Fla. Museum receives $500,000 NSF grant to curate Lepidoptera collection

November 10th, 2009

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida Museum of Natural History scientists have received nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to curate butterfly and moth collections in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.

Andrei Sourakov and Keith Willmott received the $495,989 grant to integrate the Ulf Eitschberger specimens from Germany into the McGuire Center’s collections and fund other projects for the center.

Sourakov said the three-year project will help solidify the McGuire Center collections as one of the best and most accessible in the world.

“The ability of our institution to secure outside support for curation of incoming collections is what prompts people to donate to us,” Sourakov said. “Funding from the National Science Foundation will be used to offset the cost of collection drawers, other supplies, and curatorial assistants. Once this collection is integrated, it will stimulate dozens of research projects, scientific publications and books.”

The Eitschberger collection is one of the largest Lepidoptera collections ever donated to a public museum and contains nearly 1 million specimens from around the world. Curating the collection will require 7,000 new specimen storage drawers and thousands of man-hours.

Sourakov and Willmott have recruited visiting curator Vladimir Lukhtanov from St. Petersburg State University in Russia for the project. Lukhtanov is a world-renowned expert on butterflies from the Palearctic region, the ecozone comprised of Europe, northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and northern Asia, where most of the specimens in the collection were collected. Lukhtanov will work with Sourakov and Willmott to sort the collection, identify specimens and conduct research projects.

The collection was previously held at the Entomologisches Museum Eitschberger in Germany and recently donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History by Dr. William and Nadine McGuire of Wayzata, Minn., as part of a gift of 2.2 million specimens donated to the museum.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that promotes scientific progress and advancements in national health, prosperity and welfare by funding small-scale research projects. About 10,000 awards are issued each year for research proposals in the fields of mathematics, engineering, computer science and social sciences.

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Source: Andrei Sourakov, 352-273-2013, asourakov@flmnh.ufl.edu
Keith Willmott, 352-273-2012, kwillmott@flmnh.ufl.edu
Writer: Morgan Lamborn
Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu