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The Gordon Alexander Orthoptera Collection

working in the field

The Gordon Alexander Orthoptera Collection is composed of approximately 24,000 pinned and labeled grasshoppers collected during the 1930's to the 1960's from the Rocky Mountain and plains regions of Colorado. This large collection was the result of research on the biogeography and ecology of the grasshoppers of Colorado by Dr. Alexander and several of his colleagues and graduate students.

During the 1958-1960 field seasons, Dr. Alexander and John Hilliard surveyed grasshoppers along an altitudinal gradient in Northern Colorado. The eastern portion of this transect began in the Front Range near Boulder and extended westward over a vertical range of more than 2,000 m; from 1,530 m above sea level in the high plains to 3,660 m above sea level in the western alpine region known as Niwot Ridge (Alexander and Hilliard 1969).  The goal of Alexander’s survey was to quantify the distribution and phenology of grasshopper species found along the altitudinal gradient near Boulder, Colorado.

weather station

Three of the 14 most frequented collecting stations were located adjacent to permanent weather stations that were established in 1952 and serviced by the Institute of Artic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) of the University of Colorado. In addition to temperature data, the high elevation weather stations also provide information on precipitation, wind speed and soil temperatures.

 

specimen box

While over 65,000 specimens were processed as part of Alexander’s study, for most species only representatives of each instar were preserved from each collecting event to validate records. What makes Alexander and Hilliard’s survey collection unique, however, is that although only a portion of the surveyed specimens were included in the physical voucher collection, all processed specimens were accounted for in three typed field notebooks.

notebook
Thus the notebooks contain data for the 65,000 grasshoppers that were processed during the study.  For each collecting event, these detailed notebooks provide locality data as well as detailed information on the species that were surveyed (sex ratios, numerical abundances, and the numbers of adults and juveniles of each developmental stage that were present).