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Brief description of goals:

The Triplehorn Insect Collection houses over 800,000 specimens of beetles of all groups. Some 70% of this material is still tightly stored in outdated drawers and unit trays that greatly restrict access to the specimens and limits the collection’s overall scientific impact. In order to increase access to the specimens we will transfer all beetle specimens in the collection to archival quality storage. As we progress we will produce a list of all beetle taxa in the collection, capture the data for all beetle paratype specimens, as well as the data for 5,000+ tiger beetles in the recently acquired Thomas Schultz collection. We have partnered with Notes from Nature, a citizen science platform which allows collections to upload photos of specimens and labels to a community of data transcription volunteers, to create a new data transcription project focused on beetles, particularly tiger beetles.

Significant Results:

Six undergraduate student assistants were hired and started training in the handling natural history museum specimens, curatorial operating procedures, data transcription, and database upload.

In preparation for the beetle transcription citizen science project associated with the Notes from Nature platform, 2,400+ images have been produced and prepared for upload to the platform’s website.

A donation of 5,111 specimens of historic importance from the Ohio State ATI in Wooster, Ohio was accepted. The material is quite old, dating to the early 2oth century, and many of the specimens came from research materials of the staff of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and were identified by staff of the US Department of Agriculture Systematic Entomology Laboratory. This old material was transferred from cork-lined unit trays to modern foam-lined trays. This task occupied 65 man-hours of work by undergraduate associates and served as initial training for newly hired students.

Specific curatorial achievements:

All curatorial steps have been completed for the families Dytiscidae (10K specimens), Georissidae (71 specimens), Haliplidae (2K specimens), Helophoridae (420 specimens), Hydrochidae (343 specimens), and Noteridae (2K specimens). This, along with work completed in phase 1 of the project, accounts for most of the suborder Adephaga.

Transfer has been completed for the families Histeridae (3K specimens), Hydraenidae (100 specimens), Hydrophilidae (8.5K specimens), and Leiodidae (1 .4K specimens). Some reorganization still needed.

The initial stages of processing have been completed for the families Ptiliidae (5 drawers), Agyrtidae (1 drawer), Silphidae (7 drawers), and Staphylinidae (52 drawers).

Started the reorganization of the superfamily Scarabaeoidea. Most specimens have been removed from cork-lined trays and digitized over the years. Over 30,000 specimens in 938 taxa have already been added to the database, including 182 paratypes and 2 primary types. There is still a lot of curatorial work to be done in the superfamily. The following groups have been completely recurated: families Geotrupidae (1.5K specimens), Passalidae (400 specimens), Lucanidae (800 specimens), and Trogidae (1.7K specimens); the genus Phyllophaga (i.e., May/June beetles, ~9K specimens).

Replaced substandard/oversized labels for a large number of specimens (~3,000) of miscellaneous beetles received as donations.


The first year of the project coincided with COVID-19 pandemic and that made for a very slow start of the project. Hiring and and training new personnel in detailed curatorial tasks while maintaining social distance was a challenge. Purchasing of materials and supplies (cabinets, drawers, unit trays) continues to be difficult due to shortages of materials and several long-time suppliers going out of business.

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Funded by the National Science Foundation

Award # 2035537

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