There are 12,000 described millipede species, but taxonomists estimate the number to be ten-fold greater. In the Appalachian Mountains, where I discovered ten new species of Brachoria, the “Appalachian mimic millipedes”, the pace of millipede species discovery is among the most rapid of any organismal group. The paucity of taxonomic knowledge gives a false impression about millipedes’ ecological importance. In forest ecosystems, they fulfill an essential ecological service. By feeding on decaying wood, leaves, and other detritus, millipedes help break down dead vegetation thereby releasing essential nutrients which would otherwise be tied up in organic material.
The United States contains a fantastic diversity of millipedes, with a biodiversity hotspot in the Appalachian Mountains. Millipede diversity and abundance is particularly high in the limestone rich mountains and hills, perhaps because these millipedes bioaccumulate calcium carbonate as a component of their exoskeleton. Unfortunately, the limestone hills are also the target for the destructive mining practice of mountain top removal, which threatens the habitat of many narrowly endemic species. An important part of my research is describing biodiversity. The mainstay of this project is the revisionary monograph. My recently completed paper, a revisionary monograph of the mimic millipede genus Brachoria in the Appalachian Mountains, contains descriptive taxonomy and molecular systematics of 34 species, 10 of which are new.