At first glance, the rows of navy-and-green storage cabinets don't reveal the treasures within. The moveable storage units in the Spaulding Life Sciences building house one of New England's finest collections. Not works of art or historical papers, but bugs--more than 600,000 bugs.
From stunningly beautiful butterflies to tiny ticks, the Insect and Arachnid Collection is recognized as an invaluable tool for teaching and research throughout New England. Donald Chandler, professor of zoology and the collection's curator since 1981, notes that an active collection like this serves three purposes.
"It serves to teach students, to further scientific research, and as an authoritative reference in identifying specimens," he says. Chandler produces a group of 50 different species of leaf hoppers. Only one is harmful to crops, yet they all look alike. With the collection, a farmer can know with certainty whether the leaf hopper he found in his corn is just an innocuous bug or one that requires expensive eradication.
Some of Chandler's favorites are native to New Hampshire, such as the endangered Karner blue butterfly, below. He notes that there are areas in the state with insects found nowhere else, including several species of moths, flies and coastal beetles.
"For curators, there are different definitions of best specimens," Chandler says, "but those that are unique and very local to an area--those are the treasures of New Hampshire."
A number of specimens from the collection are being featured at the UNH Museum as part of its 40th anniversary exhibit. "Campus Curiosities" showcases fascinating selections from collections across campus and represents the wealth of resources at the university.
For the show came fossils, gems and a wooly mammoth tooth from earth sciences and delicate seashells from marine biology. The endangered Potentilla robbinsiana (Robbin's cinquefoil), collected in 1840 in the White Mountains, one of the Albion R. Hodgdon Herbarium's more than 200,000 plant specimens, is also on display. The exhibit, which will run through July 27, also includes posters, a puppet, photos and pottery. Dale Valena, museum curator, calls the exhibit "a snapshot of the whole university."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents