Junior Explorer Club of Upper Arlington visits ant lab

How do animals communicate?

ant sketch

Morgan Oberweiser introducing animal sound activities to junior explorer club

Morgan Oberweiser introducing animal sound activities to junior explorer club

The Adams Ant Lab hosted elementary school children from the Junior Explorer Club of Upper Arlington. Recent graduate Mazie Davis and undergraduate students Andrew Mularo and Morgan Oberweiser put together a program to teach the little ones about various ways that animals communicate. First the students played a bioacoustics guessing game – they listened to some diverse audio recordings, courtesy of the Borror Lab of Bioacoustics, and tried to guess what animals they came from.

Can you tell which animals make these sounds? Look for the correct answers at the bottom of this post.

mystery sound 1:

mystery sound 2:

mystery sound 3:

Next the students learned about the use of coloration for communication. They observed camouflage in northern walking stick insects and African ghost mantises, as well as warning coloration in Peruvian black velvet stick insects and yellow banded poison dart frogs.

The last animal communication system we discussed was chemical communication. The students played a game in which they were each given a scented cotton ball (peppermint, almond, vanilla) and were tasked with sorting themselves into groups using only their noses. Then they compared their skills to those of our large Atta ant colony.

Ant colonies & fungus gardens in R Adams lab at OSU-MBD

Ant colonies & fungus gardens

The grand finale of the trip was a quick tour of the tetrapod collection lead by Dr. Katherine O’Brien. It was a joy to have such wonderful and inquisitive kids come to visit – we expect to see many of their excited faces return come next spring’s Open House (April 7, 2018)!

About the Author: Morgan Oberweiser is an undergraduate (Evolution and Ecology major) research assistant in Rachelle Adams‘ lab.

Answers to animal sound quiz: sound 1 = American alligator (chickadees scolding the alligator), sound 2 = Texas leafcutting ant, sound 3 = South American catfish

Flight of the Butterfly

What does re-animated life in the Triplehorn insect collection look like? What if a butterfly took flight from its drawer? Watch for yourself: Flight of the Butterfly by Tamara Sabbagh

THANK YOU Luciana Musetti, curator of the OSU Triplehorn Insect collection for facilitating the students’ visit.

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity and facilitates visits of school classes and students.

*** Which of the animations is your favorite? ***

Samsara – Cyclicality of life

Another video of re-animated life produced by a student in the Moving Image Art class organized by Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art:

Samsara – Cyclicality of life by Yuntian Zang: Inspired by the antlers on the wall, a deer goes wandering …

THANK YOU Stephanie Malinich, collection manager of Tetrapods, for facilitating the students’ visit.

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity and facilitates visits of school classes and students.

*** Which of these animals is your favorite? ***

re-animated Life I

We scientists look at our natural history collections as a great resource for our studies. Specimens tell us about life in the past (where species lived, what they looked like, how many individuals existed etc.) and let us hypothesize about the future. This is one way of looking at these dead “things” that we so meticulously curate. Artists may have a quite different view. This was greatly illustrated by a Moving Image Art class organized by Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art, last semester. Students visited our collections of dead things and were asked to find ways to re-animate these animals. We were amazed by the imagination of these young artists-to-be. Over the next days we will share some of the best pieces with you. Here is the first animation, Re-Animated Life by Alina Maddex: Birds and one turtle moving in their natural environment

THANK YOU Stephanie Malinich, collection manager of Tetrapods, Marc Kibbey, Associate Curator of the Fish Division, Caitlin Byrne, Collections Manager of the Division of Molluscs, and Luciana Musetti, curator of the OSU Triplehorn Insect collection for facilitating the students’ visit.

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity and facilitates visits of school classes and students.

*** Which of these animals is your favorite? ***

Virtual tour


I greatly enjoy the National Museum of Natural History virtual tour. It allows people from all over the world to view some of the exhibits that the museum has to offer.  Of course it’s not as gratifying as visiting the museum in person, but it is pretty cool.

The MBD does not have exhibits and is not regularly open to the public. Nonetheless there’s a fair amount of interest from the local community about the work we do here and the collections we hold. We frequently receive requests for tours of the facility, from local schools to OSU classes to family groups. Tours allow visitors to view some of the many specimens and objects held by the various collections and to talk to some of the faculty and curators associated with the collections. I had the pleasure of leading a number of these tours in recent months. I tried to document each tour, taking photos and posting on social media.

Here are some of the photos I took during the most recent tours. Not as fancy as a virtual tour, but hopefully cool enough to get more people excited about a future visit to the Museum of Biological Diversity.

Note that there are almost no photos of the tour groups when they are at the Triplehorn Insect Collection. I can never manage to answer questions about the collection I curate and to take photos at the same time. Oh, well!




About the Author: Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.

Ohio Young Birders visit

Eight Ohio Young Birders visited the insect and tetrapods collections at the Museum of Biological Diversity on Saturday (April 9) morning.

Ohio Young Birders - group photo

Ohio Young Birders with Assoc Prof Jackie Augustine (holding a robot Prairie Chicken) and curator Angelika Nelson

Jackie showed the students a comparison of the innards of a Cooper’s Hawk, Blue-winged Teal, and Mourning Dove, species that use quite different food sources. The students were a captive audience and got really excited when we discovered the remains of a House Sparrow in the stomach of the Cooper’s Hawk.

Crop content of Mourning Dove

Crop content (black sunflower seeds) of a Mourning Dove

Angelika presented some displays of bird eggs and specimens which Stephanie Malinich, curatorial manager of the collection, had set up, to the students. Both the extinct species tray and the tray with wood warbler species seen in Ohio were very popular.

Luciana fascinated students with stories about insects, how and why they were collected, what we can learn from them, etc. The students asked many interesting questions. They were particularly curious about the meaning of the term ‘biodiversity’, about invasive species, and about the impact of climate change on insects.


calosoma-scrutator Cicindela-obsoleta -sml









About the author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and co-organized this visit with Darlene Sillick.

Busy as bees


It’s only mid-January, and the Triplehorn Insect Collection 2016 calendar is already getting crowded. So I started laying out the events and activities that are coming up. Here’s the scoop:

January 29 – Deadline for the 2016 Museum Open House T-Shirt Design Contest

2016 T-Shirt Design Contest

2016 T-Shirt Design Contest

One of the perks of volunteering to help with the Museum Open House is the volunteer t-shirt.  Since 2006, volunteers have received a unique t-shirt, designed especially for the year’s event.  The t-shirt is both practical (easy to identify the people working on the event) and so very cool (only the people who work in the event have it.)

In 2008, ‘Alien Invaders‘ became the first theme associated with the Museum Open House. T-shirt designs and colors changed over the years. Every volunteer has their preferred t-shirt and many of us take pride in having the complete set of Museum Open House t-shirts.

The theme for the 2016 Museum Open House is Living Colors, addressing the role of colors in nature. This year OSU students are invited to participate of the t-shirt creation process by entering their design idea in the Museum Open House T-Shirt Design Contest. And the winner will get an Apple Watch, plus a t-shirt! Deadline is January 29. There’s still time to participate!

April 23 – Museum Open House #MBDOH2016

As I mentioned on a previous post, the Museum Open House is getting a face-lift that includes moving to a later date to take advantage of the (hopefully) warmer weather & adding outdoor activities.  If the trend continues, we expect to break records again in the number of visitors, and we are trying to prepare for that.  Planning for the #MBDOH2016 started back in October 2015, and will pick up speed in the next several weeks. Follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter by using the event’s hashtag. Here are some photos of the Triplehorn collection activities during the Museum Open House. Many more are available on our Facebook photo albums. Check it out!

June 27 to July 1 – Insect Summer Camp

One thing we’ve learned from the Open House is that there are a lot of people, particularly kids, that are just over the top about insects and eager to learn more. To address this need, this summer we’ll have an insect summer camp: a 5-day camp (just during the day, not overnight!) targeted at middle school students. We want to work with the students to help them learn about what insects there are, how they’re put together, what they do (both the good and the bad), and how to make an insect collection. In addition to collecting, we’re arranging interesting visits and other activities. We’re working closely with the Department of Entomology and the Ohio 4-H in developing the camp. Enrollment will be limited, so if you’re interested keep a close watch on the collection’s Facebook page to sign up when the time comes.

September 24-25 – Entomological Collections Network Meeting

The ECN is a long-standing organization dedicated to the support and dissemination of information about and for entomological collections. Membership is open to anyone interested in the subject. Each year the ECN meeting brings together collection curators (like me!), managers, and users from all over the world to discuss community advancements, report on curation and collections-based research projects, etc. ECN meetings are held on the weekend before the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

September 25-30 – XXV International Congress of Entomology 

ICE is the premier international event for entomologists and is held every four years.  The 2016 event will be hosted by the Entomological Society of America in sunny Orlando, FL.  More than 6,000 entomologists from all over the world are expected to participate.

We plan to submit our curatorial and specimen databasing work for presentation at ECN and ICE.

Besides these events, we will continue working on ongoing curatorial projects and activities, mainly:

Beetle Curation — Tenebrionidae specimen databasing: So far we have added 16,383 teneb specimens to the database (mostly between June and December 2015.)  That’s roughly 3 of our cabinets, so 7 more to go. Anyone interested in volunteering a few hours a week to help us out is more than welcome!

List of Coleoptera species in the collection: A list may not sound very impressive, but that is a very useful tool for our curatorial staff.  It’s also a laborious and tedious task which involves deciphering cryptic handwriting and/or very small typed text (ask Lauralee an Alex about that.)  Our very preliminary list of beetles contains about 13,000 species names. Based on our experience with the beetle families that we have already curated, it’s safe to say that our list of beetle species will grow significantly as we inventory the collection.

Incorporation of the Parshall Butterfly Collection — Before we can add the new donation to the general collection, all the specimen boxes and drawers need to be frozen as a preventive pest control measure. Freezing (-20 to -40°C for several days) will kill any live pests that might be hiding in the drawers. As drawers are freeze-treated and added to the general collection, and as time and funds allow, we will be inventorying and cataloging them.

200+ butterfly drawers will be placed in freezer for preventive pest control.

200+ butterfly drawers will be placed in freezer for preventive pest control.

Training personnel — Last year several undergrad student assistants graduated and left.  In addition, two of our volunteers and interns concluded their term with us and left as well.  By mid-2016 we will go through even more personnel changes as Matt Elder (after 5 years working here with us) and Katherine Beigel both graduate and head out into the world. These two students will be a tough act to follow, but that’s the nature of universities: students graduate. We expect to hire new students in the next few months to be trained and to work on specimen databasing, imaging, and curation in general.

Training of new student assistants takes between 4 to 6 months for those working 10 hours per week. Our newest hires, Martha Drake and Rachel McLaughlin, two Entomology majors that started with us last semester, are back to work after the school break and are making very good progress.

We also have a new volunteer! Jan Nishimura has just joined us this week. Welcome, Jan! She will be receiving training on handling specimens and basic curatorial skills so she can help us accomplish our goals for the year.

Service to the community — Last but not least, we serve the community by providing access to the collection for both study and outreach. We offer qualified individuals the options of borrowing specimens or coming in to examine the specimens here. We can also provide data and images upon request. We welcome groups and individuals, on an appointment basis, for guided tours of the collection.

The new year came full of challenges, but full of possibilities as well. We are embracing it, keeping very busy, and relishing the chance to discover something new or beautiful each and every day.


About the Authors: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and the Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection. Dr. Norman Johnson is the Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection. He made a significant contribution to the post and shares the authorship.

Museum Open House Photo Album


With the 12th Museum Open House coming up on April 23, 2016, I thought it would be fun and instructive to look back at the previous events. I asked everyone in the building to share their photos and here are some of the best. I hope you will enjoy.

In case you would like to learn more about our Museum Open House, please visit the event page on the MBD website. We are building a historic record of our Open House and have already added a brief summary page for seven of the previous eleven iterations of the event.

2005 – 2006 – 2007



2008 Alien Invaders | 2009 Voyages of Discovery



2010 Symbiosis |  2011 Extreme Biodiversity



From the 2012 Museum Open House on, the number of photos available skyrockets. There are so many great images! I’ll have to continue sorting through the lot and later add another post with more photos.

By the way, did you see yourself or somebody you know on the photos?  If yes, please drop me a note to let me know. I’m trying to annotate the photos as I go along for future record. Thank you!


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is the Curator of the Tripehorn Insect Collection and a wannabe photographer.

Photo credits: This batch of photos came from ASC Communications (2005), Rich Bradley (spider displays), Luciana Musetti and Charuwat Taekul (Triplehorn Insect Collection), Angelika Nelson (Borror Lab, Tetrapod Collection, Auditorium, Outdoors)


Up close and personal: insects and molluscs


Here’s one question I get frequently from visitors: “Why, oh, why, isn’t the Museum of Biological Diversity open to everyone every day?” That’s a very good question! Here’s an answer. Unlike institutions such as the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, the Carnegie Museum, or our neighbor the Cleveland Museum among others, our museum largely grew out of a background of higher education and research.  We have a different structure and a different mission than these other very fine institutions.  The most visible outcome of these differences is the fact that we don’t have large display areas and exhibits. We also do not have staff dedicated to public outreach. But it’s good to keep in mind that the MBD collections vary in the kinds of services they provide to the community. Each is unique in it’s own way.

My little corner of the MBD is the Triplehorn Insect Collection. We are a research facility and most of our specimens are only accessible to professional scientists and scientists in training (graduate students, postdoctoral associates, etc.)  This policy gets me in trouble with a lot of people who love insects and would like to come in to “see” (many times that means “touch”) the collection.  So, before anyone else gets hot under the collar about that, let’s try to understand what that policy means.

Dried insect specimens are as fragile as they are colorful and beautiful. The more they are handled and exposed to light and humidity, the faster and more likely they are to get damaged.  The insect specimens in the Triplehorn collection are the result of more than 100 years of careful collecting and curation, many of them were collected in forests and meadows and prairies that do not exist anymore. These specimens are, literally, irreplaceable, and it is our responsibility to keep them intact for many more long years.

Aquatic beetles.

Aquatic beetles. Part of the holdings of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.


Because of that, we restrict access to the specimens to only the people who must use them for scientific study, professionals who have lots of experience with museum specimens and therefore are less likely to damage our precious charges. As the curator of the collection, it is my responsibility to protect and preserve the specimens for the long run. To do that I have to enforce the “restricted access” policy.

Now, the fact that we are a research collection does not mean we don’t welcome visitors.  Quite the contrary! We are committed to sharing our knowledge and love of biodiversity with everyone interested.  While we don’t have exhibits per se, we frequently and happily provide tours of the collection to people from the local community. Or even not so local: our audience is wide and varied, from k-12 to university classes, to family or neighborhood groups, to homeschool groups, to citizen scientists and individuals interested in local and global insect diversity.


Up to now we have been scheduling visits as requests come in and our time allows, but starting this month we in the insect collection will be teaming up with our colleagues in the Mollusc Division of the MBD to offer guided tours of the two collections to the general public on set dates.  This initiative comes as a response to the increased interest in the collections, demonstrated by the increase in visit requests.

Tours will still be arranged in advance, but by specifying which days are open for tours we hope to make the whole process a bit easier and more predictable. The set dates might not work for all visitors, but by working together and establishing a structure for tour activities, we hope to continue serving the community without drastically increasing the work-load of our already overworked staff.


The next available dates for insect collection/mollusc collection joint tours are Friday, October 23rd and Friday, November 6th, from 1pm to 4pm. Total estimated tour time for the two collections is between 45 min to 1 hour/group. Group size limit is 20 adults.  For more information or to schedule a guided tour, please contact Tom Watters or Luciana Musetti.


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an entomologist and Curator of the C.A. Triplehorn Insect Collection.