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Training Colleagues Around the World to Collect Scorpions

by AMNH on

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Lorenzo Prendini (right) recently traveled to Pakistan to train local scientists. Photo courtesy of H. Tahir

For the last two months, scorpion expert Lorenzo Prendini has been criss-crossing the globe to train others in finding, collecting, and preserving scorpion specimens for study.

In May, Dr. Prendini, an associate curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, traveled to Pakistan as a guest of the country’s Higher Education Commission to present a lecture at the University of Sargodha and to train a team of local scientists. One of these researchers, Dr. Muhammad Tahir, was recently awarded a grant by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission to carry out a survey of local scorpion species, which include species of interest to medical research, and he will travel to the U.S. this fall to spend nine months working with Prendini at the Museum.

“Pakistan has a very diverse scorpion fauna but it’s not well known,” says Prendini. “Before coming here this fall, Dr. Tahir has to go to the field, on five trips all around Pakistan, collecting animals to get a sample to come out here and work with me on sequencing the species’ DNA.”

Prendini spent several days in two separate locations teaching Tahir and others how to identify scorpion habitats, what conditions are best for finding animals, how to collect them without being stung, and how to preserve specimens for study.

“The fieldwork is mostly done at night, so they have to search in the day for suitable habitats and then go out at night with ultraviolet lamps to collect the material,” says Prendini. “Once they collect it, they’ll bring it back to the lab to preserve it for morphological and genomic analysis.”

During his trip, Prendini also met with other faculty members at the University of Sargodha, where he gave a lecture to 500 faculty and students and received an award. He also visited the Pakistan Museum of Natural History in Islamabad.

No sooner than he returned from Pakistan, Prendini was off to another part of the world, this time to join a first-year Richard Gilder Graduate School student on her first trip to the field in Vietnam. He is accompanying graduate student Stephanie Loria on a field expedition to collect scorpions of the family Chaerilidae.

“We’ve got an ambitious trip planned, from the north to the south of Vietnam, and we will be spending time with local collaborators from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology,” says Prendini.