OKEON Churamori Project presented at International Congress of Entomology 2016


The nearly one-week long XXV International Congress of Entomology, under the theme Entomology without Borders, took place in Orlando this year from September 25-30. It brought together the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline with over 7000 participants and over 2000 talks, with topics ranging from biodiversity conservation to ecology and evolution to science communication.

Yoshi, a staff scientist of arilab and the coordinator of the OKEON project, represented the rest of the OKEON team at the conference by presenting a poster on the project. The poster, titled OKEON Chura-mori Project: A new environmental monitoring project in Okinawa, Japan , introduced the project and described its various components, including GIS, field network, genomics pipeline, as well as emphasized its collaborative nature by outlining the various partners of the project.

You can see the original poster here.

Highlights from the International Congress of Entomology in Orlando


The nearly one-week long XXV International Congress of Entomology, under the theme Entomology without Borders, took place in Orlando this year from September 25-30. It brought together the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline with over 7000 participants and over 2000 talks, with topics ranging from biodiversity and conservation to ecology and evolution to medical entomology to taxonomy to IPM to science communication.

Various members of our lab participated in this conference by either giving a talk or presenting a poster, as listed below:
Evan Economo (Talk) Reconciling global macroecological pattern and macroevolutionary processes in ant biodiversity.
Paco Hita Garcia (Talk) Evolution, biogeography, and diversification of the genus Terataner.
Julia Janicki (Talk) antmaps.org: An interactive client-server mapping application for visualizing the ants of the world.
Cong Liu (Talk) Reorganization of taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic ant biodiversity after conversion to rubber plantation.
Eli Sarnat (Talk) Applied systematics of Pheidole: An interactive review of the world’s most invasive ant lineage.
Masashi Yoshimura (Poster) OKEON Chura-mori Project: A new environmental monitoring project in Okinawa, Japan


Symposia on ants, phylogenetic methods, biodiversity and taxonomy were popular among the myrmecologists in our lab. Other symposia that were very interesting included one on weevils, another on science communication, and one on the use of biological specimen data.


How can OIST’s OKEON project collaborate with Okinawan society so that both benefit in some way?



While there are many different ways to answer this question, one important collaboration is with high schools in Okinawa. OKEON Chura-mori Project has been developing a new model of high school – university collaboration which benefits students, teachers and researchers alike.

For the past year, OKEON has worked with Futenma, Kyuyou, Kaiho and Hentona High Schools. Each school has collaborated with OKEON in slightly different ways, but students have primarily focused on ants found in their local area as the material of their school research activities. Planning and conducting scientific research is often beyond school curriculums, so in order for the high schools to take part, OKEON project leaders Yoshi and Masako created a training programme for high school teachers.

The programme involves lectures, and a course for planning research, collecting, sorting, mounting and identifying ants.

By taking part, teachers can gain the skills and know-how to create their own research programmes using data from the OKEON project. For Kawabata-sensei, his study of ants during his university years led him to have a personal interest in revisiting the laboratory. Takara-sensei did not research biodiversity at university, but having done Time-Unit Sampling at his school for a year before taking part in the programme, his ability to identify species is already extremely high. Both teachers spoke about how they were looking forward to working with their students to come up with a research plan using their new skills based on current research. Their goals included wanting to encourage students to develop their interest in science and research, but also to create a knowledge network between teachers which exchanges information, and has access to but is not dependent on a university faculty.


The high school teachers trained by OIST will have the skills and know-how to implement environmental monitoring activities and research, and specialist biodiversity data collection. These skills will in turn be passed down to the next generation of high school students.


Once a full cycle has been completed (the student’s research is generally for a year), teachers and students can develop and improve their research methods, thereby improving the scientific capacity of the entire community. Because each high school will have unique ways of researching and contributing to OKEON, as well as different goals, there is scope for a self-sustaining network to evolve where teachers and students can share research methods and data.


This high school teacher training programme is valuable to OIST and OKEON for two main reasons. The first is that there are enormous amounts of data being generated through OKEON, and the sampling system is currently focused on winged insects. Students will be able to focus on worker ants in their local area, generating data which can become the basis for further research at OIST.

The second reason is that this programme is a way to contribute to the sustainability of Okinawan society in the broadest sense possible. Through the training of high school teachers, OIST and OKEON can contribute to education in Okinawa. At Hentona High School, for example, there are specific classes pertaining to the environment, within which this research can become an important component.


Students can take the specialist research skills they learn into their further study, perhaps even coming back to OIST to work with OKEON data. OIST can play an important role in allowing a strong research community in Okinawa to flourish, which will have the capacity not only to understand but to appreciate and protect the biodiversity of the island.


Insect Sampling with the OKEON Chura-mori Project・OKEON美ら森プロジェクト: 昆虫モニタリングの紹介

Video Producer, Director and Editor: Linda Iha

Script and Starring: Dr. Masashi Yoshimura

Video Production Assistant and Translation: Aina Urano

Video Production Assistant: Masako Ogasawara

Screenshot video

(Click here or on the picture to watch the video)

OKEON Chura-mori Project: what is it? Simply put, it is an environmental monitoring project in Okinawa, Japan, funded by OIST, and conducted through the co-operation of Okinawan local society. From researching the biodiversity in Okinawa to developing social networks and improving environmental education, the goals of the project include multiple aspects. This video will introduce the insect monitoring aspect of the field sampling system.

The primary scientific goal of OKEON is to measure and monitor the terrestrial environments of Okinawa and understand how natural and anthropogenic factors affect the environment over time. One component of this is to use samples of small insects, collected from SLAM traps. On each of the 24 sites across Okinawa, there are also instruments which log weather data, camera traps and acoustic recorders.

There are many activities besides this which are fundamental to OKEON. There is collaboration with museums, high schools and universities across Okinawa. For example, students at Hentona High School collect materials from OKEON sites which can be used for their education and for research at OIST. These students are taught to do so by high school teachers who have attended a training programme at OIST related to ant research. Projects like this which create benefit for everyone involved and have a positive impact on society are very important to OKEON.

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Please see below for the Japanese version of this blogpost.









上記研究面の他に、地域社会との連携が、OKEON美ら森プロジェクトの最も大切な部分のひとつです。現在は、沖縄本島にある博物館や高校、大学などと協働関係を構築しています。例えば、高校との協働では、生徒たちが採集した標本を、高校での環境研究実践と、私たちの生物多様性研究で共有します。OKEON美ら森プロジェクトでは、アリ類を使った環境研究の研修を提供。そこへ参加した先生方が、生徒たちの研究指導を行います。 そこに関わるすべての人たちに利益をもたらし、地域社会の未来に貢献すること。OKEON美ら森プロジェクトが、常に大切にしている部分です。