The Arizona State University insect collection will more than double after a donation from private collectors Lois and Charlie O’Brien. The O’Briens have traveled the world collecting insects for decades and have amassed over 1 million specimens. Their collection specializes in leafhoppers and weevils. To oversee the collection, the O’Briens have endowed two professorships.
Insect biology has greatly benefitted from individuals with an interest in insects and collecting. With a million described insect species and perhaps 10 million undescribed, there is more work to be done than can be accomplished by scientists alone. Interested enthusiasts can build a wealth of biological information on locations and life histories of insects that can be useful to scientists and society.
The O’Briens have taken steps to preserve their collection for posterity. Not everyone does. Sometimes collections are inherited by relatives who do not want them or recognize their potential value. Universities with and Entomology or Insect Biology programs commonly accept donations and make use of the specimens. If the specimens are not suitable for the research collection, they may be useful for classes and programs that train the next generation of insect biologists.