Specimen digitization – collecting histories

After specimen data are added to our database, we can ask all sorts of interesting questions about the specimens. We can also ask questions about the people associated with the specimens. We can track the collecting history of an individual: the places they collected, the dates, their field companions, etc. For example, let’s look at Richard A. Leussler (1866-1943). He was a railroad executive in Omaha, Nebraska, but his true passion were the butterflies. Much of his magnificent collection, with specimens dating back to the 1880’s, is well-preserved here at the Triplehorn Insect Collection. The skipper butterflies he collected are all already databased.

Searching our database for “Leussler” we find R. and R.A. Leussler (Fig. 1). Those are treated as synonyms in the database. By clicking on one of them we get the basic info we were able to gather for him so far (Fig 2). We hope to build on this to add photos, the complete list of the species he described and his publications.

By expanding the item “+Collecting Trip” we get a list of all the specimens he collected. The list can be sorted by taxon, by locality, by date, among others. As we digitize more of our specimens we are building a knowledge bank have a more complete picture of each individual’s contributions to the collective knowledge. We are working to make these database queries more efficient (i.e., faster) and fully available online.

Fig. 1. Querying the collection’s database for the name “Leussler” results in a list of names.

Fig. 2. Information obtained by clicking on the name “Leussler, R. A”.

Fig.3. Collecting trips (see Fig 2 above) provides a list of specimens collected by “Leussler, R. A.” and recorded in the Triplehorn collection’s database.

If you are interested in insects and insect collections, check out also: Clearing the logjam, Backyard Bug Explorer, The Knull Legacy

About the Author: Luciana Musetti is and Entomologist, wasp taxonomist, and the Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.