Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box

The USAP Collection in the 21st Century

With nearly 19 million specimens, the USAP collection is the basis for taxonomic knowledge of Antarctic marine invertebrates, and includes type and non-type material dating back to the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. In 2007, the National Museum of Natural History and NSF’s Office of Polar Programs launched a renewed cooperative agreement to transform the USAP collection and associated data, into a modern resource, primarily web-based, easily available to a vast and diverse audience (e.g., general public, policy makers, conservation groups) as well as making it a useful tool for scholars. Drs. Rafael Lemaitre (PI) and Jerry Harasewych (co-PI) are developing a state of the art, one-stop Antarctic Invertebrate Website that will become a knowledge portal on the marine invertebrates from the region, and serve as ideal conduit to disseminate to the largest possible audience information on history, fauna, station and cruise data, NMNH Antarctic holdings, and bibliography. This project is part of the International Polar Year pan-institutional activities of the Smithsonian.

Visiting Scientists, New Identifications

Image of Dr. Chris Mah
Dr. Chris Mah aboard the R/V Laurence Gould in the Southern Ocean

Dr. Christopher Mah was trained in systematics at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA. He received a PhD in Geology (Paleontology) from the University of Illinois in 2005 where he studied the paleobiology, systematics, and evolution of starfishes. He recently completed a 2 year NSF Polar Programs Postdoctoral Fellowship which focused on the evolution and systematics of Antarctic forcipulate starfishes which brood their young.

Image of Antarctic starfish, Diplasterias brandti
Babies being brooded by the Antarctic Starfish, Diplasterias brandti (Bell)

Dr. Mah spent the Fall of 2008 identifying USAP specimens recently repatriated to the USNM by the New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmosphere and specimens recently donated by Dr. Stacy Kim at Moss Landing Marine Labs in Moss Landing, California. These include over 2000 dry and wet specimens that may potentially provide further information for studies on brooded juveniles.

Dr. Mah is also the author of the Echinoblog an echinoderm-themed blog which provides information and education about living and fossil echinoderms in a widely accessible forum, including an article about processing Antarctic Starfish.

Image of Ilya Temkin
Dr. Ilya Tëmkin examining unsorted Antarctic Bivalves

As part of the Antarctic Curator-In-Residence Program Dr. Ilya Tëmkin, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and currently a postdoctoral fellow at NMNH, examined the USAP holdings of unsorted bivalve mollusks in August 2008. With the help of USAP summer interns, all the specimens were sorted to morphospecies, some of which were preliminary assigned to families or genera. A number of lots were isolated for taxonomic revisionary works and in-depth anatomical studies.

image of Dr. Yuri Kantor and Dr. Guido Pastorino
Dr. Yuri Kantor and Dr. Guido Pastorino examine predatory gastropods collected by the United States Antarctic Program and housed at NMNH in IZ.

In the Spring 2008, Dr. Yuri Kantor from the Severtzov Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and Dr. Guido Pastorino from the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales in Buenos Aires worked with the USAP [United States Antarctic Program] mollusk collections as part of the Antarctic Curator-In-Residence Program.

The visiting scientists and Dr. Harasewych are researching several groups of predatory neogastropods, including the toxin producing conoideans, and will produce revisionary works resulting in publications. The results will be provided to the NMNH-IZ database and incorporated into the new Antarctic Invertebrate Web Site, now under development by the Redmon Group.

A Brief History of the NSF Polar Program Cooperative Agreement with NMNH, SI

The Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center (SOSC), from 1963 to 1992, received and sorted more than 20,000 samples of benthic invertebrates, plankton, algae and fish collected by researchers associated with the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). Sorted specimens were sent to taxonomic
image of R/V Hero and USNS Eltanin
R/V Hero meets the other NSF Antarctic research ship, the USNS Eltanin, for the first time-- at the pier in Punta Arenas, April 1970 (Antarctic Journal, January/February 1971, photo from La Prensa).
specialists worldwide for study and identification. Hundreds of thousands of specimens, including newly identified types, were deposited at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). The SOSC was dissolved, in 1992, and merged into the relevant NMNH scientific departments, with administrative responsibility for the USAP collection assigned to the Department of Invertebrate Zoology. In 1995, the Department entered into a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs to provide support for the cataloging and management of the USAP collections housed at NMNH. NSF-sponsored investigators working in polar regions continue to deposit specimens and associated data at the NMNH. Future large collections will be acquired from NSF-sponsored Long Term Environmental Research (LTER) projects that are ongoing in the Antarctic region. For a more in-depth look at the history of the USAP program at NMNH, read "The NMNH: an NSF Center of Excellence in Polar Research" in the online Antarctic Journal of the United States, 1997 (Vol. 32, no. 3).

image of R/V Hero and USCGC Burton Island
R/V Hero in the Palmer Station harbor next to the US Coast Guard icebreaker Burton Island, 1976-77. (Photographer: Team Palmer 77 medic Gary Cullen.)


Search USNM Collections

Marine Invertebrate Specimen Processing Procedures: Methods of Fixation and Preservation


Policies for Research in the Antarctic Region

International Polar Year (US IPY)

International Polar Year (IPY)

NSF Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Program

USAP Project Personnel

image of Marshall Boyd
Marshall Boyd

Marshall Boyd is interning as an assistant to Marilyn Schotte in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology this summer. He will be scanning reprints of Brian Kensley's research on various Crustaceans. He is also identifying and photographing Isopods from the collection so that they may be cataloged into the Natural History's website. In addition he will be working with the USAP program interns with their on-going research projects of many Antarctic species.

Image of Amy Chang
Amy Chang
Amy Chang has just graduated from Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria and will be attending Johns Hopkins University starting in fall 2009. She plans to take classes in history, ecology, writing, conservation and anthropology and hopes to further explore natural history and museum work. This is her second summer working on the U.S. Antarctic Project and she is continuing to work on digitizing the Smithsonian’s Polychaeta collection.

image of Alyssa Meyer
Alyssa Meyer
Alyssa Meyer hails from sunny southern California, though she now calls Arlington, Virginia home. She is a rising senior at George Mason University, where she is pursuing a BS in Integrative Studies, Conservation Studies. She recently completed the Smithsonian-Mason Semester at the Smithsonian’s Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia. Her work there included volunteering at the endocrinology lab, conducting comprehensive research into the political implications of Asian elephant conservation in India, and field studies.

Alyssa’s interests include evolutionary genetics, conservation, international policy, hiking, and rock climbing. After completing her undergrad, she intends to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy. Alyssa is currently cataloging and digitizing the mollusk collection for the USAP program.

image of Trang Nguyen
Trang Nguyen

Trang Nguyen is from the lovely suburbs of Centreville, Virginia and has just finished her BS degree in Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech. While at Tech she participated in the pilot program of Earth Sustainability, worked in a plant pathology lab, an immunity/inflammation lab, the Massey herbarium at Virginia Tech, and the National Herbarium. After 4 years of exploring her major (and everything else) she found marine science to evoke the most enjoyment.

Trang has broad interests that include marine biology, biogeography, and conservation; currently she is working on digitizing the mollusk collection for the USAP program.

Image of Sunjana Supekar
Sunjana Supekar

Sunjana Supekar is from Herndon, Virginia. She is a junior at Oberlin College, studying biology and anthropology. Sunjana has a broad variety of interests in the biological sciences, from epigenetics to ecology. She is also an archeological research assistant, studying the workability of dried caribou antler used to make tools. Sunjana has prior internship experience at the National Museum of Natural History, preparing tissues and studying the phylogeny of Nemertean worms. This summer, Sunjana is working on the digitization of Nemertean and Ophiuroid literature, as well as cataloguing and photographing specimens. Sunjana plans to continue her studies in ecology and zoology by spending a semester in Costa Rica. After Oberlin, Sunjana hopes to attend graduate school for evolutionary biology and/or environmental science.

Image of Angela Trenkle
Angela Trenkle
Angela Trenkle is currently a sophomore at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is working towards a bachelor’s of science in biology with a minor in history. This summer, while working on the USAP project in the department of Invertebrate Zoology, she is concentrating on researching the Amphipoda and Isopoda orders. In the future, she hopes to go onto graduate school to obtain a master’s degree and pursue a career in scientific research.

Image of Lauren Van Thiel
Lauren Van Thiel

Lauren Van Thiel is from Roanoke, Virginia and recently earned her B.S. in Marine Science with a minor in Biology from the University of South Carolina. During her undergraduate career, Lauren researched the effects of climate change on blue mussels and later investigated the diets of juvenile salmon during an internship in Oregon with NOAA. In her senior year, she spent time in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles learning scientific diving techniques and studying coral ecology. During her study abroad experience, she also discovered her interest in scientific publication and is currently pursuing a M.S. in Technical Communications from Northeastern University. Lauren’s research interests include marine paleoecology, deep-sea and cold water coral systems, and mangrove-reef interactions. In her free time, Lauren enjoys reading and traveling. She is currently working on digitizing the sponge and tardigrade collection as well as developing a permanent collection of sponge spicules for USAP.

Image of Diane Wyse
Diane Wyse

Diane Wyse is a rising senior pursuing a B.S. in Biology, with a concentration in Conservation and a Minor in Leadership Studies at George Mason University. Her formative years were spent residing throughout the U.S. and England with an active-duty military family.

As a result of spending most of her life on an island or near a coast, she developed a passion for marine conservation. Her interests in marine conservation include environmental chemistry, human-wildlife conflict, and coastal development. Diane has experience in both vertebrate and invertebrate zoology. While participating in the Smithsonian-Mason Semester program she volunteered with both mammalian and avian husbandry, including endangered cranes, waterfowl, and red pandas; which led to an internship at a wild bird rehabilitation center in Marathon, FL. She is currently modernizing the database of the Cnidaria phylum for the United States Antarctic Program, in addition to working on a species identification project for the genus Thouarella.

In addition to past experience volunteering in an environmental chemistry lab at George Mason University, she will be participating in the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences Fall 2009 REU in the Environmental Quality Assessment Lab analyzing persistent organic pollutants in the marine environment

USAP Project Personnel "Alumni"

Image of Jennifer Hammock
Jennifer Hammock

Jennifer Hammock, Assistant Program Manager
Jen's staff page

Image of USAP Project Personnel
USAP Project Personnel processing Antarctic specimens

Image of IZ collectionsImage of Smithsonian Sunburst Image of NSF Logo

Photos courtesy NMNH Museum Specialist Yolanda Villacampa, except where noted.

[ TOP ]