CHADRON -- In a recently published academic paper a Chadron State College professor has documented the presence of a particular species of grasshopper in Wisconsin, some 300 miles away from the closest known occurrence.

The six-page paper by Dr. Matthew Brust, professor of biology at CSC, reports the presence of a pallid wing grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis (Burmeister), in an abandoned gravel pit in northern Wisconsin.

A common grasshopper in the deserts of the southwestern U.S. and South America, the pallid wing grasshopper has never been found east of the Mississippi River. The specimen Brust collected in June 2022 was some 300 miles northeast from the species’ nearest previous recorded occurrence.

Brust’s knowledge of grasshoppers comes in part from identifying specimens for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“I have probably identified over 100,000 grasshoppers,” he said.

An avid collector, he said the species identification work allows him to notice details in insects that others might miss. The banded wings, coloration and flight pattern of the grasshopper were clues that led him to collect the specimen identified in his manuscript.

The differences between species of grasshopper can be subtle, so Brust’s paper and accompanying photographs explain details that differentiate his find from similar species found in the area. In addition to distinctions in morphological characteristics, such as color and size of body parts, finding the adult pallid wing specimen in early summer was a key to identification, as similar grasshoppers occur later in the year.

Brust, a frequent contributor to academic journals, estimates he has had some four dozen papers published. His latest paper appears in the fall/winter 2023 edition of The Great Lakes Entomologist, a publication of Valparaiso University under the direction of the Michigan Entomological Society.

Science program receives Scanning Electron Microscope

CHADRON – Chadron State College students and faculty will now benefit from a  $120,000 Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). The SEM was purchased from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund approved by Congress as part of the 2020 CARES Act. The state-of-the-art equipment can reveal the elements making up a specimen and produce images with more realism than typical microscopes.

The microscope works by bombarding the specimen with electrons, which only works in a vacuum. And to prevent buildup of electrical charge on the specimen, it must be coated with metal, if it is not already conductive.

Dr. Mike Leite, Professor of Physical Science, said the equipment will help students develop skills that potential employers want.

“You can think of applications in industry, law enforcement, environmental research, all of those, across the board. So many fields need another problem-solving skill, and that’s what our students can learn with this microscope,” he said.

He said the ability to collect different types of data and analyze it requires different thought processes.

“The more opportunities we can give our students to collect a wider array of data and then determine how to interpret that, the stronger their creative problem-solving and creative skills are going to be. Students will be able to integrate what they learn with this across all the sciences,” Leite said.

Dr. Joyce Hardy said the SEM will significantly expand the amount and type of research CSC students and faculty can conduct.

“The ability to visualize surface materials with great resolution as well as to analyze chemical element distribution and composition of samples will have significant application for medical, environmental, biological, and ecological research with direct application to our region,” Hardy said.

Leite, Hardy, and Dr. Ryan Morgan, Dean of Business, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences, have experience operating an SEM and plan to develop protocols and planning training sessions for faculty and students.