerous (Neotropical) Chrysomelidae between 1942 and 1978. This valuable reference collection will help compile a preliminary checklist of El Salvador’s Chrysomelidae, a poorly known species group in the region.