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Behind the Scenes of UT’s Vast Insect Collection, Plus March Bug Madness

Behind the Scenes of UT’s Vast Insect Collection, Plus March Bug Madness

Alex Wild manages the Biodiversity Center and Integrative Biology Department's Entomology Collection, which houses 2 million specimens of insects, including the world's largest collection of cave-dwelling invertebrates. The collections are focused on Texas and Mexico, with smaller holdings from Trinidad, the Galápagos Islands and elsewhere. A skilled photographer, Wild also oversees Insects Unlocked, a public domain photography project.

Delve into the collections by participating in March Bug Madness through March 30 and check out a new video about Wild and the Entomology Collection.

All About "March Bug Madness"

Calling all armchair entomologists: It's time to suit up! Help us decide which insect should be crowned "Most Bizarre Bug."

WHAT: Each day beginning Thursday, March 15, two bugs from the Insects Unlocked project at the University of Texas at Austin will go head to head on Instagram and YOU, the public, will decide which is more bizarre. The competition starts with a Sweet Sixteen of amazing, stunning and just-plain-weird bugs. You'll meet a scorpion that carries its babies on its back, an unassuming little fly whose larvae kill black widow spiders, a cricket that digs an underground trumpet to blast 100 decibel sounds, and a beetle with long antennae that resemble the horns of UT Austin's mascot BEVO. Over the course of 15 days, following a single elimination bracket (just like your favorite professional sports), they will be winnowed down to one truly bizarre bug.

Download PDF bracket

WHEN: March 15-29. New match-up starts every day at 9am CT/10am ET. Voting for each match runs for 24 hours. The final winner will be announced on Friday, March 30 at 9am CT/10am ET.

WHERE: The Texas Science Instagram feed (texasscience), hosted by the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. Each day's matchup will appear as an Instagram Story (to view, click on the round orange Texas Science icon, a.k.a. the profile picture). Each story contains photos and fun facts about the competitors and ends with an interactive poll.

BACKGROUND: Insects Unlocked is a public domain project from The University of Texas at Austin's Insect Collection, an active research center housing 2 million arthropod specimens. The collections are focused on Texas and Mexico, with smaller holdings from Trinidad, the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere. In 2015, a team of student and community volunteers under the leadership of Alex Wild, UT Austin's curator of entomology, crowd-funded a campaign to create thousands of open, copyright-free images of insects in the collection. They use a novel photo stacking technique that combines dozens of photos, each at slightly different focal lengths, to create a single image with every detail of an insect in sharp focus. To view their galleries, visit Insects Unlocked on flickr.

Updated: March 20, 2018

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