North American Dipterists Society Field Meeting (2005)

The NADS 2005 field meeting was held 5-9 August at Malheur Field Station(MFS) in SE Oregon. The meeting brought together nearly 30 dipterists (and dipterists to be?) from throughout North America to discuss and collect flies, focusing on taxa from the northern Great Basin and on an area that most delegates had not previously visited. MFS is adjacent to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and near Steens Mountain and the Alvord Basin. Blitzen RiverThe area contains a variety of terrestrial, wetland, and aquatic habitats, including sagebrush- and greasewood flats, cattail marshes, lowland reservoirs, alpine lakes, cold- and hot springs, a large river, and many small streams. These diverse habitats provided excellent opportunities for collecting flies and other arthropods. Friday, 5 August, was essentially a travel day, with delegates finding their way to MFS and getting checked in. It also was the warmest day of the week, with afternoon temperatures exceeding 100 degrees (but it's a dry heat!). Evening activities in our air-conditioned conference room included an informal mixer, a "welcome" slide presentation by Duncan Evered, co-director of Malheur Field Station, and an overview of Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain, and the Alvord Basin by meeting organizer, Greg Courtney. Later in the evening, several delegates jumped right into the collecting, via a black-light set at MFS. Saturday, the first full day of the meeting, was devoted to collecting on Steens Mountain, a 30-mile long fault-block mountain that exceeds 2900 meters a.s.l., or approximately 1650 meters above the surrounding landscape. Tilting of the block during the late Miocene and Pliocene resulted in a steep eastern face (i.e., East Rim) that rises abruptly above the Alvord Desert. Pleistocene glaciers dug trenches about a half-mile deep in the mountain's major stream beds, creating several spectacular gorges (e.g., Kiger Gorge, Little Blitzen Gorge, Big Indian Gorge). Other stops on the mountain included the Blitzen River, Fish Lake, and the Steens Mountain "high point." Along the way, we ascended from the dry, sagebrush zone, through the juniper zone, a subalpine zone of mixed aspen groves, sagebrush grasslands and wetlands, and eventually to the windswept alpine bunchgrass/tundra zone that dominates elevations above 2400 meters. Kiger GorgeThe mountain's many alpine meadows, aspen groves, hilltops, coldwater springs, snowfed streams and wetlands provided many interesting flies. Malaise traps placed on the mountain a week prior to the meeting provided additional specimens. Wayne Mathis may have set the day's record for diversity (taxon richness), collecting 19 genera and 30 species of ephydrids, including 17 genera at the Blitzen River alone. Evening activities included several presentations, sorting of the day's catch, and a black-light session at MFS. On Sunday we caravanned to the Alvord Basin, on the southeast side of Steens Mountain. During the Pleistocene this basin was filled by Pluvial Lake Alvord, but now contains mostly sagebrush and desert shrub communities, an assortment of playa lakes, and numerous hot springs. Our first stop in the basin was Borax Lake, a hot lake that harbors the endangered Borax Lake Chub. Although the lake, now a Nature Conservancy reserve, was off limits to collecting, we found many interesting flies on adjacent Bureau of Land Management land. Riley Nelson, Torsten Dikow, and Michelle Trautwein were especially pleased with the asilid and bombyliid collecting. We also explored some of the areas many hot springs, which contained mostly dead (scalded) odonates and beetles and numerous living stratiomyiids. After a brief lunch and milkshake stop in Fields, we continued north to the low-lying Alvord Desert on the eastern flank of Steens Mountain. The flat, vegetation-free "Desert" is an ancient playa that occasionally holds water during wet years (the north end, by Alvord Ranch, contained water during our visit). Borax springsThe final stop of the day was Pike Creek, which is adjacent to the Alvord Desert and drains the eastern escarpment of Steens Mountain. Although several interesting flies were collected by NADS delegates, the highlight may have been discovery of several vespid wasps that were parasitized by strepsipterans. Ah, but the latter are merely aberrant flies, right? Or at least some might espouse this view. After a rushed trip back to MFS (barely making it back in time for supper), we devoted the evening to more presentations, sorting of specimens, and another black-light session. Monday, the final full day of the meeting, was open for delegates to go wherever they wanted. Some returned to the Alvord Basin or Steens Mountain, and a few headed the other direction (north) to Malheur National Forest or Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. The latter gave delegates a chance to collect in the coniferous forests of the southern Blue Mountains. This also gave Riley Nelson the chance to visit his namesake, Riley, Oregon, for a number of photo ops (most embarrassing). Except for the Strawberry Mountain crew, which stayed late to run a black light, the final evening at MFS was devoted to swapping stories of the day's travel, continued sorting of collections, and organization for Tuesday's departure. On Tuesday, the delegates had a final MFS breakfast before departing for home or for post-NADS expeditions (e.g., Greg Courtney took a small group on a tour of H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest and the Cascade Range). Finally, here's a list of NADS 2005 presentations (on Saturday & Sunday):

  1. Masahiro Sueyoshi, National Museum of Natural History: How does secondary succession of temperate forest affect dipteran species diversity.
  2. Irina Brake, National Museum of Natural History: Status of the BioSystematic Database of World Diptera.
  3. Matt Bertone, North Carolina State University: Molecular phylogenetics of the lower ("nematocerous") Diptera with reference to the Tipuloidea.
  4. Torsten Dikow, American Museum of Natural History: The genera of Leptogastrinae (Asilidae) - a study of the speciose Leptogaster and the remaining sixteen genera.
  5. Michelle Trautwein, North Carolina State University: Bee flies and their relatives.
  6. Terry Whitworth: Keys to the blow-fly species of North America north of Mexico.
  7. Riley Nelson, Brigham Young University: An update on the flies of Mongolia.
  8. Vladimir Blagoderov, Iowa State University: Helicon Focus software for reconstructing high-resolution images of Diptera.