Re: [beemonitoring] Wanted, estimates of costs for identifying bee specimens
- Sam - while in the past, I would do bee IDs for people routinely
without fee, there was always a problem when the amount of material
exceeded a dozen or so specimens and started to become a "time sink".
In some cases, it was negotiated that my time could be justified if
we were being allowed to retain a significant amount of the material,
but even that won't work under the present economic climate; recently
(within the last year) our administration has implemented a for-fee
ID policy, so we now charge $75 per hour for academic/commercial
identifications. This is the rate calculated to recover my
salary/benefit costs per hour, plus the administrative costs
associated with processing the associated paperwork, which (I am
told) come to almost exactly half that rate (~$35/hour), so roughly
50% is "profit" - though this is redirected into the museum's budget
(and there helps to offset the budget cutbacks from the last two
Compared to doing work for free, $75 an hour is a major change, but
we (and no doubt others associated with university-based collections)
are under increasing pressure to "justify" the meager support we
receive, and evidently if we can demonstrate some measure of revenue
generation (i.e., self-sufficiency), this makes it easier for the
administrators to feel magnanimous about keeping our collective heads
off the chopping block. It would be nice if we could be TRULY
self-sufficient, and divorce ourselves from the university's
financial troubles and the proverbial dangling Damoclean Sword, but I
honestly can't imagine how that could ever come to pass.
Ours is certainly one of the major western bee collections,
comprising around 100K specimens collected and identified by
Timberlake (and others), and I'd say I'm one of only a handful of
folks who can give reliable species-level IDs on western bees (and
I'm by no means the best - that would be Terry Griswold), but it's no
longer an easy resource to tap into, I'm afraid.
Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
"There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
- This is in response to Neil's suggestion of using student help for species
I think that using graduate student's expertise is a good way to weed out
all the easier identifications and could cut costs quite a bit. Us PhD
students are usually willing to do work for things such as travel expenses
or books, or a much more meager hourly wage. HOWEVER, both the student
AND an expert must agree on which groups the student is capable of
identifying to the species level with a reasonable degree of error. This
of course just depends upon the individual student and how much oversight
that student has and what type of reference collection the student has to
The value of the 'expert' cannot be underestimated. Students like myself
would most likely fail to recognize new species in even the easiest groups
unless it was a group that I was particularly interested.
- Hi Sam
ID to species level is a massive problem for pollination studies - in fact it is the single most important rate limiting step in such studies. Competent identifiers are a rare resource - and this is at the UK level. In the farthest flung corners of Europe (often the most bio-diverse) the situation is far far worse.
In our projects in UK we tend to budget for id's as part of my basic costs (determined on a time basis by my University). I know there will be some things I find difficult and we contract out determinations at somewhere around £1.30 per specimen. This cost is regardless of whether it is an easy or a difficult species to determine - it all comes out in the wash at the end. The deal is: University must provide properly prepared and fully labelled specimens. In return they get an identification to species level and the data entered into a database (provided by the University. In addition there will be a 10% sample that is rechecked to ensure QA. The Uni technician HAS to do the basic donkey-work so that identifiers do not waste their time relaxing/preparing/pinning specimens.
At a continental level, we have to put more money aside because there is not likely to be in-house expertise. Basic training of technicians can teach them how to id just a handful of species. Our French colleagues were taught 4 species and these accounted for about 75% of all the specimens requiring determination. The rest were sent to specialists. On average charging between 1 Euro -2 Euros per specimen (depending on who you went to). For complete peace of mind, it would still be wise to do a QA check on the ones removed in the first round of filtering.
Relying purely on the goodwill of specialists is not a great idea, especially if there are a lot of specimens to determine. People identifying things this way are very difficult to press for answers and to get to work to deadlines. We work on the principle that one should NEVER presume on the goodwill, time or expertise of amateurs. If you HAVE to get determinations, you'd be better organising a contract
I hope this is of some help to you
Best wishes for the New Year
tel: +44 (0)1722 320072