Jumping into the Field Museum Flea Collection

The Field Museum is participating in the NSF-funded Terrestrial Parasite Tracker (TPT), a collaboration of taxonomists and curators from 22 institutions with vertebrate and invertebrate collections, aiming to digitize 1.2+ million arthropod specimens to trace parasite-host associations and predict the spread of vector-borne disease in the U.S.. This digitization effort integrates millions of vertebrate records with vector and disease monitoring data shared by state and federal agency collaborators, creating a novel foundation for integrative, long-term research – and you can help!

Join us on our new Notes from Nature expedition “Jumping into the Field Museum Flea Collection”. Fleas (Order Siphonaptera) are small, highly-specialized external parasites of mammals and birds. Adults have no wings, their mouthparts are adapted for sucking blood, and their enlarged hind legs allow them to jump many times their body size. There are approximately 2,500 different species of fleas known to science, and many are mechanical vectors of disease, with the potential to transmit pathogens from mammalian hosts to humans. For this expedition, we digitally imaged over a thousand slide-mounted specimens from the Lewis Flea Collection, one of the largest in the world. You will help us transcribe the information from the slides’ labels, such as the species name, when and where the specimen was collected, on what host it was found, who was the collector, and so on. Hope you will join us!

— Maureen Turcatel, Collections Manager, Insects The Field Museum

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