Steve Prchal Memorial Scholarship Fund





Steve Prchal's unrelenting interest in arthropods started growing near the end of his 16 year tenure at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. He had long cared for the Museum's small collection of arthropods but it wasn't until he took up macrophotography that his interests really started to blossom. A month-long internship at the Cincinnati Zoo's Insectarium in 1979 (when the only other insect zoos were in San Francisco and at the Smithsonian) convinced him that the Museum should be leading the way. He continued in his photography, documenting life histories of Sonoran Desert moths and butterflies and began building a collection of insects found around the Caretaker's House across the road from the Museum. In 3.5 years he had collected more than 1000 species in that small area, clearly demonstrating an incredible diversity that needed to be interpreted. The Museum had other priorities, so in 1986 he left to found the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute (SASI). Steve's mission was to promote arthropods and their role through environmental education, research and publications. In his words, he wanted to "Turn the world on to bugs".

SASI fulfilled its mission with a small insect zoo-museum exhibit for the first couple of years while also doing outreach to local schools and conducting teacher training workshops. In 1988 a location in Tucson Mountain Park was secured and served as a terrific location for arthropod research and natural history film projects as well as serving as a base for outreach, membership workshops and other events.

Insect zoos and butterfly houses were becoming more and more common each year. In 1992 at the AZA meetings in Toronto Prchal suggested that instead of individual professionals dropping in throughout the summer months, that SASI hold an organized gathering so all could meet each other. Very quickly this "gathering" grew into what became the 1993 SASI-TITAG Conference, attended by 77 professionals from around the country. The Conference soon became the Invertebrates in Captivity Conference (IICC) and invited presentations on captive husbandry, invertebrate conservation, invertebrate research and education programs using invertebrates and at its peak, had 188 attendees representing 9 countries. The Conference continues to grow and is now known as the Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference (IECC).

Steve left SASI on its 20th anniversary to take on another aspect of the insect zoo industry production of butterflies and other insects in Costa Rica. This scholarship is offered in the name of Steve and promotes his passion for invertebrates, the science of entomology, his love for the natural world, and one of his many missions of inspiring and fostering the next generation of scientists.

The Steve Prchal Scholarship Fund is sponsored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (TITAG).