Thompson Rivers University Assistant Professor Rob Higgins visited Harvard University this past summer to pursue his research on developing a better understanding of one particular group of ants in British Columbia (genus Myrmica).
The best collection of ant specimen is housed at Harvard University in the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Higgins was welcomed by Stefan Cover, curator of ants, and was given full access to the collection and connected with researchers from around the world.
“Ants in this genus are extremely difficult to identify to species, a problem that created real world issues when the European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) turned up in British Columbia. There is a desperate need to clean up the species clutter,” Higgins says.
The best collection of ants in Canada is at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. André Francoeur, a retired taxonomist opened up his collection to Higgins.
He was able to spend a week there going over Myrmica specimens.
Through research, Higgins has discovered another species of Myrmica, new to science, from the Houston/Smithers area of BC.
Higgins also came across a new species of European invasive ant that has spread across Vancouver and Victoria (Myrmica specioides).
The Canadian National Collection in Ottawa has just asked for specimens for their collection, as well as the Royal BC Museum.
Thompson Rivers University is equipped with state of the art science laboratories. Research on the myrmica species continues to be conducted.
Jacquie Johnston is the marketing and recruitment co-ordinator for TRU in Williams Lake.