CSBR: Ownership Transfer: Rehabilitation and digitization of a significant collection of amphibians, reptiles, and fishes through institutional networking
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This award will support the transfer a collection of reptiles, amphibians, and fishes from West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) to the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections (BRTC) at Texas A&M University (TAMU). The WTAMU collection consists of more than 15,100 amphibian and reptile specimens and ca. 30,000 fish specimens. It is in danger of being lost, but has great scientific importance. The WTAMU collection contains holdings from West and North Texas that fill gaps in knowledge of species distributions. An outcome of the project will be a properly curated teaching and regional reference collection at WTAMU for use in zoology courses and by natural resource agencies. Graduates from WTAMU are employed as biologists for these agencies, with the expectation of skills at specimen identification. Linkages created during this project will enhance the usefulness of both WTAMU and BRTC collections.The BRTC is an appropriate repository for the WTAMU collections. The BRTC Division of Amphibians and Reptiles (101,000 specimens) is 12th largest in the USA and fully georeferenced. The Division of Fishes (660,000 individual specimens, catalogued across 44,565 lots) ranks 20th in size, is online and is 80 percent georeferenced. A unique feature of the WTAMU collection is that sympatric fishes, amphibians and other reptiles were collected during studies of ecology and conservation of turtles. It contains at least 2,060 freshwater turtles representing 34 genera and 14 genera represented by more than 5 specimens each. There are 719 specimens of map turtles in the genus Graptemys, including 312 specimens of the endangered Cagle''s map turtle, G. caglei. The project will support two graduate students and multiple undergraduate workers who will gain extensive curatorial experience and understanding of the importance of collections. With this project, new material will be incorporated into outreach activities through the Texas Master Naturalist Program, Project Wild, Flying Wild, Science and Civics, and the Leopold Education Project. Data from these collections will be made available on local, national, and international biodiversity data resources, including VertNet, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and iDigBio (https://www.idigbio.org/), ensuring accessibility to researchers and the public.