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James Liebherr

James Liebherr


2144 Comstock Hall
(607) 255-4507

I am an insect systematist that revises and describes carabid beetle taxa. The purpose of this endeavor is to characterize biodiversity, and to identify natural areas of endemism that require conservation. I am curator of the Cornell University Insect Collection, and therefore responsible for its overall administration, its development, and enhancement. The CUIC is the largest arthropod collection at a land-grant institution, comprising over 7 million specimens representing insects and mites from all biogeographic regions of the World.

Research Focus

I have taxonomially revised the native predatory carabid beetles of the Society and Hawaiian Islands. The carabid fauna is quite rich; e.g. 108 species known from the Society Islands and over 400 species known from the Hawaiian Islands . This diversity is distributed so that closely related species are found in restricted geographic ranges on and in adjacent ridges and valleys. In addition, I participated in field work that resulted in discovery of 7 new native species on the island of Moorea, demonstrating that the Society Island fauna occurred on multiple islands just like the fauna in Hawaii. By producing taxonomic identification aids accessible to biologists, the immense biodiversity can be used to identify different areas of endemism, i.e., areas of unique biodiversity that merit conservation efforts.

Outreach and Extension Focus

The results of my taxonomic research are immediately applicable to conservation planning in Hawaii and Tahiti. Species distributions of native insects are contributing criteria for location of nature reserves. The Natural Area Reserve System managed by the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources is based on distributions of native organisms; insects, snails and plants chief among them. Information on these native taxa has been incorporated into a Statewide Strategic Plan for native biodiversity. As functioning natural areas form the watersheds of Hawaii, all residents and visitors to the State benefit from this work. Establishment of a Kaluanui Natural Area Reserve in the Koolau Mountain Range of Oahu is one recent measure of success for this work. Here at home, the Cornell University Insect Collection regularly runs tours and develops interactive exercises for Cornell classes as part of our outreach function.

Teaching Focus

TEACHING (15%): Maggots, Grubs and Cutworms: Larval Insect Biology (spring of even years; 3 cr. with lab, ENTOM 3330). This course successfully integrates the anatomy and biology of holometabolous larvae, evaluating this information in a phylogenetic context. Students leave the course able to attempt larval identifications with all the currently available tools, while gaining access to the incredible amount of biological information available in the larval stages.

Awards and Honors

  • Best Paper Award for 2009, for" Native and alien Carabidae (Coleoptera) share Lanai, an ecologically devastated island. Coleopterists Bulletin 63: 383-411." (2010) Coleopterists Society
  • Distinguished Award in Teaching (2010) Entomological Society of America--Eastern Branch
  • Thomas Say Award (2006) Entomological Foundation

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Presentations and Activities

  • Dobodura, Darlington & Dobodura Darlington. Fourth International Symposium of Carabidology. September 2016. Athens, GA.
  • From Actenonyx to Cyphocoleus to Dobodura: Probing the outer limits of odacanthine lineages. Fourth International Symposium of Carabidology. September 2016. Athens, GA.
  • What should we conserve? Lessons learned on Haleakalā. Pacific Branch Meeting. April 2016. Entomological Society of America. Honolulu, HI.
  • Elucidating an extirpated lowland carabid beetle assemblage from Kauai, Hawaiian Islands. Annual Meeting. November 2014. Entomological Society of America. Portland, OR.
  • Biological Significance of a Lowland pre-Polynesian Carabid Beetle Assemblage from Makauwahi Cave, Kauai. Island Biology 2014. July 2014. International Society of Island Biology . University of Hawaii.
  • So many beetles, so little time: speciation of Mecyclothorax beetles on Haleakalā, Maui. Annual meeting. November 2012. Entomol. Soc. Am.. Knoxville, TN.
  • So many beetles, so little space: biogeographic history of Mecyclothorax beetles on Haleakalā, Maui. Annual meeting. November 2012. Entomol. Soc. Am.. Knoxville, TN.
  • Hawaiian Mecyclothorax (Psydrini or Moriomorphini?): bioindicators outstanding in the field. Bellfest (A Celebration of the Careers of Joyce and Ross Bell. July 2010. University of Vermont. University of Vermont.