The project officially started on 1 June 2004 and ended on 31 May 2007. Installation of the entomological infrastructure was a monumental task because the institution previously had no entomological facilities and only one member of staff with an entomological background. All of the original objectives of the project were fully achieved within the estimated timeframe and budget.
The project started rather shakily because it was introducing an infrastructure completely new to Thailand, and so firm programme could not be established at the outset. Early logistical teething problems were resolved and the Director of QSBG gave additional support involving infrastructure and staff. The project was particularly strengthened by the Director’s appointment of a scientific adviser to the project, a senior scientist (with a doctorate in Entomology) from the Department of Forestry. This provided the project with a direct link to CBD activities at ministerial level and academic institutions carrying out entomological and conservation research in Thailand. During the second year, the project was incorporated into the Research Division of QSBG headed by Dr Suyanee Vessabutr.
A suite of seven rooms in a new laboratory block was made available for the Darwin project. The suite includes offices for the QSBG entomologist, technical assistants and two local scientists paid by the project, a laboratory, insect rearing rooms and a meeting room. The image analysis system was installed in one of the offices because access to this delicate equipment needed to be restricted. Fifteen insect storage cabinets were provided by QSBG and and additional forty will son be purchased. Part of a large air-conditioned and humidity controlled room was set aside for insect storage cabinets, which will be transferred to the museum in future years.
During the first two years of the project, two local biologists were recruited, one specialised in culicid taxonomy and overseeing the scientific coordination of the project, and the other specialising in field collections, rearing and curation of culicids and simuliids. Following the retirement of the culicid specialist in the second year, a postdoctoral entomologist was appointed to manage the project and provide expertise in simuliid taxonomy. The QSBG entomologist, who is in charge of the imaging facility, initiated work on fireflies in the third year. Three part-time assistants were provided by QSBG: a postgraduate student working on simuliids and later on fireflies, a technician working on mosquitoes and an IT technician on data basing. Additionally, an MSc student from Chiangmai University was attached to the project and completed for his research on simuliids before the end of the project. Field collections of mosquitoes and blackflies in DINP were completed. A total of 366 localities were sampled for Culicidae and 246 localities for Simuliidae. One hundred and twenty-six species of mosquitoes and 41 species of blackflies were identified. All of the habitats in relation to underlying geology and vegetation (see IKONOS image below) were sampled and seasonal variation data were collected. Curation of the specimens was completed.
Collections of insects, with emphasis on Diptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Collembola and Protura, were made within the grounds of the QSBG during the last year of the project that started in June 2006. Mr Howard Mendel (Head of Collections, NHM) provided advice on collections development at QSBG during a NHM/Cambridge University collections visit to north-western Thailand. Mr Martin Brendell (retired Head of Coleoptera Collections, NHM) made two consultancy visits to train QSBG and Darwin staff in collection and curation methods required for the expansion of the project. The QSBG entomologist began his research on firefly biology and recorded the presence of five species, two of which are new to science. In addition to the team from the second year of the project, three MSc students from Chiangmai University were funded for field studies on saturniid moths, Collembola and Protura as part of their MSc theses. A graduate from the university was recruited to populate the insect database and produce labels for the insects. Three specialists on Coleoptera and Lepidoptera also provided expertise for the identification of specimens that could not be identified by the Darwin team, and thus augmented the development of the insect collection at QSBG. During the year the Darwin Project Manager took up a permanent appointment as a lecturer in fresh water biology at Kasetsart University in Bangkok and was replaced by the MSc graduate employed by the project for simuliid research. Our field biologist also took up an appointment with a local NGO. During the last six months of the project our Scientific Adviser, Dr Hutacharern, provided the essential logistical framework for a link between the infrastructure established by the Darwin Initiative and a major new project funded by the National Science Foundation (USA) entitled “Thailand Insect Group for Entomological Research” (TIGER). This three-year project aims to provide distribution lists of insect species collected in 30 National Parks to assist in the future conservation of those species that are endangered. A database for both the Darwin and TIGER projects has been established by Dr Robert Cunningham of the Department of Agriculture and Food in Australia. To date the National Reference Collection contains 25,000 specimens of which 50% have been identified to at least the level of genus, and 8,000 entries have been made to the database. In October 2007, construction will begin on a new insect museum in which the National Reference Collection will be housed, and funding will be made available to recruit a research entomologist to work in conjunction with a Collections Curator.
This photo montage of seven IKONOS images represents the land cover of Doi Inthanon National Park. Progress is being made in classifying this image into a vegetation coverage based on this IKONOS 5-metre resolution multispectral image.