Water mites are among the most abundant, diverse and ecologically important arthropod groups in freshwater habitats like streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. Unfortunately, very little is known about water mite biology and diversity in North America, making incorporation of water mites into research programs nearly impossible. Additionally, very few water mite experts exist worldwide and few experts have been trained in North America during recent decades. This project will focus on one of the most abundant and diverse water mite families, Torrenticolidae, and researchers at the University of Arkansas and the Canadian National Collection will train a new generation of specialists by undertaking the following objectives: 1) collect, identify and describe North American species; 2) establish a modern streamlined approach to greatly speed up the time from discovery to dissemination of data through online resources and scientific publications; and 3) establish genealogical relationships between groups of water mites.
Successful completion of the project will contribute in-depth understanding of water mite biology and evolution, modernize the taxonomic process, disseminate results and interactive tools to a wide audience online through a project website and train a new generation of experts. Additionally, outreach efforts will enhance the public's understanding of a part of the natural world few think about (mites) through workshops and presentations held in national parks. Lastly, the comprehensive knowledge on torrenticolids of North America will allow cross-disciplinary use of these mites in other research programs, such as those focusing on aquatic community dynamics, biodiversity and water quality bio-monitoring, all of which could have impacts on conservation status and trends in freshwater habitats.