Texas Tech University

Background and history

The Invertebrate Zoology collection is comprised of several elements:

The former Entomological Collection

Part of a drawer with dry-mounted flies

This collection is focused primarily on insects of agricultural importance and is used primarily for research. The collection was originally established at the Department of Entomology (now Department of Plant and Soil Science). It was under the care of Dr. Oscar F. Francke between 1978 and 1986, then by Dr. Robert W. Sites until 1990. The collection was permanently transferred to the NSRL in 1996.



The former Medical Zoology Collection

This collection was established at the Museum in 1973 and was curated by Dr. Danny B. Pence, who was then Curator of Medical Zoology. The collection was moved for some time to the TTU Health Sciences Center, Department of Pathology, before being transferred back to the Museum in 2003.View of cabinets for slide collection


Specimens confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

During 2001 and 2002, more than 40,000 illegally collected or improperly imported specimens were confiscated by the USFWS and entrusted to the Museum. This confiscated collection contains multiple rare species, particularly of beetles and butterflies from all over the world, and potentially includes some endangered species.View of drawers with confiscated beetles


Specimens collected for a wide range of research and survey projects

Various projects that have resulted in notable collections include: noxious brush and weed control research (1970s); the Texas Tech Boll Weevil Project (1970s); a survey of the ants of western Texas (1978–1981); a study of mites from Mexico and Central America (2003); studies of aquatic invertebrates from Texas playa lakes (more than one million specimens, 2004–2005); invertebrates of Monahans Sandhills (2013–2014); and various other field collections.

Cabinet with jars of ants preserved in ethanol

The collection's caretakers

Marilyn Houck looking at mites through a stereo-microscopeIn 1996, upon accession of the Entomology Collection, Dr. Marilyn A. Houck, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences, was named as the NSRL's Curator of Invertebrates; she served as such until her retirement in August 2003.



James Cokendolpher at a stereo-microscope

Upon Dr. Houck's retirement, James C. Cokendolpher, a Research Associate of the NSRL, was placed in charge of the Invertebrate Collection. In 2007, he was hired as a part-time Research Scientist and Assistant Curator. In 2012, Cokendolpher began to digitize and barcode the collection's holdings with the assistance of numerous undergraduate and graduate students, thanks to an NSF grant. The students catalogued and databased more than 170,000 specimens and took nearly 2,000 high-resolution photographs. The database containing the invertebrate collection specimen data and photographs was made accessible online, originally via the SCAN portal (Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network). Cokendolpher retired in 2015.

In October of 2018 Jennifer Girón volunteered to assist with the processing of loans and accessions. In September 2020, after the completion of her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, Girón was hired as Acting Collections Manager and Research Aide of the Museum on an hourly basis to continue providing curatorial services, as well as training undergraduate and graduate students and volunteers working in the Invertebrate Zoology Collection. In September 2023 Girón was appointed as full time Curator at the Museum of Texas Tech.

In June 2023 the database was permanently moved to the Symbiota ecdysis portal for day-to-day digitization activities, therefore, it contains the most up-to-date- version of our data. The data available in SCAN will be updated monthly.

Natural Science Research Laboratory