has announced a $12 million gift from entomologists Charlie and Lois O'Brien to endow professorships in its .
Part of the university's $1.5 billion , the gift will establish an endowment that funds professorships devoted to insect systematics, the process of identifying and naming new species. The gift also includes the O'Briens' private insect collection, one of the world's largest and most important, more than doubling ASU's current collection and adding rare and unidentified specimens with significant scientific value. Amassed over sixty years of field work, the O'Briens' collection contains two hundred and fifty thousand planthoppers and more than one million weevils, a mega-diverse group of beetles that devastate crops around the world.
Charlie O'Brien, a former professor at , became a specialist on biocontrol and created a lab and center focused on using weevils to eradicate invasive weed plant species. Over the course of his career, he has discovered, or "described," hundreds of weevil species, with several named in his honor. Lois O'Brien is a leading expert on planthoppers.
"The O'Briens have placed great trust in us as a research community," said Nico Franz, curator of ASU's Frank and director of the university's . "And at the same time, it's a responsibility for us to make sure this collection has the greatest possible impact in terms of research and mentoring for future generations."