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UW–Madison involved in NSF-funded Terrestrial Parasite Tracker project

Dan Young, professor of entomology, holding a box of mounted insect specimens in 2014.

UW–Madison will partner in the new multi-institution Terrestrial Parasite Tracker (TPT) project to help modernize the world’s knowledge of arthropod parasites. The project, which seeks to develop an accurate picture of parasites’ distributions and their associations with hosts, is supported by a three-year, $4.3 million National Science Foundation grant hosted by Purdue University and led by Jennifer Zaspel, head of zoology at the Milwaukee Public Museum and adjunct associate professor at Purdue.

The TPT Network will aggregate arthropod parasite collections to build an easily accessible, comprehensive database of parasite-host associations and vector distributions. Project partners will provide digitized, research-ready data and images for more than 1.2 million parasite specimens – from 27 separate research collections around the country – making them accessible to scientists, educators, wildlife managers, and policy makers worldwide.

Two scientists from UW–Madison will be involved in the effort. Dan Young, professor of entomology and director of the university’s Wisconsin Insect Research Collection (WIRC), and Craig Brabant, WIRC curator, will coordinate the digitization effort for the project, implementing uniformity and standards that will ensure usability for research.

The WCIC’s parasite collection will be included in the TPT database.