Insect Collections

Morgan's insect collection is astounding. From 1989-1999, Morgan collected over 70,000 insect specimens from 39 different locations county-wide. His intention was to document potential pollinator visits to all flowering plants at a given site over an entire year. To accomplish this task, he visited a site once every three weeks for an entire year (approximately 17 visits). At each site he walked a transect that included representatives of every plant species he knew to exist there (based on his extensive plant surveys dating back to the 1970s). Using a sweep net along each transect, Morgan collected every insect he found on or near each plant. If multiple individuals from one species of insect were present, he often collected all of them and recorded which plant/flower they were collected from.

Morgan discovered several new insect species while creating this collection. These include the Ohlone Tiger Beetle, Cicindela ohlone (Kavanaugh and Morgan 1993), which was immediately listed as a federally endangered species. In addition, Morgan discovered several other new species that currently await formal description. These include a solitary bee (Hesperapis sp.), a robber fly (Stenopogon sp.), and two flesh flies (Metopia sp. andSenotainia sp.). Through his observations of plants and insects, Morgan re-discovered several species once thought to be extinct, including the Scotts Valley spineflower (Chorizanthe robusta var. hartwegii), a rare popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys glaber), and the Antioch sphecid wasp (Philanthus nasalis).

Randy stored his collection at the California Academy of Sciences during the 1990's. In 2002, he moved his collection to the Norris Center as the Cal Acad ran out of space, and as Randy desired to move the collection to Santa Cruz County. 

From 2002 to 2015, Norris Center curators collaborated with Morgan to continue work on the collection. This included performing periodic preventative damage inspections, labeling approximately 15,000 unlabeled specimens with date, locality, and collector information, sorting approximately 20,000 specimens into orders, families, and morpho-species, identifying 2700 more specimens by continuing to collaborate with taxonomic experts, retrieving approximately 24 drawers of specimens that had accidently been assimilated into the CAL-ACAD’s general collections, databasing all of the bumblebee records in the collection, beginning to transcribe some of Morgan’s phenological records into quantifiable spreadsheets, georeferencing some of his collection sites, GPS-ing some of his exact transect paths, partially resampling at 3 collection sites, presenting findings about local plant/pollinator relationship to local conservation groups, and advising local land conservation organizations.  

In 2016, the Norris Center received a 2-year grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to continue curation of Morgan's colleciton and upload data from 30,000 records of pollinators to widely accessible online databases managed by the National Science Foundation-funded iDigBio project