BIOL 395

The History, Utility, and Practices of Natural History Museums

This course is designed to provide a general overview of natural history museum uses and practices. Natural history museums were the primary locus for biological research in the 18th and 19th centuries. They represent invaluable archives of Earth's biodiversity; their vast collections of specimens provide a temporal and geographic record of life unmatched by written or illustrated accounts. They document variation -- the foundation of evolution -- in time and space and allow biologists to make comparisons that are difficult or impossible to observe in the field. Natural history museums are an incredible resource for researchers with interests in evolution, ecology, zoology, botany and environmental change. They are phenomenal venues for teaching and engaging students ranging from young children to senior citizens. And they are sources of inspiration for scientists and artists. In this course students learn the history of natural history collections, engage in the practices of natural history museums, learn the myriad ways that natural specimens have been used in research, and do an independent project. Crosslisted as BIOL/ENVR 395.

Prerequisites: BIOL 112, 211, or permission of instructor.