When the topic of climate change and how it affects wildlife in the North comes up, polar bears are probably the first thing that come to mind. But Chris Buddle, a professor of entomology at McGill University, is doing research to discover what a much smaller creature can tell us about climate change in the region: beetles. Here, he provides some insight into his research and the results.

On why the research was done on beetles
Beetles exhibit high diversity. There’s a lot of species of beetles that perform a lot of different functions in ecosystems, and they’re also a group that we can identify easily. There is also a lot of literature on beetles in Canada, so all those reasons made them a suitable group to look at.

On the clues beetles give us about climate change
Beetles can be plant eaters or predators, and both types perform lots of different functions that in turn affect the ability of our ecosystems to function well. For example, if a beetle is affecting a plant’s ability to photosynthesize because they are feeding on plants, then that’s an important feedback loop in an ecosystem.

On why he studied beetles in northern Ontario and the High Arctic
I wanted to track how the different functions of beetles changed across the country, especially in the North. I wanted to know whether the same functions are being performed by beetles in different locations, from the boreal forest to the Subartic to the Arctic.

On the most interesting results he’s found in his research
One of the most interesting things was that we recorded close to 500 species of beetle. We often think of the North as being vast, desolate landscapes with polar bears roaming around, but there’s actually a lot different species that live there, so the diversity is quite high, which is really impressive.

On what’s next
We plan on continuing work in the North. We want to work with organizations in the Artic to set up some long-term ecological monitoring that will involve beetles as well as other insects. We’ve already expanded to studying spiders and other insects. The beetles are just one piece in the puzzle.