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Robert J. Barney, Ph.D.
Associate Research Director and Principal Investigator
103 Atwood Research Facility
400 E. Main Street
Kentucky State University
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 597-6178
(502) 597-6381

B.S., Zoology, University of Illinois, 1974
M.S., Zoology, Eastern Illinois University, 1977
Ph.D., Entomology, University of Kentucky, 1985

Associate Research Director

Administrative appointment (25%) to provide leadership and direction at an HBCU land-grant institution for 25 scientists conducting research in three program areas: Plant and Soil Science; Human Nutrition and Health; and Rural Development.

Principal Investigator

Research appointment (75%) to monitor leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) as indicators of habitat biodiversity in Kentucky (see project summary below).

Assistant Professor, Adjunct; University of Kentucky

Appointment serves as a linkage between the two land-grant universities in Kentucky and provides the opportunity to supervise graduate students and interact with colleagues.


Beetle Biodiversity Laboratory and Museum


 A new laboratory/museum was established in 2005 for the study of leaf beetle biodiversity and to house the Kentucky State University Insect Museum (KSUIM) and Robert J. Barney Beetle Collection (RJBBC).  The Insect Museum contains primarily Chrysomelidae (Coleoptera) collected during the research project described below.  The RJB Beetle Collection is principally 7,200 Chrysomelidae collected from 1976 to the present, primarily in Illinois prairie-remnant habitats and neotropical habitats in Venezuela.  Cryptocephalinae is the most abundantly represented subfamily.



Monitoring Leaf Beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) as Indicators of

Habitat Biodiversity in Kentucky

 Biodiversity refers to the plants, animals and microorganisms in a defined area, whether a field, state or even the Earth.  To quantify the diversity of an area, rather than attempt to measure the presence of all organisms, a more easily monitored indicator taxon is often sampled.  The purpose of this project is to use leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) as a biodiversity indicator taxon for habitats in Kentucky, by monitoring their presence in state nature preserves and other selected ecosystems, and making comparisons of current species richness and abundance to historical collections of beetles found in insect museums.

 Megadiversity experts estimate that 25 to 30% of all insect species are beetles (Coleoptera), with the low end of reasonable estimates at 8 to 10 million species of insects worldwide (Erwin and Johnson 2000).  Leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), which are almost exclusively plant feeders, is one of the largest insect families (~40,000 species worldwide).  The evolution of leaf beetles is believed to be linked with the evolution of flowering plants (Angiosperms) (Farrell 1998).  Many beetles are host-plant or plant-family specific and many have become agricultural pests (e.g., Colorado potato beetle, corn rootworms) (see Appendix 1).  The diversity of chrysomelids in an area or region can be related to the diversity of plants.  Leaf beetles, which are easily collected, can be used as indicator species for biodiversity studies.

 The primary hypotheses of this project are that biodiversity in Kentucky is decreasing due to loss of native habitat, that leaf beetles can be monitored as indicators of diversity, and that museums can be used as historical records of diversity.


                There are three primary objectives in this project.  Objective 1 is to determine the diversity of leaf beetles in Kentucky, primarily those found in grassland (barren and glade) remnant habitats in nature preserves.  Objective 2 is to determine the impact of various habitat management techniques, such as prescribed burning and prairie restoration, on leaf beetle abundance and species richness.  Objective 3 is to develop an insect museum to be used as a teaching/learning tool for students, a reference collection for extension agents, and repository for voucher specimens used in research projects.


Erwin, T. L. and P. J. Johnson.  2000.  Naming species, a new paradigm for crisis management in taxonomy: rapid journal validation of scientific names enhanced with more complete descriptions on the Internet.  The Coleopterists Bulletin 54(3): 269-278.

Farrell, B. D.  1998.  “Inordinate Fondness” explained: why are there so many beetles? Science 281: 555-559.