Kyle Fitzpatrick

Kyle Fitzpatrick

Intern helps collection take flight

Lake Country Museum collaborates with Okanagan College and the Kalamalka Forestry Centre

The Lake Country Museum welcomes new “bug guy” Kyle Fitzpatrick, who will be working as an intern under the direction of Dr. Ward Strong, research scientist at the Kalamalka Forestry Centre, and museum curator Dan Bruce.

Fitzpatrick’s work at the museum will involve identification, conservation, and mounting of part of the Harvey Insect Collection, a large entomology collection accumulated by brother entomologists Ed and Jim Harvey that includes thousands of specimens from around the world. The Harvey Collection is one of the largest and most diverse collections in the Okanagan. Part of the collection is on public exhibit at the museum, with future plans to exhibit the additional 1,200-plus insects that are currently being classified by Fitzpatrick.

“During my internship at the Lake Country Museum, I’ve gone from knowing next to nothing about insects to knowing enough to organize a large part of an insect collection,” he said. “Each group of insects is surprising and the diversity of the collection is exciting. I’d never seen a termite or rove beetle before; well, now I might recognize one if I found it.

“I’d say a good thing is that I still know next to nothing about insects and I’m eager to see what these critters do when they’re alive in the wild.”

Fitzpatrick is a full-time student in Okanagan College’s science department and, although relatively new to the world of insects, brings with him a wealth of experience in natural history. Funding for his position comes from a President’s Student Projects Fund for special projects that include a community component and a learning opportunity for top students.

A large part of his job involves taxonomy — classifying each insect — and doing a systematic search not only to determine the family but also to classify how each specimen is related to others in the collection. The system of taxonomy has remained relatively unchanged since the 18th century, when Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus devised a way of naming, ranking, and classifying organisms.

With more than 900,000 named insects throughout the world, their taxonomy and classification can get extremely complicated. It is estimated that there are still millions of insects which have not been named.

Fitzpatrick examines each specimen under a magnifying glass to look for such clues as mouth parts, wing shape, hair, and length of the antennae in his identification. After the ID is confirmed, he then sorts the insects by family.

Bruce said community museums seldom pay much attention to natural history.

“But we are very pleased to have the Harvey entomology collection here,” he said. “This enables us to provide an educational opportunity which Kyle has made good use of, to our mutual benefit.”

And Strong is thrilled that the museum can showcase the incredible diversity of insects, so that people can see what a treasure we have right in our own back yards.

“Insects, being small, are often overlooked in favour of birds and mammals, but they are much more diverse, their behaviour is fascinating, and they are genuine urban wildlife, carrying on their insect business right under our noses,” he said.

The Lake Country Museum, at 11255 Okanagan Centre Rd. West, is open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Summer hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week begin mid-May. For more information, please call 250-766-0111 or visit the website at www.lakecountrymuseum.com.