This course has three broad themes centered on natural history collections: 1) understanding the values and perceived controversies of scientific collections, 2) learning diverse methods of specimen collection and preparation, and 3) making specimens accessible to the public through outreach with community partners. Students will be introduced to all four vertebrate collections housed at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates (CUMV) and discuss the ethical dilemmas inextricably connecting to scientific collecting. Students will participate in a 1-week collecting trip over spring break, where they learn diverse techniques of specimen collecting and preparation. Finally, students will work with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and/or the Cayuga Nature Center in creative ways that ultimately inform the public about the value of natural history collections.
Assess the impact of scientific collecting to populations in relation to other sources of mortality.
Articulate differences between historical and modern collecting practices and the information gained from historical and modern specimens.
Evaluate both pro- and anti-collecting perspectives.
Become familiar with using mist-nets.
Set Sherman traps.
Gain familiarity for using seines and dipnets.
Bait and set minnow traps.
Become familiar with preparation techniques for three different specimen types: fluids, skins, skeletons, and additional preparations as needed, e.g. tissues for DNA.
Illustrate case studies where collections have been used in conservation, research, and education to the general public.
Explain the value of scientific collecting in conscientious, respectful ways to those that may not understand the role specimens play in understanding the world around us.