“We’re finding species in parts of Alberta where we didn’t expect them to be— and previously undiscovered species, as well—just by the nature of looking, and collecting. The act of archiving and building reference collections, which we do here at the Royal Alberta Museum, is really important because it drives our future research.” -- Dr. Tyler Cobb, Director, ABMI Processing Centre & Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Royal Alberta Museum
Monitoring Alberta's Diversity
Alberta’s geographic diversity—from the boreal forests in the north through to the grasslands in the south—supports an estimated 80,000 species. The vast majority of these have not been well studied and some remain completely undiscovered.
The work of ABMI monitoring crews—collecting samples and information for a wide range of species of plants and animals from across the province—helps to address this knowledge gap. To understand, and sometimes even put a name to these samples, however, the samples are delivered to the ABMI Processing Centre located at the Royal Alberta Museum to be classified and identified.
Since 2007, ABMI taxonomists and technicians have processed over 480,000 specimens, including lichen, bryophyte (moss and liverworts), aquatic invertebrates and mite samples. Many of the identified species represent new scientific records for the province and occasionally new records for Canada. The work has even led to the discovery and description of species new to science. In 2013, six new mite species were described, including Oribatella abmi.
Taxonomy at the ABMI
In addition to processing field-collected samples (specimen and sample tracking, sorting & processing), the dedicated team at the Processing Centre also:
- Curate specimens
- Build taxonomic tools such as specimen reference collections and keys
- Develop taxonomic expertise and train new taxonomists
- Generate the ABMI’s species-level datasets
ABMI scientists use the detailed species-level dataset generated by the Processing Centre to determine relationships between human land use, habitat, and species abundance, and to calculate the ABMI’s Biodiversity Intactness Index.
The ABMI specimen reference collections are curated as part of the Royal Alberta Museum’s provincial natural history collection, which is intended to be available in perpetuity. This collection is extremely valuable for both current and future researchers and is a catalogue of the province’s vast, natural heritage for all Albertans.
More questions? Feel free to contact:
Dr. Tyler Cobb
Director, ABMI Processing Centre
Curator of Invertebrate Zoology & Head of Life Sciences, Royal Alberta Museum