A short history of the Spencer Entomological Collection


The collection was begun in the 1920s by G.J. Spencer. When he joined the university in 1924, the now-extensive collection consisted of "less than a handful" of unlabelled specimens. He was a dedicated collector, and devoted much time and energy to building up a representative collection of BC insects. By the time he left the university, the collection had grown to more than 300,000 mounted and labelled specimens through his efforts and through acquisition of other collections. The collection was officially founded in 1953, as a retirement gift from his students and the Department of Zoology at UBC.

George J. Spencer

George J. Spencer (1888-1966) was born in southern India. He became interested in insects and snakes at a very young age, and expanded that interest during his undergraduate and graduate education, which he received at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph and the University of Illinois, respectively. In between his undergraduate degree and his MSc, he served overseas during World War I. More can be learned about Lieutenant Spencer here.

After completing his Masters, he joined the University of British Columbia in 1924. He played a major role in founding the UBC Zoology department, where he taught general zoology, histology, and entomology. He was an inspired teacher. He was also an avid collector, and he founded the UBC Entomological Collection immediately upon joining the university. The BC southern interior was his favorite collection locality, and he collected widely and often, as shown by the great variety of new insects he described.

Dr. Spencer also took an interest in outreach, and he enjoyed helping the public with their insect pest problems (even their imaginary ones!). His own research was focused on applied entomology, with projects on ants, earwigs, carpet beetles, stored-product insects, and household and garden pests of the Vancouver area.

Geoffrey G.E. Scudder

Dr. G.G.E. Scudder took over care of the collection from Dr. Spencer in 1958 and served as its director for more than 40 years, retiring in 1999. Dr Scudder had remained very active in the collection throughout his retirement, visiting every week armed with boxes of new specimens.

Sadly, Dr. Scudder died in July 2023 after several years of poor health and the collection is not the same without him.

Read a tribute to his amazing life here
Geoffrey G.E. Scudder: Zoologist, Conservationist, and Educator.


We are currently a small but dedicated team charged with the care of the Spencer Entomological Collection. Karen Needham has been curating the collection since 1991, although she started out as an undergraduate volunteer in 1985 with previous curator Syd Cannings (pictured at right with Dr. Scudder). Chris Ratzlaff joined us in 2013 as a WorkLearn student and was our collections assistant from 2015-2018. In that short time he became invaluable as co-curator, manager of our database and image banks, as well as the webmaster of these pages. His passion for insects was a daily inspiration. Tiia Haapalainen was collections assistant from 2019-2021 and we spent many happy hours together in both the field and the lab. She still joins us on many of our ento-adventures.

Donald Griffiths, our imaging technician, started out as a volunteer in the collection in the mid-1990's and since 2008 has been committed to capturing digital images of each species in our collection - approximately 15,000 species and 45,000 photos to date. The expertise he acquired as a lighting technician at the Freddy Wood Theatre for 30+ years made him a natural fit for the position. Launi Lucas worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support Dr. Scudder in all of his pursuits since 1991. A talented illustrator and artist, she is equally at home behind an easel or a computer screen. Learn more about her at LauniLucas.com.

Dr. Wayne Maddison has overseen the direction of the Spencer since 2004. His work on jumping spiders from all over the globe, with emphasis on tropical habitats, is world renowned. More information can be found at the Maddison Lab website.

Pictured at left: Karen, Chris, Dr. Scudder, Launi, Don

Pictured at right: Tiia at the Whistler Biobltiz 2020