The UAIC research and teaching collections contain extensive pinned, alcohol, and microscope slide collections, plus a growing frozen tissue collection. The collection includes approximately 2.0 million specimens representing an estimated 35,000 species. These specimens, 83% identified to the species-level, are a unique treasure for research, extension, teaching and outreach focusing on biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert Region.
The geographic scope of the collection covers all of the southwestern US with special concentration on the Sonoran Desert Region and adjacent tropical biomes of northwestern Mexico.
The footprint of the Sonoran Desert Region circumscribes many non-desert areas with rich geologic histories that provide the physical framework for past vicariance and speciation events for many arthropod lineages. A great variety of natural habitats occur here, including coastal and inland sand dunes, dry deserts, thornscrub, tropical deciduous forest, riparian corridors, and upland habitats that include the southern Colorado Plateau and the Sky Islands, with a vertical succession of biomes from desert scrub to montane forest and subalpine conifer forest.
In many ways the Sonoran Desert Region is still largely a scientific frontier where numerous new species are discovered and described every year. The arthropod fauna of the Sonoran Desert Region is poorly known and relatively little understood, yet it is exceedingly important to the maintenance and functioning of healthy, productive ecosystems. The desert Southwest is being strongly affected by climate change and changes in land use.
In the last few decades, members of the UAIC have participated in surveys funded by land management agencies and parks, including long-term surveys in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Boboquivari Mountains, Mule Mountains, Huachuca Mountains, Chiricahua Mountains, Waterman Mountains, Organ Pipe National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park (in cooperation with Larry Stevens, Museum of Northern Arizona), Ciénega Creek, as well as impact studies of the Mt. Graham telescope construction site in the Pinaleño Mountains and the Rosemont Mine site in the Santa Rita Mountains.
A better understanding of arthropods will allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of habitat modification and climate change. Such knowledge will lead to better decision-making and more reasoned and effective policies for land management and pest management in agricultural systems. The historic holdings of the University of Arizona Insect Collection (UAIC) provide an invaluable baseline for research designed to track and evaluate those changes.
Pichacho Peak State Park