Vladimir I.

American Museum
of Natural History
(New York)


Kefyn M.
Rutgens University
(New Jersey)
American Museum
of Natural History
(New York)

Andrei V.
All-Russian Research Institute
for Nature Protection



"Biodiversity of spiders of Black Rock Forest"




This project combines a research and educational approach to biodiversity studies looking in particular at the biodiversity of Black Rock Forest spiders. The project has two major parts, research and education.

The first part of the project comprises a research study of the biodiversity of BRF spiders. Before our research the spider fauna of BRF was virtually unknown. Spiders are predators without a food specializations therefore they are excellent models for biodiversity research. Spiders occur in almost all ecosystems from deserts to mountain tops. In particular, forests have a more diverse spider fauna than most other ecosystems. Different species of spiders have very strong vertical preferences in a forest. Consequently, spiders occur at all levels from the soil, such as Atypidae, Lycosidae, Gnaphosidae (burrow dwelling or holes in the soil) to the canopy.

At a State level the spiders of New York are very poorly known. The last list of New York State spiders was completed by Crosby and Bishop in 1928 and included 174 genera and 576 species. Kaston (1981) in his book "Spiders of Connecticut" recorded 184 genera and 462 species of spiders from Connecticut State, and 224 genera and 597 species with adjunct territories of Connecticut State (including the territory of New York east towards Hudson river). This example shows that the spider fauna of a much smaller state, Connecticut, is currently represented by more species than there are in the whole of New York State. Obviously, this poor state of knowledge needs to be addressed. As a result of our arachnological research in BRF, the first spider survey for the last 70 years, we found 290 species of spiders in BRF during the two years of the progect.

The educational aspect involves a special project called "Field Biodiversity", which is sponsored by American Museum of Natural History. This project is aimed at two different groups: high school students and high school teachers. It will involve one-day classes for students and six week classes for teachers. The intention is to expose students to the general principles of studying biodiversity in the field. The course will concentrate on spiders and others invertebrates of the leaf litter layer. Focusing on invertebrates for biodiversity research is still rare. However, they are a remarkably diverse group in any ecosystem and occur throughout the year. In BRF these groups will contain arachnids, insects, some mollusks and crustaceans, with the main focus on spiders.

Data generated in the field are included in a general manual for teaching biodiversity to high school students at AMNH and also used in a new distance learning course "The Study of Spiders" being created by AMNH for high school teachers. The teachers are learning about spider diversity using the Internet and all classes are based on data from BRF. An important aspect of the project during 2001 will be to improve a database driven web site (http://research.amnh.org/iz/blackrock) where both students and teachers can share the data collected in the field using as a model the "Biodiversity Counts" web site produced by the National Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology based at the AMNH.


We are deeply indebted to Black Rock Forest Consortium for funding this Project. Special thanks to Executive Director of Black Rock Forest Consortium, Dr.William Schuster, who was very enthusiastic and provided a virtual "home away from home" during our visits at BRF.

| List of Spiders | Key to Spider Families & Genera |
| Biotopical Distribution of Spiders |


© American Museum of Natural History,  June 01, 2002
This page is maintained and designed by Vladimir Ovtsharenko & Andrei Tanasevitch