Facts About the Michigan Odonata Survey

What is the Michigan Odonata Survey (MOS)?

The MOS consists of a group of people with a shared interest in the study of the distribution, biology and enjoyment of the Odonata found in Michigan. It is chaired by Mark O'Brien (University of Michigan) and Julie Craves (University of Michigan-Dearborn).

The MOS was started by Mark O'Brien and Mike Kielb in 1997, with the aim of promoting the study and appreciation of Odonata in Michigan. We quickly established a protocol for submitting new state and county records, and started entering specimen-level data into a Filemaker database that year. We count on volunteers to supply us with new information, specimens, and survey work in other parts of the state of Michigan. Ethan Bright began working on the keys to the Odonata larvae (nymphs) and although that project lies incomplete, we still mainatin the only on-line key to Odonata immatures. Over the years, notable contributors of specimens and data have been Burt Cebulski, Carl Freeman, Stephen Ross, Myles Willard, Darrin O'Brien, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Sean Dunlap, Jeff Sommer, Doug McWhirter, Bob Marr, Matt Hysell, Rhyne Rutherford, U.S. Forest Service, Michigan State University, and of course, Mark O'Brien and Julie Craves.

History of the MOS

For information on the early days of Odonata work in Michigan, please read O'Brien, M.F. 2008, Odonatological History in Michigan, 1875-1996.GREAT LAKES ENTOMOLOGIST 41(1-2):1-11.

In 1996, Mark O'Brien initiated a survey of the Odonata at the Huron Mountain Club in Marquette Co., aided by Ethan Bright and Michael Kielb.  It was during the first season, that we discussed the idea of a state-wide survey to update the 1958 publication by Kormondy.  We were already aware of the Ohio Odonata Survey and of course, being beginners at this, thought it was something that could be accomplished in a few years.   By the beginning of 1997, we started the Michigan Odonata Survey, and began publishing our newsletter, Williamsonia.    Although E.B. Williamson's collection is at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, there are relatively few Michigan specimens collected by him.  However, the genus Williamsonia - the "bog-haunters" has two enigmatic species in it, and one of them was widespread but considered rare in Michigan at the time, so in hindsight, it was a perfect fit for naming the newsletter.  Williamsonia became our vehicle for communicating with potential volunteers and became so successful that it was indexed by Zoological Record.  Around 2000, Julie Craves became an imprtant cog in the MOS, and she became editor of Williamsonia in 2004. Williamsonia ended its run in 2008, as it became too much work for any of us to maintain a newsletter, and online blogs and social media became the better way to share information.

The premise of the MOS is that it would be a volunteer-based effort to collect specimens from various areas of the state with more through efforts at targeted areas when the opportunity arose. All specimens would be cataloged with unique numbers and entered into a database.  Any new county or state records required voucher specimens.  We developed a basic set of criteria necessary for recording localities, and expanded that as the survey progressed. Specimens residing in the UMMZ and MSU were the first to be cataloged, and as additional specimens were donated to the MOS, they were also accessioned into the UMMZ collection. 

We soon had several enthusiastic volunteers, and two of the most prolific collectors and contributors were Carl H. Freeman from Benzie County and Stephen Ross from Mecosta County.  Both Steve and Carl are avid naturalists and keen observers.  It was through their efforts that many new records and range extensions came to light. They haunted enough bogs as well as other habitats to add 638 (Freeman) and 1188 (Ross) specimens over 10+ years. They also epitomized our basic premise of the MOS - that one should learn what is in the local habitats as a prelude for finding out what is elsewhere.  When someone makes a concerted effort the survey the odes in one's "backyard" it greatly narrows the focus and allows one to better absorb the smaller range of species so that anything "new" is more apparent.  This was before there were all of the guides that we now take for granted, as well as the web resources that are so ubiquitous.  There was a lot of referral to Walker's “Odonata of Canada and Alaska” for questions on species identification. Another early volunteer, Ellie Shapiro, also provided a significant amount of funding for us to be able to buy supplies, travel, and publish the newsletter.  A $6,000 grant in 1998 (23-98-21-RJVA) from the U.S. Forest Service allowed us to purchase field equipment and supplies for survey work, hire hourly assistants for data-entry, and pay some travel expenses for field work.  The Forest Service grant is the only money that has been specifically appropriated for the Michigan Odonata Survey.  All other support has come from donations. 

Current Status

The MOS has accumulated over 29,000 specimen records, which are currently available online and our new maps feature all records on Google Maps. As of August, 2015 we feel we are in the final phase of any data accumulation as we work towards publishing the Michigan Odonata Atlas. We do appreciate any new records, of course, and contact us for more information.


Contacts for further information:

Mark O'Brien, Insect Division, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079; office phone: 734-647-2199; fax: 734-763-4080; home phone: 971-6033

Julie Craves, River Rouge Bird Observatory, University of Michigan Dearborn, Dearborn, MI 48128


The MOS is not affiliated with any other state or federal agencies.


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