New funding will expedite specimen databasing.

Big news! Last week we received the call that every researcher anxiously awaits. The program officer of the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) Program of  the National Science Foundation phoned to let us know that he would be recommending approval of our grant proposal. We were thrilled!

Basically, we proposed to collaborate with the Southwestern Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN) to capture and share data from specimens in the Triplehorn Collection of the ground beetles (family Carabidae) and the darkling beetles (family Tenebrionidae). This will total somewhere around 80,000 specimens.

Our extensive holdings of southwestern insects began with the annual trips of Dorothy and Josef Knull in the 1930’s, and so we will be able to contribute not only to the extent of species in SCAN, but also a historical context to understand better how distributions of species have perhaps changed over the past 70-80 years.

This databasing project complements the large beetle re-curation project that we are currently working on (see our post: Love (and re-curate) thy beetles).  To date, all our ground beetles and 70-75% of our darkling beetles have been re-curated.  In addition, about 2/3 of our total specimen holdings of ground beetles, many of which were collected from the southwestern United States, have already been recorded in the database and made publicly available.  The geographic distribution of the southwestern collecting localities for those specimens that have already been digitized is illustrated below:

Map showing the geographic distribution of ground beetles (family Carabidae).

Geographic distribution of the southwestern collecting localities for ground beetle (Carabidae) specimens that have already been digitized.

We’ll be posting more information about the project as it develops. One of the first orders of business will be to hire and train new undergraduate curatorial assistants to help with data entry.


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