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New NMSU Arthropod Museum curator will lead outreach activities, grow collection

Jennifer Shaughney, the new senior program specialist and curator of the New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum, is excited to begin interacting with the community and help them make positive connections with insects and arthropods.

Jennifer Shaughney is the new senior program specialist and curator of the New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum

“I’m very excited about leading outreach efforts for the Arthropod Museum,” Shaughney said. “We have hundreds of beautiful insect and arthropod specimens showcasing biodiversity from around the world, a reference collection of arthropods from the southwestern U.S. and beyond, and a fantastic insect zoo with live arthropods such as walking sticks, hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, giant millipedes and more. I will be giving presentations to people in the community, giving tours of the museum and traveling around the region to talk to students about insects.”

Shaughney, who is originally from Annapolis, Maryland, is no stranger to outreach activities and engaging the community, which is one of the most important aspects of the museum since it has received more than 2,000 visitors since October.

“While I was pursuing a master’s in entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I was involved in a lot of community outreach using museum specimens and live insects and arthropods,” she said. “I got to go out to schools and local events and talk to both kids and adults about arthropods to try to increase understanding and appreciation of this fascinating and diverse group of organisms. I also gained some experience writing lesson plans for K-12 classrooms that use insects for scientific inquiry.”

Aside from the outreach activities, Shaughney will be overseeing the day-to-day operations of the museum, which include helping student workers who are databasing and imaging the extensive collection to make the specimens here more accessible to other researchers.

“Jennifer has an extensive background with both the research side of entomology and outreach,” said Scott Bundy, NMSU professor of entomology and director of the NMSU Arthropod Museum. “She has worked on the taxonomy of scarab beetles and has experience in the workings of a research collection such as ours. She also helped coordinate outreach activities in Nebraska and has developed teaching material for the community. She has a natural ability to work with children and the general public to let them know how important – and cool – insects are. We are excited to have her on board.”
Her goals are to expand outreach efforts and get the community excited about research through bioblitzes, which involves collecting and making observations in a defined area, like a park, for a 24-hour period to get a snapshot of the area’s biodiversity

“In addition, I’d really like to work more with teachers to use our insect zoo and our resources to supplement specific topics that are coming up in science class – structure and function, the different habitats of insects, similarities and differences between insects and arachnids, etc.,” she added.

Shaughney also plans to expand the museum’s collection to enhance the underrepresented groups of arthropods.

“The museum is basically a reference collection of what insects and other arthropods occur in the southwestern U.S. Certain groups have simply been collected less than others, so I’d like to fill the gaps to give us a more complete picture,” she said.

In the same manner, she wants to better organize the collection and incorporate the unidentified specimens.

“I’d like to see databasing and imaging continue at a steady rate to make our specimens and data available to the research community,” she added. “Unidentified material is not easily accessible to other researchers. We could even have new species here in the museum, but the unidentified specimens need to be compared with existing material and literature.”

To schedule a visit to the museum or arrange a presentation, visit http://arthropods.nmsu.edu or call 575-646-5552.