The LSU AgCenter has received a major award from the National Science Foundation to support developing a database and image library at the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum and consolidating data from five additional arthropod collections.

The project will be conducted by Victoria Bayless, curator, and Chris Carlton, director of the arthropod museum in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Entomology.

Bayless and Carlton will use the three-year, $424,000 award to produce an online database of entomological diversity that will serve as a taxonomic identification tool useful throughout the South.

“Data representing about 500,000 specimens will be available online via specialized web portal software,” Carlton said. “Features that will be available online include taxonomy checklists, a specimen and image search engine, smart filters, biodiversity comparison charts and distribution maps.”

By the end of the project, all species of Louisiana arthropods housed in the museum will be recorded, imaged and available for viewing by anyone on the Internet through the museum’s public service webpage, Carlton said.

Undergraduate students will be trained to perform the data entry and imaging, Bayless said. Training and work experience provided by this grant will educate students in museum curation, web-based data management and the science of entomology.

“Having the data on the Internet enables the global community to benefit from the wealth of information contained within the arthropod museum,” Bayless said.

“The system will put the names and ‘faces’ of insects, spiders and other arthropods on the Web and make taxonomic, geographic and habitat information instantly available,” she added. “Having the data and images available online will save thousands of work hours identifying insects and diagnosing entomological problems.”

Louisiana has a rich mosaic of natural ecosystems, many of which are threatened or have undergone dramatic declines, the museum staff said. Data representing the animals and habitats will move from obscurity to universal accessibility through the interactive, web-based inventory.