News and Updates
Patricia Vaurie and her husband were both enthusiastic about natural history. Patricia has an extremely successful career studying beetles while her husband pursued his artistic interest in North American birds. Their trips together provided the AMNH Entomology collection with a breadth of data that is still productive and informative to the field as we continue to digitize her plant bug specimens.
Patricia Wilson was born on September 14, 1909 in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. While she was still young, her family moved to New York City. By 1920, they lived only a block away from the American Museum of Natural History. Patricia attended high school and later Barnard College, Columbia University. She graduated in 1931 with a degree in English literature.
During World War II she started volunteering as a technical assistant in the Department of Insects and Spiders (now the Department of Invertebrate Zoology). Around this time she met her husband Charles Vaurie. He was a dentist in New York with an avid interest in painting North American birds. Although Patricia focused on the study of beetles, the two of them appreciated their mutual interests in natural history. They were married in 1934.
By 1947 she achieved the title of Assistant and by 1957 became a Research Associate. Patricia published 77 revisionary studies of beetles throughout the course of her work. She received a total of four grants from the National Science Foundation to study Diplotaxis (Scarabaeidae) and Metamasius (Curculionidae). According to her glowing obituary, her colleagues held her in high regard for her meticulous and usable work.
TTD-TCN project digitizers at the American Museum of Natural History are still
benefitting from her enthusiasm for insects and detail. Although Patricia
specialized in beetles, she collected a variety of other insects while on trips
for the Natural History Museum with her husband. Interestingly, the Specimen
Database tells us that most of their work trips took place during the months of
July and August in pleasant locations such as the Bahamas, Cuba,
New Mexico, Guatemala, the Ruins at Palenque (dark blue peg), and Flagstaff, Arizona.
This sounds like an extremely convenient way to skip out on New York City
summers. Moreover, these trips were often funded as expeditions. The map to the right represents all of the localities that the Vauries collected plant bug specimens
during the D. Rockefeller Mexico
Expedition of 1953 (green pegs).
We have been digitizing many species that were collected by her but were later determined by other AMNH entomologists. This tells us that she collected for the greater good of the field even though beetles were clearly her specialty. The current, massive plant bug collection at AMNH does not solely exist because of previous plant bug enthusiasts. Although such specialists have left a huge impact, the enormity of the project is just as dependent on the previous work of enthusiastic entomologists in general.Josephinus reinhardi (light blue star) for example, it was collected is 1952 by Patricia Vaurie and it sat until 2005 when M. D. Schwartz determined the specimen. Now, in 2014, it is available for digitization and has become a small piece of data in a growing database.
References and Suggested Further Reading:Herman, Lee H. "Patricia Vaurie: 1909-1982." The Coleopterists Bulletin 36.2 (1982): 453-57. JSTOR. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
Ratcliffe, Brett. "PATRICIA VAURIE." PATRICIA VAURIE. University of Nebraska-Lincoln State Museum - Division of Entomology, 01 Jan. 1988. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
Short, Lester L. "In Memoriam: Charles Vaurie." The Auk 93.3 (1976): 620-25. JSTOR. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
Maps built using google.maps.com and the Tri-Tropic Specimen Database.
Photo of Patricia Vaurie from her obituary in The Coleopterists Bulletin.
Article by Becky Fisher: TTTCN Intern and Masters candidate at Columbia University in Museum Anthropology.
Grace Olive Wiley is most widely known for her illustrious career as a fearless and controversial snake collector. She frightened and informed her audiences by demonstrating nurturing relationships with her snakes. Snakes and insects have been associated with negative images of hypnotizing demons or filthy infestations. Her closeness with snakes captures attention, to say the least, but I think it also overshadowed her contributions to the field of entomology. This article is an attempt to shed some light on her life, her specimens in the Tri-Trophic TCN project and the field of entomology before she immersed herself in a world of herpetology exhibitionism.
Grace Olive Wiley was born and raised in Chanute, Kansas in 1883 on a farm. She attended the University of Kansas and achieved a bachelor degree in Entomology. She worked as an entomologist at the University at a time when women struggled to gain acceptance in scientific fields. The University of Kansas was unique. By 1867 they had already appointed their first (as well as one of the country's first) female professor, Cynthia A. Smith. In 1922, the Kansas University Science Bulletin put out Wiley's Life History Notes on Two Species of Saldidae (Hemiptera) Found in Kansas. Her enthusiasm in the field was also recognized by her male academic advisors in Kansas. Her professor H. B. Hungerford wrote in The Life History of The Toad Bug, "The live insects supplied by Mrs. Wiley [from her home in Chanute] thus made possible the notes here reported, and I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to her for her kindness".
By 1923, Wiley became the curator of the Minneapolis Public Library’s natural history museum. Although it is now defunct, this position made her one of the first female zoo curators in the world. This was also the year she announced her discovery of a new species of Rheumatobates from Texas in The Canadian Entomologist. She donated her private collection of reptiles which included 150 species and 330 individuals to the zoo and her reputation as a reptile expert took off. She quickly became the first person (man or woman) to successfully breed rattlesnakes in captivity.
She believed that deadly snakes could be tamed and she refused to use hooks or other safety devices to handle them. Instead, she would gently stroke them and speak to them (snakes are deaf). Her unorthodox methods caused friction within the Zoo’s administrators. They demanded that she stop handling the snakes even though they were her own collection. Although she was never bitten at the Zoo, she was gavin a choice to either use safety equipment or leave. Wiley left, took her snakes with her and started a new job at the Brookfield Zoo outside of Chicago. This new zoo wanted to display reptiles in a more natural setting. Their displays replicated the snakes' natural habitats and were big enough to hold multiple snakes at once. Before then, it is was customary to keep reptiles in separate metal cages without any stimulation. Yet again, Wiley’s habits of leaving the reptiles’ cases open caused problems between herself and the Director. She was fired after 19 venomous snakes escaped.
Again, she packed up and moved. This time to Long Beach, California where she established a roadside zoo relatively close to L. A. Her snakes were featured in a few of the sensational movies of the time such as The Jungle Book, Trade Wind and Cobra Woman. During filming she was always on set and appeared onscreen as a snake charmer in the 1940 film Moon Over Burma. She charged 25 cents to join her, wander her roadside property and handle the snakes. She moved twice because neighbors complained. She had been bitten many times and lost two fingers to her Komodo Dragon.
Before her unexpected death, Wiley had planned to sell her reptile collection to the Griffith Park Zoo. However, her estate was not able to find a buyer. As a result, her exotic collection was auctioned off bit by bit to the highest bidders. Overall, it was worth $3,000. The Indian Cobra that fatally bit Wiley was purchased by a man who displayed it as the “Lady-Killing Cobra” at a tourist spot in Arizona.
Wiley’s career as an entomologist was relatively short but productive. So much of it can be overpowered by her mystical, dangerous and high-profile herpetology career. Yet, we are still reaping the benefits of her work in entomology today. The green pegs on the map represent the various locations from which plant bugs were collected by Grace Olive Wiley. These specimens are located in the AMNH collection, the United States National Museum of Natural History, the University of Massachusetts Museum, the Oregon State Arthropod Collection, the University of Minnesota at St. Paul and the University of Kansas.
References and Suggested Further Reading:
Maps built using google.maps.com and the Specimen Database
Photo of G. O. Wiley from http://www.chicagoherp.org/bulletin/41(Supplement).pdf
Article by Becky Fisher: TTTCN Intern and Masters candidate at Columbia University in Museum Anthropology.
While digitizing specimens in the collection, we gloss over thousands of names of collectors worldwide. Although the main intention is to map and study the lives of the insects, we have wondered if we were also mapping the lives of the collectors. This series is an opportunity to use the digitized collection to map the lives of women who have contributed to the American Museum of Natural History collection and the Tri-Trophic TCN project. Who were they? What are their stories?
Like many entomologists at the time, Edith Marion Patch’s first recorded interest was butterflies. In her senior year of high school she wrote an essay about monarchs that won $25.00. With her prize money she purchased the Manual for the Study of Insects written by John Henry Comstock and illustrated by his wife, Anna Comstock. The Comstocks were entomologists at Cornell University whom Patch would later befriend.
Edith Patch attended the University of Minnesota in 1897 and graduated in 1901 with a Bachelor in Science. Despite her qualifications, she couldn’t find a job in entomology so she took a position teaching English at a high school in Minnesota for two years. Finally, in 1903, she was invited by Dr. Charles D. Woods to organize a Department of Entomology in Orono, Maine. Today UCBs Department contains digitized plant bugs collected by E.M. Patch in Orono, Maine. Three specimens of Cryptomyzus (Cryptomonyzis) ribis and five of Eirosoma ulmi are currently in the database.
EM Patch 1916 - edithpatch.org
Initially, she wasn’t offered a salary and Dr. Woods was “ridiculed for appointing a woman in a man’s field” (http://www.edithpatch.org/). To earn a living wage, he arranged for Patch to teach English in the area while she organized the Entomology department. Within a year, Patch had proven herself to her male coworkers, established the department and earned herself a salaried position.
For her masters degree she attended the University of Maine in 1910. Although a few websites say that Patch earned her PhD from Columbia University, she actually attended Cornell University in 1911 for her doctorate. At Cornell she became colleagues with the Comstocks.
In 1930, Patch became the first female president elected to the Entomology Society of America.She was ahead of her time in the early 1900s. It is said that she warned against the indiscriminate use of pesticides, such as DDT, forty years before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) was published. She was concerned about the devastating impact pesticides would have on songbirds amongst other dangers. She was one of the original environmentalists and advocated for education of the natural world, especially for children. Despite her busy career in entomology, she also published books for children starring accurate, insect characters. She retired to her home in Orono, “Braeside," in 1937 as “Entomologist Emeritus” and lived there until she passed away in 1954.
Check out her children’s literature: Hexapod Stories, Bird Stories, Dame Bug and her Babies and Elm Leaf Curl and Wooly Apple Aphid: http://amzn.to/1mf9OAc
References & Suggested Further Reading:
Article by Becky Fisher: TTTCN Intern and Masters candidate at Columbia University in Museum Anthropology.
This is a reposting of the NYBG Plant Talk
The Tri-Tropic Database Thematic Collection Network recently finished up an exciting course about present best practices for specimen-level data management. The two-week Short Course on Biological Specimen Informatics (Specimen Short Course; syllabus and more information: tcn.amnh.org/home/specimen-course) was designed as a first introduction to biological informatics with early career graduates students in mind. The Specimen Short Course gathered individuals from 18 different institutions across the United States at the Richard Gilder Graduate School (American Museum of Natural History - rggs.amnh.org) in order to specifically address research specimen data capture issues through training, from the field to preserved collections. Instructors for the course were staff were Mike Bevins (Information Manager, NYBG), Christine Johnson (TTD co-PI, AMNH), Rob Naczi (TTD PI, NYBG), Randall Schuh (TTD PI, AMNH), Katja Seltmann (TTD Project Manager, AMNH), Steve Thurston (Image Specialist, AMNH), Melissa Tulig (TTD co-PI, NYBG), and Kim Watson (TTD Project Manager, NYBG).
Enabling students to manage research was one aspect of the Specimen Short Course. The second was to place these efforts in the context of the larger biodiversity informatics community. The course involved visiting research areas at the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Botanical Garden, allowing participants to gain a sense of what the various workflows at these institutions are like, as well as the collection requirements for vouchering specimens at the end of a research project. These experiences helped participants develop techniques and collecting protocols that they could use in their own research.
Imaging was another important component discussed as a means of data capture. At the New York Botanical Garden, participants in the course got hands-on experience photographing plant specimens. At AMNH, insect specimens were the focus. Participants got to see how high-quality images of small insects are taken, and visited the museum’s imaging lab to learn about the technology at work there. They also learned about how images could be incorporated into their databases to strengthen specimen records.As the course progressed participants began to plan how they will use databasing techniques and other resources discovered through the Specimen Short Course. Each participant brought some of his or her data to the course and began to develop a workflow that best matches their individual research needs. As a culmination of the course, each participant delivered a presentation on how they will continue to incorporate the techniques they had learned into their own research.
By the end of the course, each participant had gained not only a better understanding of specimen informatics techniques, but also a sense of how they could apply these techniques to their own research. The goal of the course was to train students in present best practices for specimen-level data management from the field to preserved collections, and how a specimen management plan can facilitate addressing research questions. The experiences they gained through the course will aid them in producing and making available datasets that will be of great use to them and countless other researchers.
Authors: Jeremy Frank (Short Course Participant) & Katja Seltmann (TTD Project Manager, AMNH)
With the three 17-year species of Magicicada from Brood II emerging this year in the eastern United States, the Staten Island Museum, co-founded by cicada expert William T. Davis (1862 – 1945), is focusing on making the most of this infrequent event. Their current temporary exhibition, "They're Baaack! Return of the 17-year Cicadas," along with planned workshops and nature walks, will inform visitors about these unique bugs in the coming months. This event happens to coincide with the our digitization of the cicada collection at the Staten Island Museum, which includes many specimens from previous emergences of Brood II, as well as the other broods of the 13 and 17-year cicadas. Posts on the Staten Island Museum's Tumblr and Blogspot sites offer information about local ecology and news about the museum, including their relation to the TTD.
Links: Staten Island Museum Tumblr
Image from Staten Island Museum Blogspot site
Post by Alexander Bolesta: Database Assistant at the American Museum of Natural History, and Curatorial Assistant at the Staten Island Museum
One of the exciting aspects of the Tri-Trophic Database project is the cooperation that occurs between different institutions in the name of science. Each of the 30+ museums involved with the project offers a wealth of experience in addition to the diversity that comes from adding their collections to the database. Of these, the Staten Island Museum in New York City offers a cicada (family Cicadidae) collection of about 35,000 specimens: the second largest collection of cicadas in the world. Since cicadas belong to the order Hemiptera, this comprehensive collection is a perfect addition to the Tri-Trophic Database.
Staten Island Museum main entrance. Downloaded
Specimen collection room where the cicadas are housed at the
Staten Island Museum. Photograph by Alexander Bolesta.
The Staten Island Museum, previously the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences, and the Staten Island Association of Arts & Sciences, was founded in 1881 as the Natural Science Association of Staten Island by a group of 14 local naturalists who were concerned that overdevelopment would lead to the destruction of Staten Island’s natural history. By pooling their resources, these environmentalist pioneers were able to put together a collection worthy of drawing public attention, and, in 1908, the museum opened its doors. Associates of the museum have since kept a continuous record of the changing ecosystem and environment on Staten Island, while inspiring the creation of establishments including the Staten Island Zoo, Staten Island Historical Society, Staten Island Greenbelt, and the New York Botanical Garden. To this day, the Staten Island Museum carries out specimen acquisition and field work, in addition to special events like annual bird counts in conjunction with the Audubon Society.
Permanent natural history collection at the Staten Island
Museum. Photograph by Alexander Bolesta.
The Staten Island Museum has been amassing a collection of specimens from the areas of natural science, art, and history since the days of the founders, and now boasts a collection of over half of a million specimens and pieces of art. One of the founders, William Thompson Davis, took a particular interest in the insects known as cicadas. Born in 1862 in New Brighton, Staten Island, Davis played a big role in the development of the Natural Science Association of Staten Island and its derivatives, despite being, for the most part, self-taught. His sense of wonder resulting from his study of cicadas can be seen most succinctly in his choice of name for the genus of 13- and 17-year periodical cicadas: Magicicada.
His efforts over half of a century resulted not only in the accumulation of the world’s second largest cicada collection, as noted above, but it led to him formally describing over half of the known species of cicada in North America. As a result, the Staten Island Museum’s cicada collection includes many of the type specimens that were used by Davis as the official examples of these species. During his career, Davis was published extensively in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society, and even held positions there as treasurer and as delegate to the New York Academy of Sciences. Davis passed away in 1945, leaving behind an impressive list of accomplishments. In 1955, the 51 acre New Springfield Bird Sanctuary that was created in 1933 thanks to efforts by Davis and the National Audubon Society was expanded to 260 acres and was renamed the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge: a fitting dedication to one of New York City’s premier naturalists.
Abbott, Mabel. The Life of William T. Davis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1949. Print.
"Collections: Natural Science Collection." Staten Island Museum. N.p.. Web. 24 Oct 2012. <http://bit.ly/RV8kwn>.
Davis, William. Days afield on Staten Island. New York: L.H. Biglow & Co., 1892. Print. <http://bit.ly/TCLebD>.
Davis, William. North American cicadas. 1. New York: Society Quarterly, 1921. eBook. <http://bit.ly/UAqZC2>.
"Freshkills Park." Official New York City Web Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct 2012. <http://bit.ly/X37UtG>.
"History." Staten Island Museum. N.p.. Web. 24 Oct 2012. <http://bit.ly/IFErwo>.
Journal of the New York Entomological Society. 30. New York: Society Quarterly, 1922. eBook. <http://bit.ly/TXFdL2>.
Journal of the New York Entomological Society. 31. New York: Society Quarterly, 1923. eBook. <http://bit.ly/TXFdL2>.
Pratt, Jr., George O., G. K. Schneider, and Mathilde P. Weingartner. "The William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge and its Environs." Proceedings of the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences. 24.2 (1969): n. page. Print.
"Staten Island Museum." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 09 Oct 2012. Web. 24 Oct 2012. <http://bit.ly/TCLlUp>.
"William T. Davis." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 03 Feb 2012. Web. 24 Oct 2012. <http://bit.ly/SYVJcZ>.
Zelasnic, Laura. "Records of the Herbarium (RG 4) CHARLES ARTHUR HOLLICK RECORDS (1873-1979)." The New York Botanical Garden. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct 2012. <http://bit.ly/TGApqY>.
Article by Alexander Bolesta: Database Assistant at the American Museum of Natural History, and Curatorial Assistant at the Staten Island Museum