Dragonfly experts hoping to find new species here

To date, about 80 different dragonfly species, and roughly another dozen types of damselflies, have been found in Rainy River District.
But by the time the 2005 Great Lakes Odonata Meeting wraps up here next Monday, a few new specimens may have been added to that list.
Bill Morgenstern, president of the Rainy River Valley Field Naturalists and one of the organizers of the four-day symposium, said he’s positive this area is home to at least a handful of species that have not yet been recorded here.
“Oh, I’m sure of it,” Morgenstern said last week. “It’s very possible to find one or two new species, it’s just that nobody has been in the right place at the right time.
“It’s just a matter of looking and finding what’s there,” he added. “Many [species] are very habitat-specific, so we have to look at some very specific areas.”
A total of 32 odonate enthusiasts will converge on Rainy River District for the fifth-annual Great Lakes odonata conference, which gets underway Friday.
The idea behind the annual summer symposium, which previously has been held in Elliot Lake, Ont., as well as in Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota, is to encourage interaction between field biologists and other nature experts from throughout the Great Lakes basin.
Visitors from as far away as southern Ontario and Wisconsin are among those registered for this year’s conference.
“What it’s all about is bringing people who are interested in, or specialize in, studying dragonflies or damselflies together,” Morgenstern said. “We’re bringing in some of the top experts that there are in the field for this symposium.”
While a handful of guest speakers will make evening presentations, symposium participants will spend the bulk of their time outdoors trying to learn more about this area’s dragonfly and damselfly populations.
Morgenstern and other organizers have been busy scouring the district in recent weeks for possible field study locations. Everything from the Wasaw-Stanjikoming Road to Lake of the Woods is fair game, he noted.
The small groups of researchers will be spending time at a variety of spots, including lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, boreal bogs, and open farmland—many of which have never been surveyed before.
Organizers realize it’s impossible to cover the entire district in one weekend, but categorizing new species is an ongoing process, Morgenstern said.
“If we found one or two, everybody would be thrilled,” he remarked. “Last summer, we found a dragonfly out at Morley Park that hadn’t been recorded for the district previously, so we’re hoping we’ll get more of that sort of thing.”
Because the only differences between some species of dragons and damsels are found in the male genitalia, the experts will rely on microscopes and magnifying glasses to confirm that possible additions to the record here are, indeed, new species.
And while some may have trouble getting excited about discovering additional types of insects in Borderland, Morgenstern said the survival and health of these organisms is a good sign.
“Dragonflies and damselflies are important indicators of the health of a particular habitat,” he noted.
“If we go to a place and find a new species, that’s going to be an indication that this is a good healthy habitat and probably is something we really need to take care of.”
The four-day Great Lakes Odonata Meeting also includes a community dragonfly day, which is slated for this Sunday (July 17) at Lions Park in Emo.
Sunday’s activities will include speakers, workshops, a short field trip along the banks of the Rainy River, and even a dragonfly art exhibit set up by local artist Pam Hawley.
“We’re trying to get as many people out that are curious or interested in dragonflies,” Morgenstern said of the community day.
He also encouraged district residents to bring in any dragonfly shell cases they may have picked up in the area—just in case they happen to belong to a species that had not yet been recorded here.
“Our ‘dragonfly detective’ will look at them and try to identify what kind of dragonfly hatched from that,” Morgenstern said.
Sunday’s events get underway at 10 a.m., with the brief field trip scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Everybody is invited to come out and take part, Morgenstern said.