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Parasitology Collection

Stephen J. Taft Animal Parasitology Collection

Parasitology is the study of parasitic organisms. ​The Stephen J. Taft Animal Parasitology Collection is home to about 22,000 specimens across the diversity of parasite groups. The collection includes parasite specimens of Trematoda (Flatworms), Cestoda (Tapeworms), Nematoda (Roundworms), and leeches, as well as protozoan parasites such as Avian Blood parasites. In addition, a large portion of the collection is made up of arthropods including ticks, mites, lice, fleas, and flies as well as vectors such as mosquitoes. This is a regionally important collection of parasites and includes specimens from rare hosts such as the Greater Prairie Chicken, numerous shorebirds and birds of prey. Many host groups are represented including insects, mollusks, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. 

Expanding our Specimen Reach!

The current focus of our work is on digitizing the arthropod holdings within the collection as part of a National Science Foundation Collaborative Project – the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker. This project will help make the specimens within our collection digitally available to researchers around the country and around the world to help support primary research and education through our publicly available digital database.

The collection supports between 3-6 student volunteers or researchers each semester and several of the former students are in graduate or professional programs such as Veterinary School and museum studies programs.

Fun Facts: A team of six undergraduate students presented a poster highlighting the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker project at the College of Letters and Science Research Symposium and the Midwest regional parasitology conference! Students also contributed to two poster presentations and a symposium presentation at the national and regional parasitology conference.

If you are interested in volunteering or would like more information, email

Student Opportunities

We are always interested in meeting with students to explore potential volunteer or research opportunities.

Student Opportunities

Get hands-on as we add new specimens to the National Science Foundation Collaborative Project – Terrestrial Parasite Tracker. We are working to make the specimens in our collection available digitally. Duties may include: cataloging and inventorying specimens, adding new specimens to the collection from various research and course collections, photographing specimens, digitizing specimens, cleaning and maintaining slides and vials, and developing outreach materials.

Current Research

Current research in the collection includes the digitization of the arthropod collection through the NSF – Terrestrial Parasite Tracker Project. In addition, active research involves collecting new parasite specimens from waterfowl and birds of prey, incorporating them into the collection and describing new species. Recently the collection has begun maintaining a frozen tissue collection for the purpose of supporting future molecular studies to use DNA evidence for species identification, new species discovery and linking cryptic larval stages to the adult parasites.

School of Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry