Thanks to early Museum Research Apprenticeship program (MRAP) student and world-class volunteer Barbara Logan, we kept up our weekly “skinning night” throughout the summer. And so it was with a considerable head of steam that we rolled on into the fall semester, adding five MRAP students to the fun. Preparing bird specimens and studying the morphology, anatomy, and other amazing attributes of birds is wonderfully stimulating. With MRAP students and volunteers, we’re preserving the birds of the present for the scientific research and education of the future. And we’re having a lot of fun in the process! If birds aren’t the most exciting things to study in the world, we missed the memo.
We house and oversee the development and use of the State bird collection, and this collection’s growth has severely overtaxed our capacity to properly house specimens. For example, our skeleton collection, which requires less stringent conditions for preservation, is largely inaccessible, and we’ve been forced to temporarily put lesser-used portions of the skin collection in plastic-wrapped cardboard boxes salted with mothballs because our specimen cabinets are too full to hold any more. Our taxonomic sorting began to get rather blurred some time ago as we crammed skins into every available space. As a rather heavily used research collection, this lack of appropriate space is a severe problem.
The origin of the idea was a mental crossing of two wires: Mitt Romney’s oft-played comment “Corporations are people, my friend,” and our annual update of publications supported by the collection.