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Gary Gier Donates to Barr Museum

Gier gifts his collection of 17,000 moths and butterflies to two Idaho college museums

Gary and Rosli Gier were busy in recent days at their home in Soda Springs. For all the right reasons. Gary, a retired biology teacher for the Soda Springs School District, donated his collection of butterflies and moths to two Idaho college museums.

The amazing collection of some 17,000 butterflies and moths, both of which are grouped in the scientific order of Lepidoptera, will be going to the College of Idaho Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History in Caldwell and the University of Idaho W.F. Barr Entomological Museum in Moscow.

Both schools had their museum curators and their spouses at the Giers at the end of October to number, photograph and catalog the 381 wooden and glass boxes that Gier had built and were full of 17,000 specimens he had collected from all over the world.

Gier, who began his teaching career in 1961 in Soda Springs and taught for 30 years before retiring, collected specimens of moths and butterflies from Canada to Peru. He has samples from Brazil, Ecuador, French Guiana, Malaysia, Vietnam, Europe, Mexico and other countries in his collection spanning a lifetime of scientific interest.

One of his favorites is a white mottled specimen with a wingspan of 11 inches, known as the white witch moth. Thysania agrippina has the largest wing span of any known insect. The largest known one is only less than one-inch wider than his specimen.

Gier said he wanted his collection to be preserved for science research and exhibited as a group showing a series in variations among the species.

Seventy percent of the collection will go to the College of Idaho and 30 percent to the University of Idaho.

Museum curators William Clark from Caldwell and Luc Leblanc from Moscow were ecstatic with the fine work done by Gier, his preservation techniques and the variety of specimens.

They explained an important part in splitting the collection between the two schools was to have them in two different locations and to preserve them in northern and southern Idaho. Not only does it make them more available for pure research in the future — including things like species variation and historical value — two locations of many of the same specimens protects their scientific value from any possible future damage, accidents or destruction if they were in only one site.

“I wanted the collection used and appreciated and someone to take care of it,” Gier said as the group meticulously photographed, listed and boxed the displays into trailers and vehicles to make the trip to their new homes.

“I wanted to foster interest and appreciation of the natural world,” the local science teacher said.

He noted one of the more memorable adventures in his collecting efforts was in Ecuador at Yasuni. It is what National Geographic called the wildest place on earth.

Yasuni is the home of many indigenous tribes and over 4,000 plant species and 173 mammals. It is said to be the world’s most biologically diverse place on the planet.

Curator William Clark pointed out that a lot of areas Gier has been in and had specimens from “are not there anymore. He has helped us with a record of what was there. The genetical and molecular work will be useful for future projects,” he told the Sun.

“I feel a great honor and am humbled to be selected to help with the long years of preservation of this credible legacy and his lifetime of passion,” U of I Entomological Museum Curator Luc Leblanc said.

"Our museum has a pretty good sized staff,” Clark added. “One of the staff said he had never seen a collection that well curated. It is immaculate!

"I wouldn’t say I’m giving up,” Gier said with a grin that many students who passed through his biology classes will remember — a smile of passion and interest of all things living and wild — and a passion he passed on to many of those young students who went on to their own pursuits and interest in the fields of biology and science.

That may be his biggest legacy, even more so than a mega collection of 17,000 butterflies and moths gifted to two Idaho colleges.

Written by Mark Steele, Caribou County Sun, Nov. 12, 2020

Man holding case with group
New home — Gary Gier holds the white witch moth he collected and preserved with an 11-inch wing-span. It is one of the over 17,000 specimens from his collection he donated to the College of Idaho and University of Idaho recently. Museum curators and their spouses came to Soda Springs to catalog, number, photograph and package the many display boxes and their contents. L-R: Gary Gier, William Clark, Mary Clark, Luc Leblanc and Devolent Mtui
A variety of tannish brown moths
A variety of brown to aqua blue butterflies
A variety of brownish tan moths
A variety of colored butterflies
A variety of moths and butterflies


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