Research


Derek S. Sikes

Curator of Insects
Assistant Professor of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960
USA

email: ffdss 'at' uaf.edu


Systematics, ecology and conservation biology of Coleoptera. Insect inventory and monitoring

I am a systematic entomologist specializing on beetles (Order Coleoptera). I work in both sub-disciplines of Systematics: alpha-Taxonomy and Phylogenetics. I employ morphological data for both descriptive (identification) purposes and to test hypotheses of relationships. DNA sequence data are used primarily for phylogenetic inference but also to test hypotheses of species demarcations (a primary goal of alpha-taxonomy). I analyze these morphological and molecular data separately and combined, most recently within a Bayesian / likelihood framework. These efforts aim to produce monographic revisions which answer, at the very minimum, the following questions: How many species are there in this taxon? What are their correct names? How many do not yet have names? How can all these species best be distinguished? Where do they occur? How are they related to one another? At what point in evolutionary time did the group arise? Surprisingly, these seemingly basic questions have not been answered for most of the taxa on our planet!

Additional, more complex questions inevitably arise during my investigations. Such as: is this morphological trait correlated with a certain habitat or climate type? Do different sources of data yield the same or conflicting results? And if conflicting, why? Is endangerment associated with a certain group of close relatives on the phylogeny?

I also have a interest in non-marine arthropod faunas: Which species are here? Are any species declining? or invading? Is there a historical record, and if so, can that be used to infer ecological change? I've done a reasonable job of answering these questions for the beetles of the state of Rhode Island. A number of excellent survey opportunities exist to document the entomofauna of Alaska - perhaps the most poorly known fauna of the US.

The modernization of taxonomy is another interest of mine. This involves making taxonomic information more efficiently manageable and available to users via digitization. I have created various webpages to disseminate my own and others' systematics findings. Although the sub-discipline of phylogenetics has experienced rapid growth over the last quarter century, its sister discipline, alpha-taxonomy, has unfortunately been in decline.

It should be evident, however, that without this sort of basic information provided by systematic revisionary work no biological investigation can proceed - without the name(s) of the study organism(s), or some means to relocate & identify it/them - the results of any such biological study would be irreproducible. As Linnaeus himself said: "Nomina si nescis, periit cognito rerum" [If you don't know the names, the knowledge of things is lost]


See my Curriculum Vitae for list of publications, presentations, etc.