Lev Bely, 11.10.2012 22:24
This was as possible as to spot the well-done mount of an extinct dodo bird in the rubbish at a yard sale — barely ever. Tom Terzin, a developmental biologist from University of Alberta, Canada, never waited to discover a rarest well-preserved specimen of an extinct endemic Jamaican moth Urania sloanus of the Uraniidae family on a popular online auction eBay. Any hesitation was immediately overwhelmed by Terzin's professional interest and passion for collecting.
This glaring, gemstone coloured Jamaican moth, active in the daytime was last recorded in 1895. The reserve price* of the specimen was nearly $6000, what meant minus this moth in Tom Terzin's vast collection as he couldn't offer such a price. Then Terzin sent a message to his colleagues at Augustana Campus in Camrose, assuming that they could support him and help to get that rare moth before it would go to some large museum or private collection.
“U. sloanus is one of the world’s most beautiful moths—if not the most beautiful one,” he wrote, noticing it cost about $25,000. “Unfortunately it is gone forever. There are only several specimens preserved in the most prestigious world collections, and the one offered on eBay is in a perfect condition, maybe the best-preserved specimen in existence!”
This both happy and sad letter touched Terzin's colleagues, and people started donating — some sent $50, other did $100. The first money were received in an hour of the letter. It was already $1700 in another half an hour, and the rest sum was collected in less than a day. 300 people from Augustana faculty including staff gathered even more than needed $6000.
Whilst contributing, the Augustana's scientific circles as well abundantly commented.
“Very beautiful specimen!” wrote chemistry professor James Kariuki along with his pledge. “I couldn’t stop thinking of all the chemical reactions producing such brilliant colours.”
“It struck me that we might need a soundtrack for this magical moth fundraising,” wrote music professor Alex Carpenter as he submitted a link to Johann Strauss’s Nachtfalter Waltz (“Moth Waltz”).
“I’m not crazy about insects,” wrote mathematics professor Bill Hackborn along with his pledge, “but your moth is really beautiful—even mathematically so—and the wildfire you started here on campus is irresistible!”
So the Jamaican rarity flew to the online auction light where it met its ideal customer, Augustana Campus, which was the one who offered the reserve price. Now U. sloanus is on its way to Camrose, to the campus and Tom Terzin who still feels struck by his colleagues' generosity. The specimen will belong to the University of Alberta and will be used for lectures and research, like in a course combining art and biology, or for public education exhibitions arranged by Tom Terzin with his own exotic collection.
Terzin is really touched by how the campus teamed up to make his dream real.
“It is a day I treasure in my heart, regardless of winning the moth,” he said. “I believed somehow from the very beginning that something important would happen, but I could not dream of the extent of support I received! What I feel is that we are one big family.”
“I’m always on the side of whatsoever things are beautiful,” wrote visual arts professor Keith Harder, paraphrasing the University of Alberta motto, as he contributed. “Though this moth will be less about what we win and more about how we win it. That little critter may well become emblematic about the kind of things we—as Augustana—are prepared to rally around!”
*Reserve price is a minimum price set by seller on eBay, though not seen to customers until one of them offers the price equal to the reserve one.
Augustana Campus, University of Alberta, http://www.augustana.ualberta.ca
Photo: Tom Terzin and butterflies of the collection, http://www.augustana.ualberta.ca
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