Another year has passed with engaging presentations from the Way Cool Biodiversity Series, but only one of them can be crowned as the "Best of Way Cool 2012". The votes from the public have spoken, and without further ado, may I have the drum roll, please...
The winner of the “Best of Way Cool 2012” is…
Caddisflies are Way Cool Because… with Dr. John S. Richardson
In May 2012, Dr. John Richardson revealed the surprising ways that caddisfly larvae use silk, sticks, and stones to create a way cool place to live. These little insects can spin silk and use it to build a diverse variety of portable houses, protecting them from predators and forces of water. To avoid being washed away by the current, some can use this silk as safety lines – helping them move around on stream bottoms. Some of these aquatic creatures even spin amazingly designed webs underwater to capture their prey, just like spiders!
Dr. Richardson feels honoured and flattered. "As scientists, we work on ideas that we think are interesting, and as educators we hope we can tell others about why our ideas are interesting and how we study them. Winning the award makes me happy because it means I was able to show our guests at the museum what a wonderful world of biodiversity there is to discover."
Still not convinced that caddisflies are truly way cool? Let Dr. Richardson tell us how caddisflies also play an important role in the ecosystems:
Caddisfly larvae are way cool for the reasons I talked about, but also because they are important in ecosystems and for understanding evolution and ecology. The larval stages of most caddisflies eat algae and decaying leaves, and if they didn’t do that we would see deep piles of leaves and long, green algae in our lakes and streams. The caddisflies are also very important in turning those leaves and algae into food for fishes, amphibians, birds and mammals, as well as for other insects. The adult caddisflies do not look very exciting, but they are important food for bats, dragonflies, spiders, and birds. Many of the caddisfly larvae are also very sensitive to changes in their environment, such as pollution and sediment and warmer temperatures, so we can use them to tell us if we are changing the freshwater environment too much.
The different ways that the caddisflies use silk to spin webs, build cases, connect themselves to rocks and spin cocoons tell us things about their evolutionary history as well. The detailed ecology of some species is fascinating in terms of how they get their food and how they avoid getting eaten by predators. In a single stream or lake in BC we can find from about 30 to 100 different species so they are a big contributor to biodiversity.
Along with a “Way Cool” certificate, Dr. Richardson will receive some well-deserved bragging rights for the year. His talk was hands-on, engaging, and he brought in some way cool specimens to investigate.
Dr. Richardson works in the UBC Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, researching streams and riparian area communities. Learn more about his lab and research here
Thank you for voting – we got lots of great feedback on the series; and congratulations to Kate H. from Vancouver, the winner of a family pass to the museum!
Way Cool Biodiversity Series
Come listen to a family-friendly lecture each month as a different biodiversity researcher competes for public affection for their groups! At the end of the year, cast your vote for the coolest organism. Presentations are held on the first Sunday of every month at 1:00 p.m. and are included in museum admission or membership.
Click here for more information on the Way Cool Biodiversity Series and upcoming presentations.