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MSU houses Smithsonian grasshopper collection

About 32,000 grasshopper specimens from the Smithsonian Institution are now housed in the Mississippi Entomological Museum to support ongoing research at Mississippi State University.

JoVonn Hill, a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station research associate in MSU’s Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, has been working since last summer to secure the collection’s loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The collection is in 150 drawers of dried, pinned and identified insects, many of which have hand-written tags dating back more than 100 years. Smithsonian staff pulled the portion of the collection MSU is borrowing and packed them for transport. Hill and fellow research associate Jennifer Seltzer hauled the insects from Washington, D.C. in a trailer.

The collection arrived July 27, and MSU has it on loan for five years. Hill said they likely can extend the loan.

“This is a research collection,” Hill said. “I’ve been studying the grasshopper species of the Southeast, and this collection will give me more information on how widely a species is distributed and other biological information, as well as provide more specimens to work with.”

Hill said few grasshopper specimens have been added to the Smithsonian collection since the 1970s. While the collection is in MSU’s possession, Hill will be required to curate and add to it.

“To curate it is to keep it up to date, such as when a name is changed or when two previously identified species are determined to be the same,” Hill said. “I’ll add to it when I go out in the field, and I’ll collect for MSU and for the U.S. National Museum collection.”

The grasshopper collection is being housed in the Mississippi Entomological Museum in the Clay Lyle Entomology Complex at MSU.

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