Our current resurvey project utilizes the recently curated and databased Alexander Grasshopper collection coupled with a new resurvey program to measure the effects of climate change on regional insects. The Alexander collection is composed of over 24,000 pinned and labeled grasshoppers collected during the 1930's to the 1960's from the Rocky Mountain and plains regions of Colorado. Approximately 14,000 of these grasshoppers that make up the Alexander Collection are voucher specimens from a three year (1958 - 1960) survey project.
Because of the quality of Alexander’s specimen data, field survey notebooks and associated weather station data, our current resurvey project focuses on determining the effects of a changing climate on the 1) phenology (timing of life history events), 2) altitudinal ranges and 3) morphological characteristics of regional grasshoppers, a well studied and economically important group of organisms. A unique contribution of this project is its ability to utilize data from specimens collected 50 years ago, coupled with specimens from our resurvey to determine which life history characteristics may make certain grasshopper (or other insect) species more likely to respond to climate change. Our initial five year resurvey project is supported by an ecology grant from the National Science Foundation grant (#0718112).
In addition to addressing climate change questions, this project will develop and implement new bioinformatics tools that will allow internet users access to the original collections data, the new resurvey data and weather station data in ways that will allow them to understand the magnitude of the climate change and the effects of climate change on species diversity and phenology. Furthermore, in collaboration with ecology instructors at the University of Colorado, the data will be used to develop laboratory exercises that will allow students to learn about regional climate change, its effects on organisms and their phenology, and the basics of how to quantify diversity.