Natural History Collection boasts new rat discovery

Dr. Lee showing Dr. Rhodes the new species of Ecuadorean rat in the Natural History Collection. (Photo by Nicholas Cromwell)

The Natural History Collection re-opened on Nov. 8, featuring a new discovery by Dr. Tom Lee.

Dr. Lee started his collection during his time as a professor at Pepperdine University. When he began working at ACU, he brought it with him.

The Natural History Collection consists of 4.300 specimens from around the world, with multiple from each ocean and continent.

Speakers at the re-opening event included Dr. John Hanson, director of operations at RTLGenomics and Research and Testing; Dr. Neal Platt, post-doctoral research assistant at Texas Biomedical Research Institute; Joy Harsh, education curator at the Abilene Zoo; and Jack Minter, CEO at MYRETA and honoree of the event.

This year, the Natural History Collection celebrated collection donations from Jack Minter as well as the publication of Lee’s discovery of a previously unknown species of rat.

The discovery was made in Santa Rosa, Ecuador at the end of a strenuous mountain trail ten years ago, but was only recently published.

Upon publication, the species of rat was named after Lee: Lee’s Long-Tailed Mountain Rat.

Lee said the mountain rat will be a part of a genetic analysis that will be compared to other similar species.

“The collections took 25 years to assemble with many field trips,” said Lee. “There have been 12 month-long trips just to South America alone.”

Joy Harsh, education curator at the Abilene Zoo and ACU alumna, spoke during the re-opening event of the Natural History Collection.

Harsh was a student of Lee’s in the 1990s and worked alongside him and his students for the organization of the Natural History Collection.

Harsh said she is a big supporter of the research and development acquired from the collection.

“I hope students see this as a wonderful resource and opportunity,” said Harsh. “We are lucky to have [the Natural History Collection] at ACU.”

Lee said students have participated in every research trip and are welcome to participate in the future.

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