The Invertebrate Zoology Collection at FHSM contains a variety of invertebrates, excluding insects (See Entomology) and arachnids. The vast majority of the 2,854 specimens currently housed at FHSM are freshwater mussel shells and crustaceans, making it the largest collection of its kind in the region. The collection was started in 1984 by Dr. Thomas Wenke, aquatic ecologist and ichthyologist for FHSU at the time. In subsequent years, the collection was greatly enhanced by Dr. William J. Stark and Mark Eberle, along with their students. In 2015, the Kansas Biological Survey (Lawrence, KS) donated its freshwater mussel collection to FHSM, essentially doubling the size of the collection. The vast majority of the specimens housed at FHSM are from Kansas, with ancillary collections from Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Tennessee.
The collection consists of a number of important voucher specimens from past surveys. Historically, freshwater mussels were found in large numbers throughout the United States, one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world for freshwater mussels. These mussels serve as bioindicators, being some of the first organisms to disappear in response to environmental changes. Because of this, together with massive over-harvest in the early 1900’s for the button industry, many species are now considered Threatened, Endangered, Locally Extirpated, or Extinct. Monitoring the changes in health of freshwater mussel communities has become vital in understanding the negative effects of human activities, making historical collections such as those housed at FHSM invaluable.
There currently are no preserved tissue samples in the FHSM collection. Efforts are currently underway to create a searchable database of the collection.