Located in the Department of Entomology’s main quarters in the Minnie Belle Heep Building on TAMU’s West Campus, the collection (or TAMUIC for short) has been an integral part of entomology at Texas A&M and in the state of Texas for more than 100 years. The collection has grown steadily through the years, especially in the last two decades, to become one of the top university-based insect collections in the United States. The TAMUIC is the largest natural history collection at Texas A&M in numbers of curated specimens (almost 2.2 million) and in numbers of species (more than 45,000), and is the largest entomological research collection in the state of Texas. The collection is an irreplaceable resource that provides critical support for the teaching, research and service missions of the university’s Department of Entomology.
How Does the TAMU Collection Serve Entomologists and the Public?
The collection serves Texans in a number of important ways. It is an archive for historically important specimens (some are more than 100 years old), and is an important teaching and research tool for undergraduate and graduate studies in insect biodiversity. Many undergraduate entomology students work as part-time curatorial assistants in the collection, a truly unique learning experience!
Serving as a comprehensive reference for insect identifications is one of the most immediate and practical uses of the insect collection. Specimens housed in the collection that have been accurately identified by experts across the United States and around the world serve as reference materials that enable state entomologists to answer that inevitable first question of entomology: what is it? A simple question, but not simple to answer given that there are more than 1 million different named species of insects – and probably more than 30,000 of these occur in Texas.
The TAMUIC is used extensively by research entomologists around the world, particularly by those studying in the field of insect systematics – which involves studies of the biodiversity, classification and evolutionary relationships of insects. The collection loans more than 10,000 specimens annually to researchers working in different parts of the world. Because of the collection’s geographical emphasis on the insect fauna of Texas, surrounding states, and Mexico, the collection is particularly well-known and used by researchers around the state, nationally, and internationally who work on insects in these areas. By making specimens widely available for study, research collections like the TAMUIC support the global network of biodiversity researchers and their continuing efforts to better document the diversity and distribution of the earth’s biota.