UW Zoological Museum Associate Director and Curator of Osteology Laura Monahan was a recipient of the 2023 Board of Regents Academic Staff Excellence Award given by the University of Wisconsin System. The award recognizes exceptional university service and is the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed upon members of its academic staff. Laura has served as the defacto staff director of the UW Zoological Museum for the past 16 years, during which time the Museum has flourished, expanding its ability to preserve and facilitate study of vertebrate and invertebrate fauna. Through her administration and supervision of the museum, including budgeting and fundraising, the Museum has obtained extramural funding to support regular operations and upgrade spaces and Museum storage to further enhance the collections and their usability in research and teaching. In addition, Laura has encouraged and created collaborative relationships with local, state, and federal agencies; formalized positions for adjunct curatorial and collection volunteers; strengthened the internship program and developed new instructional opportunities offered by the Museum.
We are pleased to introduce John Stuhler, new Curator of Mammals and Birds at the UW Zoological Museum! John is returning to Wisconsin after pursuing a PhD at Texas Tech University. For his dissertation, John worked with the Texas kangaroo rat (Dipodomys elator), a species of conservation interest, while also researching diversity patterns in rodent communities. In particular, he combined data from field surveys and museum specimen records to investigate how biodiversity is changing over time. John also worked in the Natural Science Research Laboratory at the Museum of Texas Tech and gained experience using collections for research, teaching, and outreach. At the UWZM, John is excited about growing and using the collections for teaching and outreach, while also researching species distributions across Wisconsin and the Midwest, as well as species’ adaptations to environmental change.
The Museum Store gets a Makeover
Two years in the making, the UWZM Store is finally up and ready for action! We’ve added three newbies to the selections: a new bird poster; a category featuring Skulls of Wisconsin Carnivores including species information; and a selection of IBio’s vintage zoological charts, now collectors commodities, from the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition we are printing all posters on exhibition-quality canvas, a more hardwearing material than paper.
Prep Lab gets a big makeover
Nearly 175 years of collecting has resulted in some noteworthy collections at the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum. To continue to be used now and for future teaching and research, regular additions to the Museum collection are required. Therefore, the Museum acquires approximate 1,000-2,000 specimens per year, nearly all of which require some type of preparation, many of which are derived from research activities of UW faculty and students, as well as state (WDNR) and federal (USFWS) agencies. The Museum’s critical ongoing role as depository for these important research voucher specimens cannot be overstated. Depending upon the necessary type of preparation (often dictated by the class of animal) the specimens are prepared in various ways (as skins, skeletons or fluid preserved specimens) and are added to the various collections within the Museum. In addition, the UWZM has recently established a frozen tissues collection that requires tissues be extracted and preserved from every specimen that is prepared at the Museum. Protocols and procedures for the preparation laboratory have been approved and meet or exceed BSL-2 standards. However, the physical space (Noland 438 suite) that serves as the Museum’s preparation laboratory, did not meet the required UW Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) basic facility standards in a variety of ways. The laboratory space and most fixed equipment (fume hoods, sinks and one walk-in freezer) were original to the building (built and/or installed in 1971). By the time the remodel was completed, the only existing equipment that remained was the walk-in freezer that was installed in 2008.
These major upgrades will improve the utility of the Preparation Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum and bring the facility to the appropriate BSL-2 safety standards. This space is essential to the growth of the Museum collections which provide support for educational opportunities at UW Madison. In addition, this space is a teaching laboratory for students from all over campus. With improved physical space, we can continue to expand the Museum’s participation in education, research and outreach.
Blaschka Glass Models in the Works
The University of Wisconsin–Madison Zoological Museum (UWZM), was established at the very first UW Board of Regents meeting in 1848. After the first Science Hall burned, Edward A. Birge (Professor of Zoology, later UW–Madison president) started purchasing specimens to replace the ones lost in the fire, which included a collection of glass invertebrate models created by German glassblowers Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka. The UWZM Blaschka models, purchased in 1890, were originally used for teaching, but are now considered works of art that cannot be exhibited and handled due to their delicate construction and weakened condition. 175th Anniversary funding supported Tim Drier, a professional scientific and artistic glassblower with 40-years of experience, to work at UW–Madison for one week to apply his glassblowing expertise to this project. Tim and UW colleagues created glass models of species not currently represented in the UWZM collections that are stable enough for teaching and display. The focus was on deep sea invertebrates, because they are especially difficult to study in their environment and they cannot be removed because the pressure differential will destroy them. Only recently developed equipment has allowed researchers to see what lives deep in the ocean.