Nitpicking: Combing Through the Lice of the University of Minnesota Insect Collection

We are launching a new Notes For Nature expedition, in partnership with the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker project, called Nitpicking: Combing Through the Lice of the University of Minnesota Insect Collection! In this expedition you will see slide-mounted specimens of Phthiraptera, mostly from the United States.

Parasitic arthropods, such as sucking and chewing lice, inflict an enormous burden on human society, in terms of human and animal health. The negative effects of parasitic arthropods appears to be increasing as climates and ecosystems change. The label data on these specimen slides are invaluable. By helping to transcribe this data, you will make it available to the scientific research community. Analyzing them can help us to understand how parasites, their host species, and the pathogens they carry interact and contribute to vectoring diseases.

So far, thousands of slides have been digitally imaged. Now, the University of Minnesota Insect Collection needs as many people as possible to help transcribe the information on the specimen labels – such as the species name, the location and date of where the louse was collected, and the host animal the louse was found on – so that the data can be used for scientific research. This data will be used to help build a database of parasite-host associations and disease vector distributions. This database will provide needed baseline information for research and management of the ecological interactions among parasites, pathogens, and their hosts in North America.

Thank you so much for your help!

— Robin Thomson, University of Minnesota

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