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Scarab Central
The national collection of scarab beetles (minus dung beetles), a part of the vast insect collections of the U.S. National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., was transferred in March 1999 to the University of Nebraska State Museum as a long-term loan (part of a Smithsonian program of off-site enhancement). Dr. Brett C. Ratcliffe, Curator of the Division of Entomology at the State Museum, and Dr. Mary Liz Jameson, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Museum, concluded negotiations with the Dept. of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution (through Dr. David Furth, Collections Manager and other Smithsonian staff) to bring the collection to Lincoln for a ten year period. This compliments the NSF/PEET program of scarab research by Ratcliffe and Jameson to study New World scarab beetles, train graduate students, and study the phylogenetic relationships of the higher taxa.

Mary Liz Jameson, Karla Villatoro, Andrew Smith looking at entomological boxes Mary Liz Jameson (left), Karla Villatoro, and Andrew Smith at the National Museum of Natural History preparing part of the scarab collection for shipment to Nebraska, March 1999.
Photo by Brett Ratcliffe.

The taxonomic research entailed in this grant, in combination with the formation of a team of scarab specialists by Ratcliffe and Jameson, provided the foundation for bringing the national collection to the University of Nebraska. The objectives of the NSF grant include training students in scarab systematics, producing identification guides to selected groups of scarab beetles, conducting evolutionary analyses of scarabs, and producing an identification guide to the approximately 320 genera (representing thousands of species) of New World scarabs. Nebraska is now an even more prominent world-class center for conducting research on this group of beetles (containing approx. 35,000 species), and the results of the NSF grant will provide the foundations for future research in the largest and most poorly studied groups. The research program in the Museum's Division of Entomology currently has, in addition to Drs. Ratcliffe and Jameson, two Ph.D. (Andrew Smith from Canada and Federico Ocampo from Argentina) and two M.S. students (Karla Villatoro from Guatemala and Aura Paucar from Ecuador) working on monographic revisions and the classification of scarabs. In summary, there is no other place in the world where there is this amount of scarab research being conducted. As a result, there is no better place for curating, identifying, and databasing the national collection.

Brett Ratcliffe carring boxes


Brett Ratcliffe in the loaded truck


Brett Ratcliffe (left) and Andrew Smith transferring scarabs into the rental truck at the National Museum of Natural History loading dock, March 1999.
Yes, the picture is posed.
Photo by Karla Villatoro.
Brett Ratcliffe in heaven . . . sorry . . . inside the rental truck with part of the national collection of scarabs, March 1999. The truck became completely full after
this photo was taken.
Photo by Karla Villatoro.

Team Scarab and the moving truck


moving truck leaving the Smithsonian


Scarab moving day at the Smithsonian. From the left, David Furth (Entomology Collections Manager), Brett Ratcliffe, John Nay (Logistics and Supply Manager,USNM), Karla Villatoro, Leo Mastromatteo (Volunteer, USNM), Mary Liz Jameson, and Andrew Smith, March 1999.
Everyone is dead tired.
Photo by Stephen Gaimari.
The scarab collection loan invoice from the Smithsonian to Nebraska indicated, under number of packages, one.
You are looking at it.
Photo by Brett Ratcliffe.

The national collection included nearly a third of a million specimens and was contained in approx. 1,100 glass-topped drawers. "Team Scarab" at the University of Nebraska State Museum traveled to Washington for a week in mid-March 1999 to prepare the collection for shipment to Nebraska by truck. Another grant from NSF provided $38,000 for new specimen cabinets in which to place the national collection when it comes to Nebraska. Now begin the tasks of curating, identifying, and electronically databasing the national collection so that the scientific data associated with the specimens can be readily retrieved. In addition, the collection will provide a fabulous opportunity to train graduate students in research, curation, databasing, and managing an internationally important scientific resource. The national collection, combined with those already at Nebraska, will give Nebraska one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of its kind in the world. It will serve as a magnet in attracting other scientists who wish to study this material through loans or by on-site visits to the collections.

Team Scarab doing the lamellate wave

Brett Ratcliffe and Andrew Smith with dynastines

With the loading completed, Team Scarab and Dave Furth relax by displaying the secret sign of the Sacred Order of the Lamellate Antennae, the lamellate wave, complete with stridulation.
Photo by Karla Villatoro.
The collection is safely delivered
to the Division of Entomology
at the Unviversity of Nebraska
State Museum, March 1999.
See, Bob, there was
no breakage.
Photo by Mary Liz Jameson.

Overall, the products of this proposed off-site enhancement would benefit the National Museum of Natural History, the research program at Nebraska, and a large community of scientists beyond both institutions. The off-site enhancement at Nebraska would return the national collection to world-class status.

Smithsonian Scarab Collection placed at the UNSM

The new home for the next few years for the Smithsonian's pleurostict scarabs: Scarab Central at the Division of Entomology of the University of Nebraska State Museum.
Photo by Brett Ratcliffe.

For additional information, write to Dr. MJ Paulsen ( at Nebraska or Dr. David Furth ( in Washington.


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