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About the LSAM - Past and Present

Staff Working

Busy day in the Coleoptera room

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 1,000,000 specimens of insects and related arthropods. This includes 900,000 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, 1 syntype, 1 allotype, and 1 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, Central and South America. Recent expeditions have added specimens, mainly Coleoptera, from Ecuador and New Zealand.

A searchable database of curated specimens is approximately 20% complete. Specimen data are being captured using Specify Software, a server based museum databasing system developed at the University of Kansas with support from the National Science Foundation. 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. During 1996 the LSAM expanded into a renovated adjacent laboratory, which brought the total floor area to approximately 2000 ft2. During 1997 the LSAM received an enhancement grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents that provided for the purchase of new cabinetry, laboratory work benches, 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.

Staff Working

Literature Collection

During Spring 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 2000 ft2, bringing our total floor space to approximately 4000 ft2. Thanks to renovation funds from the LSU College of Agriculture and Agricultural Center, we took down walls, opened new doorways, and removed unecessary 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 Great Smoky Mountains National Park and recent foreign expeditions to Ghana, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and New Zealand. We have also received significant contributions through donations of private collections. Vernon Brou, an avocational insect collector in Abita Springs,  has donated approximately 180,000 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, FL and Gayle Strickland, local collector and expert insect photographer.

Service and Research Emphasis

The LSAM serves the public of the State of Louisana 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.

The greatest gap in understanding the insect fauna of Louisiana is our ability to characterize diversity in natural ecosystems, especially habitats within those systems that harbor the great diversity of cryptic organisms that require specialized techniques to collect and study. Many of our naturally occurring forests, savannahs, and wetlands are in danger of disappearing before their diversity has even been adequately characterized. We have initiated surveys of selected habitats in Louisiana that are poorly represented in collections nationwide to provide a more thorough representation of the insect biodiversity in Louisiana. Major research projects funded through a grants from the Louisiana Board of Regents and the Louisiana Nature Conservancy have included surveys of insect faunas in longleaf pine savannahs and mixed mesophytic hardwood forest in south Louisiana. These habitats are critically endangered throughout their limited ranges and are high on the list of priorities for conservation managers in Louisiana. Work in Louisiana and neighboring states has documented many beetle species that are unique to these habitats and we are expanding these investigations to include additional groups of arthropods of Louisiana. Much of our regular insect inventory activities are conducted at our locally owned and operated nature preserve, Feliciana Preserve, approximately 30 miles north of Baton Rouge.

Past research has demonstrated that insect surveys can influence decisions about preserving unique and endangered habitats in the state. The unusual Trichoptera fauna of Schoolhouse Springs in Jackson Parish was reviewed by John Morse (Clemson University) and Cheryl Barr (University of California, Berkeley), and a new species was described. The springs are the type localities for five caddisfly and one stonefly species, and at least 43 species of caddisflies have been captured in or beside them. Cheryl Barr also worked with the Louisiana Nature Conservancy and the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program on the justification for the purchase and protection of this unique aquatic insect habitat. We intend to expand this effort by producing insect biodiversity data that can be incorporated into decision making processes that identify and protect sensitive and threatened components of Louisiana's environmental landscape.

The LSAM has been involved in the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for seven years and now serves as a sorting center for Coleoptera specimens collecting in the park as part of that ambitious project (see related web pages). New species and novel discoveries that have come to light as a result of Coleoptera studies in the southeastern United States include the description of a new species of the fungus beetle family Endomychidae, the first description of the larva of the erotylid beetle tribe Loberini and staphylinid tribe Mayetini.  The Smokies project has resulted in the discovery of an endemic species of flightless forest litter-inhabiting chrysomelid leaf beetle, a new genus and species of pselaphine staphylinid, new species in the families Staphylinidae, Cerylonidae, Leiodidae, Carabidae, Mycetophagidae, and approximately 30 other species of beetles in various families that are new to science. 

Monitoring of the state fauna for newly introduced pest species in collaboration with other members of the Department of Entomology Faculty resulted in the documentation of several new potential pests for the state since 1995. The hairy maggot blowfly (Chrysomya rufifacies) is an Australasian species that has become established in Louisiana via Texas. A neotropical leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus zonatus) was identified from Plaquemines Parish, where it was causing economically significant damage to citrus. Monitoring and specimen screening continues for the Mexican stalk borer (Eureoma lofteni), which has entered the state's southwestern sugarcane growing region from Texas. A project funded by the University of California, Riverside was conducted to survey for parasitoids of the sharpshooter leafhopper (Homalodisca coagulata) in the Baton Rouge area in connection with biological control efforts in California.

Monitoring for invasive pests in collaboration with other faculty in the Department will remain a top priority for the LSAM and may very well increase in importance with increasing economic cooperation and trade between the U.S. and Latin America. Moreover, if long range projections of a warming climate prove correct, the number of neotropical species becoming established in the southern U.S. will increase. These factors reinforce the need for strong neotropical representation in the LSAM collections.  

Additional information about the specialized interests of LSAM staff and students can be found on their individual webpages.