Specimen data in the nation's natural history museums are essential resources for understanding biological diversity, including many species of strategic importance to agriculture and national security. Unfortunately this information is generally available by taxon type rather than integrated across kinds of organisms. This Thematic Collections Network (TCN) project addresses that problem by integrating specimen information and photographs from 14 botanical and 18 entomological collections across the United States. The data captured will dramatically improve our understanding of the relationships among the more than 11,000 species of North American Hemiptera (scale insects, aphids, leafhoppers, true bugs, and relatives), their food plants, and the wasps that parasitize the hemipterans. This TCN will utilize innovative technologies, including Web-accessible databases and high-resolution digital imaging, in order to capture and broadly disseminate via the Internet data for more than 1.6 million hemipteran, 200,000 parasitoid, and 6 million plant specimens.
The Hemiptera is a group of insects containing many species of great economic importance in the United States. The specimen information captured by this TCN project for this group and the groups of plants affected by these insects will be relevant for studies in agricultural sciences, climate change, invasive species, biological classification, conservation, and ecosystems. It will represent a truly large-scale integration of data from the broadest range of non-federal collection resources in U.S. museums and universities, thereby making a significant contribution to the solution of national priorities by scientists, policy makers, and the general public. Student participation and training in modern technologies are integral aspects of the project. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource.