At the very beginning of the last century, while studying Rocky Mountain spotted fever outbreaks in Montana and Idaho, a team led by Dr. Howard T. Ricketts discovered the role of ticks in transmitting pathogens to humans. This finding galvanized the interest of scientists in tick systematics. The historical core of the present collection was maintained by Dr. Robert A. Cooley (1873-1968) and one of his students, Dr. Glen M. Kohls, in the Department of Entomology and Zoology of Montana State College. In 1931 the collection and its curators moved to the newly funded Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML). The RML tick collection rapidly increased in size and taxonomic breadth thanks to donations, acquisitions (Paul Schulze and Fred C. Bishopp collections), and active fieldwork expeditions organized by the curators and their collaborators around the World. A long-standing collaboration with Dr. Harry H. Hoogstraal a civilian working for the U.S. Navy in Cairo and arguably the most productive tick taxonomist in history, was instrumental in securing additional holdings, particularly from Asia and the Middle East. Dr. Carleton M. Clifford and Dr. James E. Keirans were nominated curators in 1961 and 1969, respectively. The RML collection became the USNTC when it was donated, in 1983, to the U. S. National Museum of National History (Smithsonian Institution -SI). At his death, in 1986, Dr. Hoogstraal left his large tick collection to the USNTC, which became one of the most comprehensive tick collection in the World. Under the curation of Dr. Keirans, in 1990, the USNTC was transferred to Georgia Southern on a long-term enhancement loan to Georgia Southern and through a Memorandum of Understanding between Georgia Southern and the SI. Dr. Keirans, assisted by Dr Lance A. Durden from 1992 to 2003, was in charge of the collection until 2005. His research and the network of collaborations he established with U.S and international researchers were crucial in the transition from traditional tick alpha-taxonomy into modern, morphological and molecular-based, tick systematics. For more historical information: L.A. Durden, J. E. Keirans, and J.H. Oliver (1996). The U.S. National Tick Collection: a vital resource for systematics and human and animal welfare. American Entomologist 42: 239-243.
Last updated: 4/20/2018