NSF Grant to Make Arthropod Collections More Accessible


A three-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation will fund the creation of an integrated online library of Southwestern species that make up as much as 70 percent of life on the Colorado Plateau. 

The project, known as the Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network, or SCAN, will be a first: Currently, there is no single Southwest collection of ground-dwelling arthropods—spiders, ants, grasshoppers and beetles—available to scientists or the public.

Northern Arizona University’s Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity and nine cooperating arthropod collections will create digital images of 15,000 specimens, develop new electronic identification techniques, and produce a virtual library with data for more than 750,000 specimens.

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Colorado potato bug

“This project and efforts like it throughout the nation will make the vast amount of information gathered about biodiversity in the United States easily available,” said Neil Cobb, the project’s principal investigator and curator of the Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity in NAU’s Department of Biological Sciences. “It will be particularly valuable to researchers examining changes in biodiversity resulting from climate and land-use change, invasive species and other processes.”

 The SCAN project will be undertaken in partnership with Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Harvard University, New Mexico State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Kansas, and University of New Mexico. SCAN was funded through the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program.

--Adapted from “Inside NAU”