Cumaceans are small crustaceans that live in marine sediments, commonly encountered in marine sampling programs, fish and bird stomachs, and night plankton samples. The density and diversity of cumaceans tends to increase with depth and decreasing sediment grain size, although cumaceans can also be abundant in shallow sandy sediments. Many specimens are never identified beyond the level of the order Cumacea, due in large part to a lack of synthesizing works and identification tools such as monographs and databases. Of the eight recognized families of Cumacea, only one has been monographed. The objective of this proposal it to complete a monograph and database for the family Lampropidae. A monograph collects and synthesizes all the available knowledge about a group of organisms and includes identification keys, making it possible for non-specialists to identify specimens with accuracy. DELTA is a package of programs that includes a taxonomic database and an interactive, illustrated identification program, which can be web-disseminated and facilitates species identifications. Both the monograph and database will be disseminated through a website, which will include general information about the Cumacea, in addition to information for systematists.
As human impacts on the oceans increase, it is widely recognized that marine bio-diversity is significantly under-recorded. This project will increase knowledge about the diversity of marine life directly through the description of new genera and new species. Three undergraduate students who are future teachers will be trained in the practice of systematics. The students will come away with an understanding of the importance of biodiversity and recognition of how much remains unknown, as well as experience in the process of scientific research, which will enhance their own teaching about science in the future. In order to remain competitive globally, the U.S. must enhance the science education of our citizens, and improving the science education of future teachers is expected to enhance their ability to teach science effectively.