The Colombian Arthropod Project (CAP) is a collaborative arrangement among the Humboldt Institute in Villa de Leyva, Colombia, the University of Kentucky, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (LACM). Funding for the project comes from the U. S. National Science Foundation (NSF DEB 9972024) and the Humboldt Institute. The goal of the project is to survey arthropod diversity in a wide range of habitats in Colombia.

Colombia is one of the most species-rich countries in the world, but also one of the least known for arthropods. As expected, we are finding a wealth of spectacular new taxa. Specimens will be used to estimate the total number of species in various habitats, for a range of taxa, and to build reference collections in the Humboldt Institute and cooperating institutions elsewhere.

The parks and private reserves included in the project are (from south to north): PNN Amacayacu, PNN Chiribiquete, RN La Planada, PNN Picachos, PNN Farallones de Cali, PNN Isla Gorgona, PNN Chingaza, SNFF Iguaque, PNN Utría, PNN Tuparro, Monterrey Forestal (Zambrano, Bolívar), PNN Tama, SFF Los Colarados, PNN Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and PNN Tayrona. These places were selected in an attempt to cover a maximum of biological and geographic richness in the country. Our sampling, in collaboration with our colleagues in the National Parks and other nature reserves, involves the use of Malaise traps (see figure), pitfall traps and soil extractors (Winkler samplers). These traps collect a large number of insect specimens, especially in the core groups of Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), Diptera (flies), Coleoptera (beetles), and true bugs (Homoptera). The traps have been set up by trained park personnel who operate them and send the samples to the Humboldt Institute at regular intervals. At the Humboldt, the samples are sorted and the material is sent to an international team of collaborating entomologists.
Malaise Trap
Malaise Trap
Principal Investigator of the NSF grant is Dr. Michael Sharkey at the University of Kentucky, who is an expert on parasitic wasps of the family Braconidae. Also working at the University of Kentucky is Tom Dodson, who is designing web pages for the project and managing a species/sample database. At the Humboldt Institute is Fernando Fernandez who is coordinating most of the Colombian activities. He is an expert on aculeate Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and stinging wasps) and is analyzing ants (family Formicidae) and spider wasps (Pompilidae). Also based at the Humboldt are Diego Campos (Braconidae), Socorro Sierra, and Edwin Torres who are sorting Malaise trap samples and Lucia González who is sorting ants from pitfall traps and Winkler samples.

Carlos Sarmiento is a graduate student from Colombia who is studying with Dr. Michael Sharkey at the University of Kentucky. He is revising the large neotropical braconid genus Coccygidium and investigating the evolution of the color patterns of these brightly colored animals. Dr. Brian Brown from the LACM is the co-principal investigator of the NSF grant and an expert on phorid flies. He is coordinating the Diptera portion of the grant.  Dr. Paul Freytag is investigating the leafhoppers (Cicadellidae) of Colombia. Finally, Fernando Fernandez (Humboldt) and Chuck Bellamy are coordinating the Coleoptera group.