Collaboration Brings Beetle Collection and Curation From Illinois to Cambodia

Tommy McElrath, Ph.D., held on tight to the back of the motorcycle as he and collaborator Sophany Phauk swerved through honking, congested holiday traffic in Phnom Penh. Their mission: Finding funnels for Berlese traps. The two-week course McElrath intended to teach was scheduled to start beetle collecting in the rainforest the next day.

The whirlwind adventure started when Christopher Dietrich, Ph.D., walked into McElrath’s office and proposed he write a grant application to a CRDF Global program intended to initiate new global partnerships in science for early-career scientists in the United States. McElrath currently serves as the Insect Collections Manager of the Illinois Natural History Survey, which had worked with Phauk’s Cambodian Entomology Initiatives (CEI) in the past on a USAID grant in 2011, and the two were looking to continue their collaboration.

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