Museum Open House 2017

We hope you all enjoyed our Open House last Saturday. We started the morning in the dark due to a power outage in the Upper Arlington area. Just as we moved specimens and displays outside, the power came back on at 10:30 am and we were able to invite visitors inside.

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The auditorium was creeping and crawling with all kinds of arthropods including everyone’s favorite stick insects and scorpions.

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Lots of activities awaited all kids and young-at-heart; among others you could plant a seedling, build your own bird feeder, preserve bugs in goo and get your face painted – some artists were at work here.

Herbarium, insects, tetrapods, fishes and mollusc collections had their doors open to give you insights into research in natural history collection and simply show you some of the cool specimens we have.

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You could listen to sounds of frogs, cicada, racoons and other animals in the Borror lab of Bioacoustics.

Drawing natural history specimens was a hit, and produced some very nice drawings.

We would like to thank our numerous volunteers without whom this event would not have taken place. They help with set-up, explain displays to visitors and take displays down at the end of the day. THANK YOU.

Let us know what your favorite activity or display was. We hope to see you all again next year!

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

*** We would like to hear from you – Please leave a comment ****

Our big day is tomorrow

Tomorrow, Saturday April 22, from 10 AM – 4 PM we will open our doors and welcome all of you to visit our hidden treasures in the natural history collections of The Ohio State University. Stop by and talk to the curators who meticulously keep these specimens and make them available to students and researchers for study throughout the year. This is your chance each year to see what we do and to support our efforts.

The event is FREE and so is parking. We will have many activities for children including face painting, the very popular bugs-in-goo, a live arthropod zoo … and this year new, for anyone over 15 years, guided sessions on scientific illustration, drawing natural history specimens.

Enjoy some photos from last year events

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The set-up for tomorrow is in full swing, here is what I have seen so far

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About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

*** We hope to see you tomorrow ***

Virtual tour


I greatly enjoy the National Museum of Natural History virtual tour. It allows people from all over the world to view some of the exhibits that the museum has to offer.  Of course it’s not as gratifying as visiting the museum in person, but it is pretty cool.

The MBD does not have exhibits and is not regularly open to the public. Nonetheless there’s a fair amount of interest from the local community about the work we do here and the collections we hold. We frequently receive requests for tours of the facility, from local schools to OSU classes to family groups. Tours allow visitors to view some of the many specimens and objects held by the various collections and to talk to some of the faculty and curators associated with the collections. I had the pleasure of leading a number of these tours in recent months. I tried to document each tour, taking photos and posting on social media.

Here are some of the photos I took during the most recent tours. Not as fancy as a virtual tour, but hopefully cool enough to get more people excited about a future visit to the Museum of Biological Diversity.

Note that there are almost no photos of the tour groups when they are at the Triplehorn Insect Collection. I can never manage to answer questions about the collection I curate and to take photos at the same time. Oh, well!




About the Author: Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.

STRIKE: Creating Awareness for Bird Window Strike Fatalities

The word "strike" is spelled out of bird study skins

“STRIKE”-An art installation created to represent building fatalities in birds. ©Amy Youngs, 2015

December 2015, OSU Associate Professor and local artist Amy Youngs borrowed specimens from the Tetrapod Collection for her art installation for a BioPresence exhibition at OSU. The word “STRIKE” was spelled out with 116 bird specimens from our collection to commemorate the bird deaths resulting from collisions with human-made structures that occur every year.

Amy describes her motivation for the project:

“The project comes from my desire to see the world from the perspectives of other animals. As a human animal, I can never fully understand the experience of a bird, but as an artist I try to translate that effort in ways that speak to other humans and perhaps have some positive effect for birds. I began thinking about the window strike issue when I saw Angelika Nelson collecting a dead bird that had hit a window at the Heffner Building at the Olentangy Wetlands Research Park. I began asking questions about what birds see and don’t see and what is known about preventing the problem of building collisions. I thought about how many of the dead birds in the collection of the Museum of Biological Diversity could attest to the tragedy of human-built structures. What if the birds went on strike? What if we saw our buildings like birds did? Perhaps we would learn to build in ways that would allow us to become better citizens of the ecosystem.”

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Collaborations between Art and Science like this one are an innovative way to raise awareness of environmental issues. In this case we focused attention on bird strikes. Artists and scientists can work towards creating unique ways to both increase building visibility for migrating birds and public awareness of the problem. Check out this project at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA for some inspiration. For now, we will keep using the bird collision study skins as outreach tools in education events on this pressing matter.


About the Author: Stephanie Malinich is Collection Manager of the OSU Tetrapod Collection.

Open House 2016

Last Saturday (April 23) started out cool and cloudy, but the enthusiasm of visitors and volunteers at the 12th Annual Museum Open House made it turn into an exhilarating day.  By our best reckoning, we had 2,641 guests join us to celebrate the day. Our 186 volunteers were there to welcome them and share their passion for biodiversity.

This was a year of innovation: a springtime date, outdoor activities under a massive 20′ x 90′ tent, a 2,200 gallon aquarium stocked with a variety of fish from the Scioto River, the t-shirt design contest, and a number of new hands-on activities. The support and positive feedback from the community was absolutely tremendous and thoroughly invigorating. Thanks to all who came, to all who helped to put the event together, to all our amazing volunteers, to the generous donations from visitors, and to the College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology, and to the Department of Entomology for financial support.

We’re wrapping up this year’s event (look for a more complete report at later blog post) and already thinking and planning for our lucky 13th Open House: all ideas on how to make this a better event are welcome. See you next year!


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This year we expanded to the outside of the Museum, with kids’ activities under the tent.

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Another new feature was the portable aquarium, stocked with fish from the Scioto River; they were returned to the river at the end of the day.

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One of our young visitors gets a closer look at the fish.










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A chameleon being painted on the cheek of one of our guests.

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OSU undergraduate student Christina Daragan volunteered in face painting and acquired a painting of her own.

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EEOB department chair Dr. Libby Marschall cuts chameleons out of paper plates for a kid’s activity.










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A young visitor engaged in fish-printing.

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Graduate students from the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory help with the plankton races.

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One of many young visitors who were photographed looking through a very different organism!









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George Keeney, “zookeeper” of the Insect Zoo, which is always a big attraction.

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Dr. Rachelle Adams shows roaches to visitors.

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Abby Pomento shows a Hognose Snake to a young visitor.









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Roger Thoma explains crayfish biology to visitors.

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Former graduate student Dr. Paul Larson explains DNA analysis.

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Members of the limnology lab talk about aquatic systems with visitors.









Open House Bird Lady

Stephanie Malinich, Manager of the Tetrapod Collection, with her avian headdress.

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Graduate student Liz Calhoon explains the colors of birds.

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Activities and exhibits in the Insect Collection.









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The adult phase (you can tell by the wings) of a volunteer in the Insect Collection.

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Jodi Folzenlogen explains the collection of sounds in the Bioaccoustics exhibit.

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Dr. Tom Watters, Curator of the Mollusc Collection, explains the world of mussels and clams.









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Dr. Hans Klompen, Director of the Tick & Mite Collection, shows the world of these tiny organisms to our guests.

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OSU undergraduate student Miriam Gibbs explains fish biology.

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Drs. Bill Ausich, William Schenck and Dale Gnidovec talk about fossils with our visitors.









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Exhibits in the Herbarium.

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Dr. Bob Klips explains lichen biology to a guest.

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Dr. Meg Daly, Director of the Fish Collection, and Dr. Norm Johnson, Director of the Insect Collection (and lead event organizer), enjoy a moment in the beautiful weather.











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Dr. Luciana Musetti, Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection, with Zach Hurley, former Curatorial Assistant at the insect collection.

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Dr. Carol Anelli, Associate Chair of Entomology, and Dr. Johnson help orient visitors.

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Kevin Lumney, Instructor in EEOB, takes a well-deserved break near the end of the event.











About the Authors: Dr. Norman Johnson is Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection and led the organization of the Museum Open House 2016. Dr. John Freudenstein is Director of the OSU Herbarium. Norman wrote the text above and John produced the photo gallery. All photos and captions by John Freudenstein.

Open House on my mind


For the past three months I have done little else other than plan and prepare for the Annual Museum of Biological Diversity Open House, coming up Saturday, April 23, 10AM-4PM. As one of the lead organizers, my mind is full of the big items and the small details that need to be taken care of so all the many parts of the event can work well.  No wonder when it comes to my turn again to write a post for the #OSUBioMuseum blog, I can only think of one thing: Open House.

Earlier in the year I wrote about the changes we are implementing in order to handle the expected number of visitors.

Museum Open House 2.0

If all of you come to visit this Saturday — which we hope you do, and the trend (see graph below) continues, we will probably have another record-breaking number of visitors.

Graph showing visitor attendance at the Annual Museum Open House

Graph showing visitor attendance at the Annual Museum Open House

Besides changing the date (from February to April), we are moving most of the hands-on activities outside of the Museum and under a big tent. With more space available, we added a number of new activities, and expanded a few others.  Some of the all-time favorites, like the Arthropod Zoo, were given more space. The full list of activities and the collections that will be open to the public, may be seen below.

Guide to the collections, displays areas and activities of the 2016 Museum Open House.

Guide to the collections, displays areas and activities of the 2016 Museum Open House.

If you are following us on social media, we have been instagramming, tweeting and posting updates on Facebook about the upcoming event. Several of us, faculty, staff and students in the Museum, are posting on one or more of these outlets so the best way to follow is to search for the hashtag #MBDOH2016.

Now, with only a few days to go and with most of the big items taken care of, I’m having a little time to contemplate the overwhelming size of the event ahead of us. Wow!

Back in 2005 we never imagined that our Open House would become this big and successful. We only thought we would share the work we do and the amazing animals and plants we study.

But after eleven annual open houses, and knowing that so many of our neighbors here in central Ohio have the same passion and enthusiasm for the natural world as we do, we can only be thankful and try to hold the best event we can.

All the collections are working on colorful theme-related displays and we will also have new hands-on activities. We hope you can join us as we explore the role of colors in Nature during our 2016 Museum Open House.

For more information about the event please visit our Visitor Information page. Note that we have much more visitor parking space available this year.  

Before I forget, I especially want to acknowledge the work and support of my colleague Steve Smith. In 2014, when I first worked on the organization of a museum Open House, Steve had just started as the Museum’s part-time office manager. We both had to learn a great deal, and banged our heads around more than a few times. And here we are again! Thanks, Steve!


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and the Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.


Ohio Young Birders visit

Eight Ohio Young Birders visited the insect and tetrapods collections at the Museum of Biological Diversity on Saturday (April 9) morning.

Ohio Young Birders - group photo

Ohio Young Birders with Assoc Prof Jackie Augustine (holding a robot Prairie Chicken) and curator Angelika Nelson

Jackie showed the students a comparison of the innards of a Cooper’s Hawk, Blue-winged Teal, and Mourning Dove, species that use quite different food sources. The students were a captive audience and got really excited when we discovered the remains of a House Sparrow in the stomach of the Cooper’s Hawk.

Crop content of Mourning Dove

Crop content (black sunflower seeds) of a Mourning Dove

Angelika presented some displays of bird eggs and specimens which Stephanie Malinich, curatorial manager of the collection, had set up, to the students. Both the extinct species tray and the tray with wood warbler species seen in Ohio were very popular.

Luciana fascinated students with stories about insects, how and why they were collected, what we can learn from them, etc. The students asked many interesting questions. They were particularly curious about the meaning of the term ‘biodiversity’, about invasive species, and about the impact of climate change on insects.


calosoma-scrutator Cicindela-obsoleta -sml









About the author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and co-organized this visit with Darlene Sillick.

Living Colorless

Many animals have colorful hair, fur or feathers. Many of these colors are caused by pigments, chemical compounds that absorb and reflect certain wavelengths of visible light. This makes them appear “colorful”.

Sometimes though an animal is completely white, suggesting a lack of pigments. What does it mean to be completely pigmentless? Some animals show the reverse, they are darker than usual and produce too much pigment. Animals of these two extremes, known as  albinism and melanism, are viewed as unique and often cause media sensations once discovered. Several years ago, students discovered an albino squirrel on OSU campus which quickly became the unofficial South Campus mascot and a media star, until so named “Whitey” met an early  death through a hungry Red-tailed Hawk in 2007. Highlighting the importance of color, which will be the theme for the upcoming Open House (save the date – Saturday April 23rd), we here discuss the lack of colors in some animals.

Whitey, OSU student beloved albino squirrel at his death

Red-tailed Hawk demonstrating the importance of camouflage color for survival of squirrels (James Greenebaum 2007)

What is an Albino:

One prominent pigment found in mammals and birds is melanin. Melanin causes a wide range of mainly brown and black colors; it also strengthens the hair or feathers and creates the color we observe in the pupil of the eye. Animals directly manufacture melanin, whereas other pigments, such as carotenoids, have to be taken up through food. Thus in some cases what the animal eats determines its color.

Animals that display albinism cannot produce melanin in their cells, therefore they  lack the color patterns we see in their close relatives . Their coloration and skin color are typically pure white. Also, due to their lack of melanin, albino individual’s eyes appear red or pink. Albinism  is inherited, so if both parents carry the genes for albinism their offspring may be albino, too. However, not all offspring from an albino parent will be albinistic, some may only carry the gene without any effects.

Myths and Legends of Albinism:

Not every white animal is an albino. Some animals that appear all white may in fact be leucistic. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation, it affects all pigments not only melanin. In this case an individual’s cells have the ability to produce pigments, but not in significant quantities which cause aberrations in color. Animals with leucism have normal or blue eye color, whereas albinistic animals have red eyes. Thus if you see an animal with blue eyes it is not an albino, because blue eyes are an indicator of some melanin. The individual is classified as leucistic. Leucism is an inherited trait just like albinism and can be passed on to offspring.

Leucistic Red-Tail Hawk (Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

Leucistic Red-Tailed Hawk
(Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

Leucistic Red-Tail Hawk (Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

Note the blue eyes in this leucistic Red-Tailed Hawk
(Stephanie Malinich, 2014)

The terms leucism and albinism are used loosely in defining different aspects of aberrations in individual coloration. Some conditions, such as “progressive greying” and “dilution,” which occur in many bird species are often classified as general leucism, though these traits are not known to be heritable.

We know that albinism is defined as the inability to produce melanin, but that doesn’t stop animals with this condition from having other pigments. Therefore species which take up pigments, such as carotenoids, from food sources may show some coloration. An illustrative example is an albino Northern Cardinal that is primarily white except for feathers with carotenoids, which are red. Note the ultimate indicator that a species is a true albino, red or pink eyes.

White and Pink Northern Cardinal

Albino Northern Cardinal
(John Beetham, 2014)

Coloration is what animals use to survive, thus animals with albinism and leucism usually have a lower survival rate. Their ability to blend in with their habitat is dramatically reduced and many albinos are easily picked up by predators. Many albino mammals cannot tolerate being exposed to the sun for long periods of time and are likely to develop skin cancers. Albino birds have weakened or easily worn feathers, since they lack the melanin that would typically strengthen their feathers.

In a way living “colorless” has brought more attention to these individuals than if they had been born with the normal coloration of their species. Because of how unique and rare some of these individuals are, people have created organizations such as “The Albino Squirrel Preservation Society”. Zoos will take in albino individuals (Claude the Alligator) to insure a longer life than they would have in the wild. If you’re curious about seeing more albinistic individuals, attend our Open House on April 23rd and see other variations of “Living Colors” in the Museum of Biological Diversity.

About the Author: Stephanie Malinich is Collection Manager of the Tetrapod Collection at the Museum of Biological Diversity.

Living Colors

Mark your calendars: Saturday, April 23. The doors of the Museum of Biological Diversity will be open from 10AM to 4PM. We will also have several outdoor activities. 


With a little more than 30 days to go until the big day, we’re now in the thick of the preparations for our Annual Museum Open House.  The theme for the 2016 event is “Living Colors.” The collections are selecting specimens and preparing displays and activities that will illustrate the theme. We are planning a number of hands-on activities for biodiversity lovers of all ages.

Here are just a few examples of the use of color in Nature that will be showcased during the Open House.

These two jumping spiders show the extreme sexual dimorphism and the use of color for sexual advertisement.

Habronattus americanus

Habronattus americanus, male (left) and female (right). From “Common Spiders of North America”, by Richard Bradley, with illustrations by Steve Buchanan. Used with permission.


Male (left) and female (right) Karner Blue (Plebejus melissa samuelis) illustrate sexual dimorphism in this rare butterfly subspecies.


Etheostoma bellum, Orangefin Darter.

The darter family, Percidae, is found only in North America, with the largest concentration of species in the Mississippi River watershed. One example of their vivid colors is shown here: Etheostoma bellum, the Orangefin Darter. Photo from the OSU Fish Division.


More information for the public about the upcoming event will be available soon at the MBD website.


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist. Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection & one of the organizers of the 2016 Museum Open House.


T-Shirt Design Contest: Award Reception

Yesterday afternoon we had a neat wrap up for the first Museum Open House T-Shirt Design Contest. Dr. Norman Johnson, Entomologist, Professor, and chair of the organization of the 2016 Museum Open House, was our emcee. He pointed out that the event T-shirt has been a tradition for 11 years now and a memento that volunteers cherish (and wear) long after the event. In fact, several of the students and staff attending the reception yesterday were wearing their preferred T-shirt. To know more about the history of the Museum Open House, check out our website.

The artist who created the winning design, Ann Faris, is a major in Art Management at Ohio State and has a strong interest in Biology. Dean Christopher Hadad congratulated Ann and presented her with the prize, an Apple Watch.

For each of the contest entrants we have certificates of participation. In addition to Dean Hadad, Associate Deans Andrea Ward-Ross and Steve Pirrell also attended. We want to thank them for their support both for the design contest as well as the Open House itself.


About the Author: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection. She is working on the organization of the 2016 Museum Open House.