I guess I can let the cat out of the bag now that the grant has been officially awarded. We, i.e., the curators of the Frost, István Mikó, Heather Hines, and I, secured funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Collections in Support of Biological Research program that will allow us to completely update, expand, and improve our storage capacity. It also provides us with resources needed to digitize some of our most significant collections. We are, of course, incredibly excited! It’s a huge development that will help us secure the future of this collection and accelerate research around its specimens. Here’s a brief list of the kinds of activities this award will fund:
- Total pinned specimen cabinet replacement. Ours currently comprise a hodgepodge of standards, styles, and quality (mostly lack of quality). We will replace them with high end cabinets that keep pests out and expand our capacity by about 55%.
- New solutions for slide storage. We will unpack our slides from these small boxes, which are a hazard to the specimens (because they are not standardized across the collection people frequently open them incorrectly, resulting in slide spillage). They will go in a new, fancy set of cabinets made just for slides.
- New solutions for ethanol-preserved specimen storage. Our current system of small metal cabinets with hundred of small drawers leaves specimens susceptible to neglect. A new, more open and more visible system is in the works.
- Secure housing for the Beatty Odonata collection. All of these specimens, currently in boxes on open shelving, will be secured in a purpose built set of cabinets, with room to expand by about 100%. Despite the open storage situation the specimens have remained in perfect shape. This is still an urgent issue for us, though!
- Replace hard-bottom unit trays. We still have a lot! As we digitize specimens and otherwise move material around we will be tossing these old trays.
- Specimen digitization. We’ll be working with undergraduates (watch for advertisement soon!) to image tens of thousands of specimens, including the Beatty collection (see specimen at the start of this post), our lice slides, pollinators (especially bees), and several other target groups.
- Outreach! While this is largely an infrastructure grant, we do have a few activities that will be facilitated by this award, mainly: (1) Increased involvement of us in Penn State’s Bug Camp, (2) a reboot of our Frost Biodiversity Internship program, and (3) public exhibit about the importance of natural history collections and the kinds of research we do.
The infrastructure upgrade will happen relatively quickly, so watch for before and after photos! Again, this is a huge development for the Frost, and we expect big things to happen as a result of this investment.