This year’s cohort of MSc Entomology and IPM students have been given the opportunity to assist with the cataloguing and maintenance of the insect specimen collections here at Harper Adams University. A small team of us have started the task and oh boy what a task it is!
Like a sunken treasure chest, nobody really knew what to expect while we opened box after box after box. Some were full of outstanding specimens, ready to be used for education and research projects. Others were either empty or in serious disrepair.
The lack of a specimen catalogue in the Harper Adams collections stems from its brief but exciting history. The collections were saved from a handful of other institutions and transported from around the United Kingdom to a room in rural Shropshire. In this jumble of cabinets, drawers and boxes we have specimens from all over the world, some as old as 1897 and even some strange discoveries (such as the Golden Beetle pictured below, now named Beetleus spraypainta from a student project in 2011).
We inherited the task from Ceri Watkins who had soldiered on alone last year and made a fantastic start to the cataloguing project and got many specimens down to species level. This year’s collection team comprises of Dave Stanford-Beale, Richard Prew, Chris Mackin, Kelleigh Greene and Aidan Thomas who are squeezing in as much time as possible before the busy months ahead filled with research projects and more lectures.
Many of you readers may have already seen @coleopterist, Max Barclay’s blog on the importance of specimens and collections, where he stated:
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, the opportunity to handle a specimen may be worth a thousand pictures: nothing else can communicate the same sense of scale or detail. I know from daily experience the power of natural history collections to inspire awe and fascination”.
This team certainly agrees and we have learnt more about taxonomy and identification while going through these collections than we could have from simply reading a book or examining photographs. We are very honoured by having this opportunity and look forward to the Entohub and Harper Adams University Collections being able to be used by the entire HAU community easily and quickly to contribute to research.
We will post periodically throughout the year about progress in the collections and events. Keep updated by following this blog and our twitter page @entomasters
Written by Dave Stanford-Beale