Saturday, November 17, 2012

Neglected Collections

After my college graduation last May, I've been using my free time to go back through the bug collections I did while still an undergraduate. I had a lot of material left over--both dry specimens and ethanol specimens, along with photographs and lists to organize. I never quite had the time to do it while taking classes (or at least, that's what I tell myself), so I'm very glad I can take care of it now.

I've had this blog post about respecting your specimens gnawing at me since I read it during the summer, and felt a bit guilty. I had some pretty crappy labels with my specimens, or even worse, no labels at all! For some, I could remember exactly where I was standing when I collected them, so it wasn't a huge problem. But for others...well, those just had to be thrown out as useless.

Some of my specimens were new to the collection and represented unique information, so I wanted to make sure they were properly labeled and taken care of. With that mission in mind, I've devoted myself over the past month to slogging through my material that's been languishing for months (in a few cases, years). And now, I'm beginning to see results!

This box only has six empty spots now.

I've prepared labels for 90 specimens and put many of them under the microscope to identify them as close to species level as I could. This was difficult for a number of them, especially the centipedes, due to lack of practice by me and the lack of recent references, but it's been a fun challenge. I've also found some interesting animals (such as the centipede Theatops, the subject of my previous blog post) and experienced some great memories. Most of my millipedes were collected for a Field Techniques class with the help of two good friends, who spent their evening sampling through leaf litter with me. A scorpion was collected during a summer class in the New Mexican desert, where I learned about arthropod UV fluorescence for the first time.

Now I'm at the point where I can do something with all my collected specimens. Some of what I'm working on includes:
  • A guide to Ohio centipedes, which will be accessible online and will have pictures of certain identification characteristics to make up for the paucity of reference material online.
  • A publication of my assassin bug research
  • A publication/guide of local millipede species
It's exciting to put together what I've been working on for the past few years, and to find new projects. I'm hopeful that what I'm doing will be useful for others interested in these groups in Ohio. There definitely hasn't been much done with centipedes and millipedes, which is a barrier to anyone wanting to learn more about them or do their own research, so maybe this can be a springboard for future studies.

My to-do list: keeping me going. That "hola" has been there for a while, so I couldn't bring myself to erase it.

1 comment:

  1. Specimens without labels are useless for publication, I agree, but you may teach someday. I kept all my old stuff, and they make for a good reference I.D. or for practice keying.