With support from the National Science Foundation, important collections of amphibians, reptiles and fishes are being moved to the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections (formerly the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection) in collaboration with West Texas A&M University (Canyon, TX). The National Science Foundation Program, Collections in Support of Biological Research, awarded a $200,000 grant to our team. The team includes Dr. Lee Fitzgerald, Faculty Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles, Dr. Kevin Conway, Faculty Curator of Fishes, Dr. Toby Hibbitts, Staff Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles, Ms. Heather Prestridge, Staff Curator of Fishes, and Dr. Rich Kazmaier, Professor and Curator from WTAMU. The project involves multiple undergraduates and
graduate students who have been instrumental in the project implementation.
The West Texas A&M University collections consists of more than 15,100 amphibian and reptile specimens and nearly 30,000 fishes. These specimens were at risk and in urgent need of rehabilitation, and the geographical and ecological data associated with the specimens was not widely available. With the help of WTAMU faculty and students, most of the material has been moved to the BRTC facility in College Station, where these specimens are now being properly curated into the collections.
Undergraduate students from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences spent almost a year and a half entering data, rehydrating desiccated specimens, sorting and organizing the specimens. Once the digital catalog data entry is complete, the specimen data will be made accessible to the public via the VertNET and iDigBio portals. A portion of the funds from NSF have been used to improve specimen storage, including new drums for larger specimens and shelving. We are working collaboratively with Dr. Kazmaier to ensure WTAMU maintains an important regional collection of specimens for teaching purposes.
The Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles at the BRTC is the 6th largest university-based collection in the U.S. (12th including
the Smithsonian and other large museums). The BRTC Collection of Fishes contain over 785,000 specimens of fishes from around the world, organized in almost 53,000 lots. This collection is ranked 10th among universities in the U.S. (20th overall). The vast majority of our specimens are ‘georeferenced’, meaning each specimen record includes geospatial data, making them useful for a variety of research uses beyond basic time and space distribution for individuals of a particular species. Specimens typically enter the collections with associated tissue samples valuable for studies of genetics, disease, toxicology, and isotopes. With the addition of the WTAMU material, both institutions will see great improvements in the quality and value of our collections.
These important collections serve to document biodiversity across geographical regions that were underrepresented in our collections (specifically North and West Texas). These specimens will be immediately available for myriad studies now and into the future. Dr. Kevin Conway is already using these collections in research on several rare minnow species occurring in western
For more information about our collections and current projects, contact Heather L. Prestridge, Curator Biodiversity Research
and Teaching Collections, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, College Station, TX, brtc.tamu.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org.