Collecting Debate

Neil Jones Neil at
Wed Sep 10 15:03:24 EDT 1997

In message <199709051651.MAA22721 at> kriegelr at PILOT.MSU.EDU writes:

First let me say that I approve very much of Bob Kreigel's devotion to
his work on endangered species. However he has demonstrated what I believe
to be a common cultural perception amongst collectors which is not accepted
by people who do not collect. It is a point quite central to the debate.

> I also strongly disagree with Neil Jones statement that encouraging
> collecting encourages the wrong attitude to conservation.  Here in Michigan
> an anti-collecting attitude is clearly hampering conservation efforts for
> Lepidoptera.  Let me illustrate with a real world example involving
> conservationists, collectors, and government.  I am personally involved in
> listed species survey and conservation efforts here in Michigan.  I serve on
> a technical committee that advises the DNR on threatened/endangered species;
> I am  the database manager for the Michigan Lepidoptera Survey (MLS); I have
> a threatened/endangered species collecting permit, and I perform field
> survey work on state listed species.  In short, I am a qualified scientist
> trying to work closely with our Michigan Department of Natural Resources
> (MDNR) on endangered/threatened species issues regarding Lepidoptera.  Some
> would classify these activities as a hobby because I am not employed as an
> entomologist, but rather as a systems analyst in a university Animal Science
> department.  In Michigan 5 lep species are listed as endangered and 15 are
> threatened.  Two of the state endangered species, _Catocala amestris_ and
> _Schinia lucens_, rely on leadplant (a special concern plant) as their
> primary larval host.  Each of these two species is known from a single
> location in Michigan.  Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), MDNR, and
> MLS are working together to restore a small prairie remnant that is the only
> known location for _C. amestris_ in the state.  This cooperative effort
> emerged out of a near disaster when collectors accidently discovered that
> the entire site was about to be burned by a well meaning but uninformed land
> manager.  Over a year ago a wildlife biologist at MNFI encouraged me to
> conduct survey work to find new locations for this underwing moth.
> Interestingly enough, _C. amestris_ was listed as an endangered species less
> than 5 years after it's discovery in the state and no systematic survey work
> was performed on the moth prior to its being listed.  Last winter Mo Nielsen
> and I submitted a grant proposal to the Michigan Natural Heritage small
> grants program to conduct research on these two species.  The proposed
> project involved intensive non-lethal life history studies at the known
> location and extensive survey work using a combination of non-lethal and
> lethal methods at other potential locations throughout the state.  We were
> told that our proposal was not funded because our study involved the use of
> lethal traps.  MDNR disapproved of our proposed strategy of placing a single
> UV trap in a stand of leadplant for a single night in locations where NO
> listed species had ever been recorded.  Upon closer inspection of my 1996
> threatened/endangered species permit I realized that I was only authorized
> to 'voucher' endangered species using non-lethal techniques such as
> capture-release or photography.  In my permit application for 1997 I
> explained in great detail why it was important for voucher specimens to be
> collected (and deposited in a public institution) to document the discovery
> of these species at new locations.  I requested permission to collect 1-2
> voucher specimens of state listed endangered insects from new locations.
> That request was denied.

Here is the flaw in collectors' logic. The deposition of voucher specimens
in collections has traditionally been seen as they way that proof is provided
of its existence at a site. Of course this proves nothing. While I am not
questioning the honesty of anyone currently participating in this debate, 
it is impossible to prove that any particular specimen comes from the site
that it is claimed. It could have been caught anywhere. The same thing 
applies to a photograph. In any recording scheme you rely on the honesty
and accuracy of the recorder. With a well taken photograph, it should be 
possible to establish the identity of the specimen. Of course there are
exceptions to this but they are comparatively few.

Here where I live all the moth recording is done by the "Glamorgan Moth
Recording Group". Almost without exception they are not collectors. Most
of them started out as birdwatchers. As birdwatchers they were never required
to provide a dead bird to confirm their sightings so they do not see the
need to collect moths. There are exceptions where specimens need to be kept
but this is not done for the purpose of forming a collection.

To non-collectors the requirement for a voucher specimen is largely illogical
this is why the permit was not granted.

> Historically, most of our knowledge about non-pest Lepdioptera has come from
> avocational collectors.  This fact is still true today.

Here in the UK most people who do recording are not collectors as far as I am
aware none of the people who contribute to the recording scheme which I 
co-ordinate in my area are collectors.
The same is increasingly the case for moths. There is no reason why this
could not happen in the US.

  In the U.S. state
> and federal agencies simply do not have the staff, or in many cases the
> expertise, to conduct insect surveys themselves.  Hence, they must rely on
> entomologists to conduct distribution and life history work.  But funding
> for this kind of research is very limited, often covering little more than
> transportation and materials.  The bulk of this survey work is done by
> avocational collectors.  I contend that anti-collecting policies create a
> significant barrier between the collectors who produce the information and
> the government that consumes this information for use in conservation and
> regulatory policies.
> Bob Kriegel <kriegelr at>

Neil Jones- Neil at "The beauty and genius of a work of art
may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a
vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last
individual of a race of living things breathes no more another heaven and
another earth must pass before such a one can be again." William Beebe

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