DWU’s Patrick presents at conference in Taiwan, plans to collaborate on DNA spider research with Swiss scientist

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A local scientist admits to getting caught up in the trappings of spider sample collections.

Brian Patrick, assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University, recently presented research about spider traps at the 19th International Congress of Arachnology at the Howard Beach Resort in Kenting, Taiwan. The conference hosted 231 participants from 42 countries, with 136 oral and 72 poster presentations June 23-28.

Patrick’s presentation, “Comparing Ramp and Pitfall Traps for Capturing Wandering Spiders,” was co-authored by Ashton Hansen, a master’s student at North Dakota State University. The basis of the study came from an undergraduate research project conducted by Hansen during the summer of 2010 at DWU through the South Dakota-BRIN undergraduate research fellowship program. Hansen worked with Patrick that summer as an undergrad from Mount Marty College, Yankton.

“We compared a relatively new sampling technique – ramp traps – with a well-tested and standard sampling method known as pitfall traps,” Patrick said. “Pitfall traps are essentially a cup in the ground which wandering insects and spiders on the ground walk into to be captured. Pitfall traps require excavating a small amount of soil, but this is not always pragmatic, particularly in rocky areas or areas where digging is not permitted, such as in national parks in the U.S. Ramp traps basically use a ramp going up to a small container and the insects and spiders walk up the ramp and fall into the container.”

Both trapping styles involve liquid at the bottom of the trap, which captures and preserves the organism, allowing it to be used for research.

“These are extremely effective sampling methods,” Patrick said about their simplicity. “Our research showed that the ramp traps were twice as effective for capturing wandering spiders, making this new sampling technique extremely appealing to researchers who would like to maximize their sampling of specimens and species.”

These conferences allow researchers around the world to converge, share information and make invaluable connections. Patrick has been able to use these connections to further his own research, as well as create international learning opportunities for his students. A year ago, he partnered with the business department to take both business and biology students to the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy, with the biology students studying at Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic, with Patrick’s colleague Vlada Hula.

At this conference, he established a new connection with a researcher in Bern, Switzerland, with whom he will collaborate on a DNA barcoding project to barcode species of medical importance in South Dakota and throughout the world.

“We will focus on species like black widow spiders to develop a DNA ‘barcode’ that can be used to rapidly identify a potential specimen as a widow spider or another species,” Patrick said about the pending research. “Moreover, the goal is to barcode all species found in South Dakota, and this new collaboration will facilitate this endeavor.”

Research reported in this publication was supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103443; this grant was to Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota.  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. 

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