The Conner Museum at Washington State University has been given a collection of approximately 7,000 bird and mammal specimens by the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Idaho. The Conner Museum, which already holds some 1,000 display and more than 65,000 research specimens, will greatly benefit from the addition according to Richard Johnson, Conner Museum director.
“The collection is in very good shape,” said Johnson. “Many of the specimens were collected in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. And some are very old-from the early 1900s. We are very fortunate to receive it. Other institutions had asked for it, but we were able to assure the UI faculty that they would be welcome to continue to use the specimens if the collection were placed here.”
DNA can be recovered from residual tissue in the specimens. Researchers will use the collection to advance studies of systematic relationships between species. “The specimens were collected from across the Northwest, from British Columbia to Montana, with quite a lot from Idaho,” said Johnson. “We didn’t have much from Idaho before, so our coverage is increased. This will allow us to identify bottlenecks to gene flow that have had impacts on the evolution and spread of various species over a wide area.
“In the past we have tended to think that geographic barriers such as mountain ranges and narrow canyons were the primary barriers, but recent research has shown bottlenecks also occur in unexpected locations, giving us new insights and raising new questions about the history and evolution of these species,” Johnson said. “Better geographic coverage let’s you solve these problems.”
Bits of the collection are being moved now, while the majority is being prepared for transfer on Aug. 7 and 8. Initially the new materials will be held separate from the Conner Museum’s existing collection. Before being integrated into the existing collection, each new case of specimens will undergo a routine decontamination by being placed in a walk-in freezer, at ––20 degrees F, for three to four days. This process will take place in the basement of Abelson Hall over several months.