20 August 2017
The Unit Tray System is one method of organizing and sorting your collections in collection drawers. Using small trays, you can categorize and group specimens. Many research institutes use this unit tray system. To help your understanding, let’s say, you took numerous images of insects including beetles, butterflies, flies, bees, and ants. You will have to make folders per their taxons and save each files into appropriate folders, right? This is somewhat a ‘sorting,’ and this is what you can apply to insect collections as well.
In the United States and Canada, the Unit Tray System is what basically used, and applied in many institutions and private collections. I started using after I entered college, majoring entomology just because I didn’t have many different taxon until then. Although I only collect and keep scarab beetles, I now have many different species, so I’m still using this system. Here I’m explaining the general purpose of using the system, and discusses the pros and cons.
Sorting per species, per groups…
Generally, you sort the specimens per species/subspecies in the single unit tray to separate and organize the specimens per ‘what they are.’ Sometimes, when there aren’t many numbers of species or having difficulty of determining the species level, you can group them in a single tray as Genus spp. or Family spp.
You can easily and safely (to specimens) move around the specimens to different spot or drawers, and you can always add more specimens of same species already deposited in the middle of the drawer.
If you keep and organize as above in the picture, and when you want to add more specimens of what you already have, you will have to move each specimen away to make a space. For example, if you want to add couple of more Lamprima sp. (green), you will have to move those three Aegus laevicollis (black) and Dynastes tityus (yellow) away to make enough space. However, if you are using the unit tray system as image below…
You can easily add more specimens in the drawer without a fuss of moving specimens around. In other words, it is convenient to add more specimens of what you already have and to sort specimens. You always keep the close taxon together for scientific collections, so you can easily add new species into the drawer. For example, Dorcus titanus sspp.(Coleoptera: Lucanidae) has a lot of subspecies and when you want to add more you can easily move around the unit trays to make enough space for the new trays. No worry to damage the specimen while handle them and it is very convenient.
Trays use up spaces.
If you don’t use the unit tray system, and just pin down the specimen into the drawer, you can have 30 Dynastes tityus males like in the image above. However, if you use unit tray system as image below…
because of the walls created by those unit trays, you are lacking enough space to place the specimens.
Recommend unit tray system if…
you are collecting many different species and groups, and always having more and more specimens as time passes. If you are collecting on your own, yes.
Do no recommend unit tray system if…
you don’t collect many different species or specimens are not added up, the unit tray system won’t be useful. If you only keep one species in a drawer, then unit tray system is useless, unless you sort them in different purpose, like per size, per gender, etc.
*I will promptly update the post for additional information.