The class Diplopoda, the millipedes, is a very species-rich group (over 7,000 described species) that is among the most ancient of surviving terrestrial arthropods. Despite this tremendous amount of known diversity, recognized ecological importance, and interesting evolutionary history, the group remains largely unstudied. Current estimates based on known degrees of endemism suggest that there may be as many as 80,000 extant species on the planet today. The project summarized here is a continuation of a previous Partnership for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET) training program to develop new millipede taxonomy and systematics expertise. The investigators Petra Sierwald (The Field Museum of Natural History), Jason Bond (East Carolina University) and William Shear (Hampden-Sydney College) propose to maintain an established program of millipede research and student training by capitalizing on the insights achieved from the previous PEET award. Major project products anticipated are evolutionary and taxonomic studies published in the primary literature, web disseminated tools (e.g. taxonomic identification keys) to aid other non-specialist researchers, acquisition of specimens to be deposited in natural history collections, and a worldwide species catalog, the first of its kind encapsulating the millipede taxonomic literature spanning over two centuries. Foremost, the goal of this project is to develop a sustainable community of knowledgeable, trained researchers working on this important group of organisms. This goal will be achieved by training at least three postdoctoral researchers, two graduate students, and at least six undergraduate interns. Trainee projects include a broad phylogenetic assessment of the Diplopoda and taxonomic and systematics studies of millipede groups chosen from across at least three separate orders. In short this project aims to make significant contributions to science and education by training the next generation of millipede systematists. In both a Museum (natural history collections) and University environment, trainees will acquire methods and skills that will prepare them for future positions as researchers, teachers, and resource managers in biology and entomology. In terms of millipedes, the improved phylogenetic structure, taxonomic revisions, and methodological advances attained over the course of this 5-year project will provide a sound foundation for future systematic workers.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Michael Whiting
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Field Museum of Natural History
United States
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