Hello internet! My name is Åsta Dimmen Mong a post-bachelor student in Biology by University of Bergen and a self-certified hobby entomologist.
This semester I participated in the subject BIO299 and a part of the deal is that you create a blog post so here it is.
Before i continue the saga of BIO299 I want to give a huge thank you to my supervisor for being so patient with me through my (many) ups and downs throughout this semester. Not only has he been an excellent teacher but also a good friend during this project.
Now here we go.
October 2020: I sought out Bjørn Arild Hatteland specifically because of his interest and knowledge on beetles. I was presented the opportunity to join the search for more information about Carabus clathratus a rare species presumed extinct in Norway, basically a treasure hunt. Meanwhile looking for this beetle we decided to use the opportunity to study the biodiversity of carabids.
This C.clathratus species is a spring breeder and is therefore the most active in the periods of late spring/early summer, so the project started there. We used pitfall traps as our collection method, a little construction of a 250mL cup, some saturated salt water and a metal roof. These cups were placed in 4 different locations in 10×3 series, making a total of 120 traps. Our locations of choice were based on the preffered habitat of the C.clathratus species and where it had previouslye been recorded. Therefore, our destinations were salt marshes at Torvastad and Syre at Karmøy, and Sola and Brusand at North-and South Jæren in good ol’ Rogaland.
A huge part of field work and perhaps especially in the entomology department, is that not everything goes as planned. As seen in the pictures down below, the vegetation changes a lot in just a month, which means the treasure hunt extended beyond finding cool beetles, we now had to search for the traps as well. In some locations, some traps were gone, perhaps taken by crows thinking it was a treasure with a meal inside or people thinking it was trash. Who knows? not us. At first glance when we collected the traps, we thought that here were way too little specimens, so we put out another set of traps. Turns out we had enough exciting work on our hands from the first round.
To the left, you see pictures from the same location, approximately one month apart.
After we collected all the traps, we brought them to the biodiversity lab at UiB, and it was sorting time. These pitfall traps collect a lot more than carabids so this is a quite time consuming task. Through the hundreds of spiders, toads, mice and snail snot, there they were: the pretty black and shiny carabids.
Remember how I said the sorting was a time-consuming task? Yes, a little too time consuming, resulting in the first Torvastad batch turning into beetle soup. We’re talking rotting corpse smelling soup. Hence the mask in the photo to the right.
Spoiler: it did not help.
Fall term: 2021
Throughout summer and this semester the trasure hunt continued, this time under the magnifying glass. I had the joy of identify roughly around 512 carabids, at least for the ones we used for the project. We had collected 21 different species but alas, no Carabus clathratus. But you can still enjoy some photos of some VERY pretty ones, Loricera pilicornis, Carabus granulatus and Bembidion doris, respectively down below.
I could of corse write a long blog post about what salt marshes are, the statistics and so on, but thats what the main thesis is for.
If you ever consider applying for the BIO299 subject and by any chance have an interest in entomology or snails (yes snails, this man is full of surprises), I highly recommend you ask Bjørn Arild if he has any projects available. It will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it. Not only has my love for beetles grown even larger, but I’ve also acquired some great experience! I have also consumed immense amounts of coffee, “ballerina kjeks” and bolla:)) We also had some really cool road trips where I slept in the backseat 90% of the time, 10/10 would recommend.
I still recommend taking this subject whatever your interests are, it will be worth it.