Entomology Student Discovers New Bee Species in Dominica

Shelby Kilpatrick in front of a building. Submitted photo.

Shelby Kilpatrick. Submitted photo.

Shelby Kilpatrick’s experience studying abroad in Dominica has led to a very exciting and memorable learning experience as she discovered a new species of halictid bees during a recent trip to the country in 2015.

What turned out to be an insect collecting and identification study for Kilpatrick, a junior Entomology major, ended up being part of the study that was featured in a paper by Jason Gibbs of Michigan State University and a species being named in her honor of her new discovery.

The paper titled Bees of the family Halictidae, Thomson, 1869 from Dominica, Lesser Antilles (Hymenoptera: Apoidea), was recently published in the European Journal of Taxonomy.

Kilpatrick’s discovery was a separate study, but was featured in the paper, which recognized total of 11 species of halictid bees and also recognized seven newly discovered species, which included Lasioglossum (Dialictus) kalinago sp. nov., L. (D.) dominicense sp. nov., L. (D.) kilpatrickae sp. nov., L. (Habralictellus) roseauense sp. nov., Sphecodes diablotinus sp. nov., S. albifacies sp. nov. and Habralictus antillarus sp. nov., and  Microsphecodes dominicanus.

Kilpatrick said that her research work helped her to expand her knowledge of bee morphology, taxonomy, and behavior and will help to contribute more valuable information about bee species in Dominica and would help future entomologists and students studying abroad to understand the biodiversity and potentially expand on the project.

“Entomologists and future students studying abroad can use the information to identify bees on the island and potentially build on my project, as well as with their own studies,” she said.

Kilpatrick heard about this opportunity to study the bees after interviewing for the Dominica trip with Dr. Woolley and talking to Dr. Gibbs in 2014. She said that Gibbs was interested in examining the halictid specimens and needed someone to help him obtain additional bees from the island.

“It sounded like a great opportunity for me to learn more about a group of bees that I was less familiar with as well as contribute to meaningful research,” she said.

Kilpatrick enjoyed studying and collecting insects and that discovering these new bee species was exciting and an amazing experience.

“Collecting insects and studying them is one of my passions. I had always thought that it would be amazing to discover a new species, but never expected that I would,” she said.  “I was thrilled to learn that the bees I had collected represented new species. I was also greatly honored when Dr. Gibbs chose to name one of the new bee species after me and could hardly believe it.”

She said that the Dominica study abroad was great and she learned about collecting insects and gained a better understanding of what it takes in a field research career.

“Studying abroad in Dominica had several positive impacts on my academic study. I am interested in pursuing a career in entomology, especially as it relates to agriculture and natural resources research,” Kilpatrick said. “The hands on field research experience that I gained as a result of this study abroad program are invaluable.”

Kilpatrick will definitely be applying what she had learned in Dominica to her upper level courses and will help her in her future studies.

“This opportunity will direct my future studies at Texas A&M University and ultimately my career and future life,” she said. “I would highly recommend studying abroad to any student who is considering it and has the opportunity to do so.”

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