Note:  This announcement was originally written in 2001.  For additional information, see the Butterfly Rainforest page at

You are here:  home > McGuire Donation

Program / Mission Statement
Description of Research Activities


On December 28, 2000, the University of Florida received a gift of $4.2 million from Dr. William W. McGuire and Mrs. Nadine M. McGuire, to be matched 1:1 by the State of Florida for a total gift of $8.4 million, to construct two major new facilities:  a 35,000-square-foot educational museum and research complex to be named McGuire Hall, which will contain the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research, also named after the donors, and to build a 6,000-square-foot research and teaching facility to be named the McGuire Center for Insect Conservation.

 The new McGuire Center for Insect Conservation will address important environmental issues in the 21st century, such as the impact of climatic warming and environmental change on endangered species, insects as indicators of healthy biodiversity in natural habitats ranging from the Florida Everglades to the tropical rain forests of the world, and the impact of biocontrol measures versus the use of chemical pesticides on agricultural crop pests and the health of surrounding human populations and ecosystems.

The state-of-the-art McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research facility will enable the University and the State of Florida to gather its substantial but widely scattered collections and research programs dealing with this huge group of insects into one centralized building for the first time.  The insect order, Lepidoptera, contains more than 225,000 species of butterflies and moths and is estimated to be second in size and importance only to the beetles among all the orders of plants and animals in the world.  As such, it is an extremely useful index group to a healthy biodiversity in nature.  The adults of Lepidoptera serve as important pollinators to many kinds of plants, while their earlier stage, caterpillars, are extremely important ecologically.  For example, it is estimated that more than 90% of all leaf damage in tropical forests is accomplished by moth and butterfly caterpillars, creating a constant turnover of nutrients essential to the health of the ecosystem as their excrement falls to the topsoil beneath the trees.

The new McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research will include numerous offices and research laboratories to accommodate up to 12 curators and faculty who will be working with Lepidoptera.  These include present curatorial positions centered at the Allyn Museum of Entomology in Sarasota, Florida, the Florida State Collection of Arthropods at the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville, and faculty from the departments of Entomology and Zoology at the University. 

The new building will house over 80,000 glass-top drawers in four parallel mechanical compactor systems, with multiple aisles in each compactor row.  These drawers will hold the combined Lepidoptera collections presently scattered from Sarasota (at the Allyn Museum of Entomology there) to Gainesville and across the University of Florida campus in facilities as diverse as the departments of Zoology, Entomology, Natural Sciences (at the Florida Museum of Natural History), and the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory.   There will also be a special collection area with compactors to house the substantial holdings in immature insects, with upwards of half a million eggs, larvae, and pupae in alcohol vials.  The main collection room for the adult specimens will have sufficient space to house the projected growth of the collections for at least the next 20-30 years.

This state-of-the-art facility will also include advanced laboratories for molecular and genetic research on DNA sequencing, cuticular hydrocarbons, electrophoresis of enzymes, pheromone analysis, juvenile hormones, development of artificial diets for Lepidoptera, and other physiologically and genetically related research areas.

The facility will also house two Scanning Electron Microscopes, which are presently situated at the Allyn Museum of Entomology and at the Boender Endangered Species Lab on the main U.F. campus.  Combined with these will be state-of-the-art Image Analysis Systems and advanced optical microscopes for detailed analysis of chromosomes and other cellular structures in Lepidoptera.

Special preparation rooms and work areas for student preparators and two professional collection managers will be provided.  Offices and laboratory spaces for up to 30 or more graduate students and undergraduates interested in working in Lepidoptera are planned.

 Additionally, provision is being made for offices for Visiting Scientists, including amateur and professional lepidopterists who wish to work for short or long periods of time on groups of interest in the McGuire Center collections.  A fully equipped library room to house the 6,000 volumes on Lepidoptera from the Allyn Museum of Entomology and the more than 5,000 volumes in other collections at the University of Florida will be included.

 Additionally, a public museum facility will comprise the front portion of McGuire Hall, facing the existing Harn Art Museum across a landscaped mall.  This public display facility will include a large living butterfly display, open 365-days-a-year to an expected several hundred thousand visitors annually.  More than 5,000 square feet of permanent as well as traveling exhibits will focus on the many themes in the biological and natural sciences which research on butterflies and moths has contributed to over the centuries.  There will be educational and interactive displays on ecology, biodiversity, conservation, environmental pollution and change, tropical rain forests and other habitats around the world, mimicry and protective coloration, the fossil history of butterflies and the flowering plants, developmental biology, genetics, behavior, and the science of systematics, which is the study of the classification and identification of organisms.

 This will be the largest such facility in the world dedicated to the systematics of Lepidoptera and to the intensive study of the biological phenomena that butterflies and moths help to interpret.  It will provide ample housing for what will be one of the most inclusive collections of this important order of animals in the world.  In fact, it will be second only to the British Museum in comprehensive coverage of the 20,000 species of butterflies, including more than 95% of the known butterfly genera and species.

Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2001 and with an accelerated construction schedule, the two buildings should be ready for occupancy in January 2003.  McGuire Hall, home of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research, will be placed on an elevation far above any possible floodplain.  With standby power generators, underground utilities, special wind resistant construction, and other precautions, it will be among the most advanced and secure museum buildings in the world.  A world-class architect will be engaged in the near future to develop the final concept and design of the building.  When construction is completed, the Allyn Museum of Entomology in Sarasota, together with its curatorial positions, will move to Gainesville to the new facilities in early 2003.  Additional announcements and information about the future programs of the Centers will be released as planning progresses on this major project.


The $4.2 million private gift to the University of Florida Foundation for the construction of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research, McGuire Hall, and the McGuire Center for Insect Conservation comes from the William and Nadine McGuire Family Foundation in Wayzata, Minnesota.  Dr. William W. McGuire, who received his medical degree from the University of Texas at Austin and married Nadine, a fellow U.T. student there, has long had an avocational interest in Lepidoptera.  As his career took him ever higher in the professional health care field, ultimately resulting in becoming President, then Chairman and CEO of the giant United Healthcare Corporation (now the United Health Group), he never lost sight of his early interest in Lepidoptera.  Particularly intriguing to Dr. McGuire was the group of small butterflies known as skippers, in the families Hesperiidae and Megathymidae.  These are particular diverse in the southwestern United States, and during the McGuires' years in Texas, southern California, and Colorado prior to moving to their present home in Wayzata, Dr. McGuire made many notable discoveries in the field of lepidopterology.  He has had several new butterflies named after him, and has also published a number of professional systematic papers describing new skippers particularly the Holarctic genus Hesperia) and important notes about their biology and ecology. 

The McGuires have previously sponsored Dr. Thomas C. Emmel's work at the University of Florida on conservation of the Schaus Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus Schaus), a Federally listed endangered butterfly species in the Florida Keys, and also the Rockland Skipper, an endangered species of skipper butterfly in the genus Hesperia (near meskei) found today only on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys and nearly extinct.

 In previous years, Dr. McGuire has also given his very important collections to the University of Florida, completing these gifts in 1997 with over 30,000 specimens of the diverse and widespread genus Hesperia, found across North America and Europe.  His collection represented the most extensive personal collection of these skippers in the world.  His earlier gift of reared Southwestern U.S. material from the Giant Skipper family Megathymidae ranked as the foremost collection then outside any other institutional collection and has provided a fertile field of research for Dr. Emmel and his graduate students in the Departments of Entomology and Zoology at the University of Florida.

 Nadine McGuire has served on the boards of many civic organizations in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., including the Kennedy Center, and has a passionate interest in public education, particularly focusing on elementary school and secondary school students and fostering their interest in the sciences.  McGuire Hall, the museum and exhibit facility to be constructed as part of this gift, will include more than 5,000 square feet of public exhibit space using butterflies and moths as examples of how scientists have discovered many important interrelationships in ecology, evolution, genetics, developmental biology, and similar fields.   There will also be a major public display of living butterflies in a 2,000 square foot dramatic tropical setting at the front of McGuire Hall, to allow the visitor to experience the thrill of discovery for themselves of some of these phenomena such as the development of mimicry patterns, protective camouflage, and even frightening coloration, used to evade bird and lizard predators.

 The McGuires' two daughters, Marissa (18) and Chelsea (12), share their parents' enthusiasm for educational outreach and the importance of understanding of the natural world and all its ramifications.  Marissa accompanied Dr. Emmel's research group in May and June 2000 to the Florida Keys to work on the Schaus Swallowtail research and tropical hardwood hammock restoration project.  She also participated in work with endangered sea turtles on the east coast of Florida and on a special expedition to Tortuguero (as well as other tropical sites) in Costa Rica with Emmel and his advanced students.

All four of the McGuires came to Gainesville on December 15, 2000, to personally visit and approve the sites where the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research and the McGuire Center for Insect Conservation will be built.  So this is truly a family interest, one culminating in this major gift for these exciting new programs at the University of Florida.


The gift for this project consists of three programmatic parts:

(1) The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research and

(2) A Public Educational Facility (combined as McGuire Hall, to be
located adjacent to the FMNH's Powell Hall);

(3) The McGuire Center for Insect Conservation (to be located adjacent
to Bldg. 970 Hull Road, the main Entomology building complex).

With this project's McGuire Hall building, we are accommodating a long-standing University commitment since 1981 to move the Allyn Museum of Entomology from Sarasota to Gainesville and combine its extensive Lepidoptera collections (1.2 million specimens) library, equipment, and staff with those currently scattered in the Zoology and Entomology departments on the main campus, as well as those in the Florida State Collection of Arthropods (including 1.5 million Lepidoptera specimens) from the Florida Department of Agriculture's Doyle Conner Building adjacent to campus.  With the second building, we are  replacing a large temporary modular building comprising the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory, rapidly deteriorating and slated for demolition almost since its initial occupancy in 1994.


(1) McGuire Hall:
The Center for Lepidoptera Research portion will provide over 35,000 sq. ft. of special space for what will be the penultimate Lepidoptera collection in the world (second only to the British Museum in size of collection), with over 95% of the world's butterfly taxa represented in its holdings and equally invaluable coverage of the world's moth fauna.  It will provide office and research space for curatorial and professorial staff in Lepidoptera from the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, and the Departments of Entomology in IFAS and Zoology in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.  It will provide research space for 24-30 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting scientists working on Lepidoptera-related investigations in genetics, biocontrol, systematics,  ecology, evolution, migration, developmental biology, physiology and behavior. 

The Public Educational Museum Hall and Vivarium will be immediately adjoining the Center, in McGuire Hall, and will face the Harn Art Museum across the planned museum mall and sculpture plaza.  Its architecturally dramatic northern exterior and main entrance will bring the visitor through a great glass enclosure of living tropical rain forest plants and hundreds of live tropical butterflies, to enter the main public museum area with interactive exhibits introducing the visitor to all the areas of biology and natural history where butterflies and moths (at 225,000 species being the second largest group of animals in the world) can provide important insights  (e.g., history of our continents and biogeographic realms, biological effects of global warming, evolution of mimicry and protective coloration, pesticide use and pollution effects, conservation issues, pollination of crop plants, etc.).

(2) McGuire Center for Insect Conservation
This smaller structure of 6,000 approximate square feet will house the present research and teaching activities of the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory, including captive propagation of endangered invertebrate species such as Florida's Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly and the Stock Island Tree Snail, and the experimental reintroduction of threatened species as well as the restoration ecology of endangered or devastated habitats.  A large teaching classroom and laboratory will permit the expansion of the University's offerings in Conservation courses and training of both undergraduate and graduate students in Entomology, Zoology, Wildlife Ecology and related majors.


List of Projects Typical of Research Activities in Lepidoptera
at the University of Florida


 Basic research in Lepidoptera systematics has been an important focal point of activity here through the years.  Lee D. Miller and Jacqueline Y. Miller have published many systematic papers on various butterfly groups and the neotropical moth family Castniidae; they also co-authored the very well received major book on the Caribbean butterfly
fauna, THE BUTTERFLIES OF THE WEST INDIES AND SOUTH FLORIDA (Oxford, 1994), which contained many new systematic treatments of difficult species groups.  Thomas C. Emmel recently coordinated and edited the 880-page volume, SYSTEMATICS OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICAN BUTTERFLIES (1998); he has also published many systematic papers on butterfly groups in North America, Brazil, Africa, and Malaysia.  Jason P. Hall and Keith R. Willmott have completed a massive two-volume book manuscript on the butterflies of Ecuador (over 2,400 species).  In the preparation of this important work, over 100 species new to science have had to be described and many
systematic questions in neotropical groups explored and solved, with publication in many notable papers.  Andrei Sourakov has tackled a number of major systematic problems in the butterfly family Satyridae, including most notably the remarkable radiation of the genus Calisto in the West Indies (over 30 species on Hispaniola alone!).  He has also examined the systematics of a number of satyrid genera from Madagascar, the African mainland, Asia, and North America.


 The basic biology of many butterfly and moth species has been pursued by a number of the graduate students and faculty at UF.  For example, Richard J. Worth and Kerri A. Schwartz studied the life history and ecology of two threatened species of butterflies in the Florida Keys, the Florida Leafwing and Bartram's Hairstreak.  This work was built upon by Mark Salvato for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prescribe better management methods of fire control and planned burning in their favored pine habitat.  Dale H. Habeck of the Department of Entomology has assembled a collection of nearly 300,000 preserved immatures of Lepidoptera, especially focusing on the family Arctiidae, but also including a substantial number of eggs, larvae and pupae of other major moth families and butterfly species.  Thomas C. Emmel and Andrei Sourakov have authored many comprehensive descriptions of life histories new to science.


 A principal focus of part of the Division of Lepidoptera Research group at the University of Florida since 1984 has been the conservation biology and management of the endangered Schaus Swallowtail species in the Florida Keys.  Intensive work on the basic biology of this species made possible a highly successful captive propagation and reintroduction program after the species was nearly exterminated by the spraying of mosquito control pesticides through 1991, and the occurrence of Hurricane Andrew destroying its remaining wild populations in August 1992.  Today, the species is thriving in 12-13 reintroduced populations over an 80-mile geographic range, hopefully now removing them from the threat of a single catastrophic event destroying the entire remaining species population. Long-term population-ecology studies on the satyrid Cercyonis oetus in Colorado and the other species of Cercyonis in the western United States have resulted in understanding many of the selective factors that drive populations' peaks and declines over the course of three decades.  These studies on C. oetus have also shown remarkable sensitivity to predation and parasitism of the genetic system controlling spotting pattern, to account for microevolutionary changes in phenotype between populations located as close as a quarter of a mile apart.  Recent ecological studies of an extremely rare Hesperia skipper species on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys have uncovered what appears to be a new species of skipper (first recognized as different by William A. McGuire).  A number of intensive studies of other species are underway, including an evaluation of Mitoura sweadneri and Mitoura grineus in the southeastern United States which appears to be resulting in a determination of the probable unique species status of sweadneri (contributing to its reclassification as an endangered species).


 Since 1967, Thomas C. Emmel has been studying the evolution of chromosome structural changes and butterfly karyotypes from butterfly material gathered throughout the world.  Over 3,500 species of butterflies now have their karyotypes analyzed (of the 20,000 known species in the world), representing the largest sample group of animal species in the world for such chromosome research.  A new image analysis system and  development of chromosome banding techniques will allow a spectacular increase in meaningful data to be derived from these chromosome preparations and photographic files of past preparations, and contribute towards biologists' understanding of the broader role of genetic rearrangements in animal speciation and evolution.


 One of the chief activities of a number of the members of the Division of Lepidoptera Research group is to give public lectures, write popular books and articles on butterflies, promulgate the philosophy and practice of butterfly gardening and habitat restoration, and similar outreach programs with the general public.  As such, Thomas C. Emmel, Jaret C. Daniels, Andrei Sourakov, and others give dozens of lectures and publish scores of articles, photographs,  and other publications each year.


Among our many interests in the Division of Lepidoptera Research are the coevolutionary races between butterflies and their larval host plants.  Mirian Medina Hay-Roe is studying the intricate pattern of host plant exploitation (and the evolution of host plant defenses against the butterfly) in the neotropical Heliconian butterfly, Heliconius erato.  Her two greenhouses full of living Passiflora species and H. erato subspecies illustrate the lengths to which coevolution may drive both butterfly and plant.  Biochemical analyses (by gas chromatography) of plant chemical cues for both adult female butterflies (for oviposition stimulation) and larval feeding are part of this project.  James L. Nation and his students are working on a major project to develop a universal artificial laboratory diet for butterflies (and hopefully moths also) which will greatly simplify laboratory culture of Lepidoptera for physiological research, biological control tests, and even captive propagation of rare or endangered species for study and reintroduction programs.


For many years Thomas J. Walker of the Department of Entomology has been studying the migration of a number of Southeastern U.S. subtropical butterfly species through Florida.  Using giant Malaise traps, he has demonstrated definitively the directional movements of the "northward" migration in the spring and the "southward" migration in the fall of these species, and quantified the number of individuals (millions to hundreds of millions) of Cloudless Sulfurs, Long-tailed Skippers, Gulf Fritillaries, and other butterfly species that annually participate in these incredibly massive but poorly studied movements.  Lincoln P. Brower, Professor Emeritus of Zoology, continues his annual research into the far better known migrations of the Monarch butterfly between Mexico and the rest of North America.


 John B. Heppner, Curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods at the Division of Plant Industry, Florida State Department of Agriculture, and his colleagues have been working on the tiny moths that represent a sizable percentage of the order Lepidoptera.  His research on the systematics and biology of this group of little-understood moths has reached around the world, with special projects in Taiwan, the Neotropics, and North America.

--Thomas Emmel

You are here:  home > McGuire Donation
01/22/00 Thomas Emmel
revised 01/03/05 Richard Mankin

Website Design Copyright © 1998 Colony One On-Line, Inc.
All rights reserved.