Students give research new life
Project provides scholars worldwide online access to CMU’s natural history collections
January 24, 2017
Camarena isn't the scientist who delved into the lynx found west of
Higgins Lake in February 2000, but the Central Michigan University
senior is making sure researchers worldwide have access to this specimen
and tens of thousands more available at
CMU's Museum of Cultural and Natural History.
is one of four CMU students who are uploading museum collection data to
provide online access to the university's diverse biological
collections. This endeavor brings otherwise largely unknown specimens to
the attention of countless biological researchers.
"There are a
lot of valuable research specimens here," said Camarena, a Mount
Pleasant native majoring in biology and geology. "It will be cool to
know I was one of the people who gave new life to these specimens."
CMU scholars in biology, when they're finished with their research
projects, give their meticulously documented specimens to the museum for
use in research, teaching, and public interpretation or exhibition.
Making specimens included in the museum's collections of mammals, birds,
amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects available online is something
biology faculty member and natural history curator Kirsten Nicholson has
wanted to do for nearly a decade.
Nicholson began working with
her students more than three years ago to develop a collections
inventory and prepare it for uploading to the online
Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
They spent last fall posting the mammal research collection data
online. The amphibian, reptile, bird and fish collection data should be
uploaded within the next year.
entire zoological collection was built over the last 50 years and
consists predominantly of specimens typically found in the Great Lakes
region. Researchers from academic institutions can access information
about the collection and then, if needed, are loaned specimens, tissues
or samples for their respective projects.
Making such research
resources available further solidifies CMU’s positioning as a leader in
Great Lakes research, Nicholson said.
"The strength of our collections is in the Great Lakes
basin, so we're a natural complement to people conducting this kind of
research," she said. "CMU will be a partner in documenting the
evolutionary history of the Great Lakes."
In addition to
supporting researchers worldwide, Museum of Cultural and Natural History
Director Jay Martin said having such information online will benefit
CMU students and faculty as well.
"CMU students and faculty will
be able to easily search museum biological collections and use these
resources to support their own research," said Martin, who also directs
CMU's museum studies program within the
College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
"The process of making the collections accessible also gives our
students in museum studies, cultural resource management and related
fields important experience in research and museum methodology."