Louisiana State Arthropod Museum

Timothy Schowalter  |  2/13/2009 10:09:19 PM

Museum staff

Big beetles

Calosoma

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The Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM) is housed on the 5th floor of the Life Sciences Building on the main campus of LSU. It is part of the Department of Entomology and is a component collection of the Louisiana Museum of Natural History. The LSAM contains approximately 500,000 specimens of insects and related arthropods. This includes 280,000 pinned, 18,000 fluid-preserved and 30,000 slide-mounted specimens. Uncurated specimens in various stages of processing vary through time from 50,000 to 100,000. The LSAM is the principal repository for insects and related arthropods in Louisiana. Significant strengths of the collection include Coleoptera (51%) and Hemiptera (28%). Lepidoptera (6%), Diptera (6%) and Hymenoptera (4%) and other orders (5%) make up the balance of the collection. The collection contains 747 paratypes, one syntype, one allotype and one holotype. Primary types described by LSAM researchers are normally deposited in dedicated type repositories (e.g., the U. S. National Museum, Field Museum of Natural History, etc.). The majority of specimens are from southeastern United States, and most of the remainder are from elsewhere in North America, Mexico and Central and South America. Recent expeditions have added specimens, mainly Coleoptera from West Africa (Ghana) and New Zealand.

A species-level inventory of curated specimens is approximately 80% complete. Completed portions are available via hard copy, text files (that can be sent via e-mail). Specimen data are being captured using R. Colwell's Biota (Sinauer Associates) software package. Our current computerization priority is data capture related to current research projects. Retroactive data capture will be accomplished as data entry resources become available. Specimens are available for loans to researchers following normal institutional loan guidelines (contact the Curator for details). Specialists are encouraged to borrow and identify undetermined material in exchange for retention of duplicate exemplars.

Growth. The Life Sciences Building opened in 1971, and the former director, Joan Chapin, who designed the space, was told there would be expansion room within the next 10 years. However, it was not until 25 years later, after Dr. Chapin retired and Chris Carlton became director, that additional space was made available. In 1996 the LSAM expanded into a renovated adjacent laboratory, which brought the total floor area to approximately 2,000 square feet. In 1997 the LSAM received an enhancement grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents that provided for the purchase of new cabinetry, laboratory workbenches, a microscope and curatorial equipment and supplies. As a result, we initiated a major new phase of growth focusing on poorly represented habitats in Louisiana and adjacent states and improving our collections of taxa from the neotropical region that are relevant to the research interests of the faculty and staff.

During the spring of 2001, the long awaited Life Science Annex was opened. The rice entomology lab moved into the new building, and we inherited their space. As a result the LSAM added 2,000 square feet, bringing our total floor space to approximately 4,000 square feet. Thanks to renovation funds from the LSU College of Agriculture and the LSU AgCenter, we took down walls, opened new doorways and removed unnecessary sinks and lab benches. We now have a modern, spacious museum and research complex on par with any university-based collection to go with our dedicated team of insect systematists and conservation biologists.

The museum's current phase of growth has been fueled in large part by specimens acquired during domestic fieldwork in Louisiana and elsewhere in the southeastern United States and recent foreign expeditions to Ghana, Ecuador, Costa Rica and New Zealand. We have also received significant contributions through donations of private collections. Between 2002 and 2007, Vernon Brou, an avocational insect collector in Abita Springs, donated approximately 34,000 specimens of Lepidoptera and other insects from his world renowned Lepidoptera collection. For several years we have also received significant contributions of Odonata from William Mauffray of the International Odonata Research Institute in Gainesville, Fla., and Gayle Strickland, local collector and expert insect photographer.

Service and research emphasis. The LSAM serves the public of the State of Louisiana by providing identifications of insects and related arthropods and serving as a clearinghouse for information to homeowners, agriculturalists and educational institutions. Research conducted by LSAM scientists focuses on systematics and comparative diversity of insects in habitats throughout Louisiana, the adjacent Gulf Coastal Plain, the southern Appalachian Mountains and circum-Caribbean region. Specialized systematic projects of the staff and students focus on Coleoptera on a global scale.
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