What do tetrapods mean to you

A natural history collection is not just a storage space for specimens. It has a purpose in educating and informing people who visit it. A person can travel the world, be inspired to discover new species and learn about species that once roamed the planet. And they can do this all within the confines of a collection. Our students are impacted daily by what they do in the collection. Whether they feel encouraged to study a species they never knew existed or use specimens in varying art media projects, the collection is open and available for them to use. Staff and faculty of the collection work to ensure that specimens remain valuable to the community by providing tours and sharing their experience. Listen to the video where we, faculty, staff and students at the Museum of Biological Diversity, share our views of what the tetrapods collection means to us.

What experiences do you have with natural history collections and what do they mean to you?

Stephanie Malinich, collection manager TetrapodsAbout the Author: Stephanie Malinich is collection manager of the OSU Tetrapods Collection.

Successful Fundraiser allows specimens to be rolled into safety

Have you ever wondered how natural history museums store some of their priceless and unique specimens?  Though all museum specimens could be considered priceless and unique, some specimens may be the last representation of their species, known as extinct species. Other specimens are the very first of their species to be described, known as type specimens. Both of these groups of specimens are truly unique  in collections, some museums may never have any of these rare specimens. Our Tetrapod Collection does possess irreplaceable specimens of extinct species and  in October we ran a campaign to raise funds to better store and preserve such exclusive specimens.

We dedicated the month of October to tetrapods and filled it with social media posts about wintering strategies of various animals, thoughts on natural history, photo galleries, and videos illustrating what our collection means to the students, staff, and faculty of The Ohio State University. With the help of Devon Olding Videography, we made several short films highlighting our extinct species, storage of specimens, how we make specimens. Stephanie gave public outreach talks for Columbus Audubon and at the Ohio Avian Research Conference highlighting the importance of natural history collections.

Some specimens of extinct bird species in their current cabinet

Some specimens of extinct bird species in their current cabinet

A special thank you goes out to our students who worked on blog posts, helped with social media posts for Instagram and Twitter, and assisted with the design of our handouts to publicize the event.

Flier advertising Roll it out to safety campaignAt the end of our campaign, we exceeded our goal of $5,500! With the raised funds we will purchase a new cabinet on wheels, trays, and acid free tray liners to ensure that our extinct species will last for hundreds more years. Very different than a cabinet found in your kitchen, a museum-quality heavy-duty metal cabinet is made to last and protect the specimens from hazards such as pests or water. Additional funds will go towards a new display cabinet to allow us to show-off our species of the month during tours.

We want to thank all of you who helped share our posts and videos and a special thank you to those who donated to the campaign. We hope you had fun learning about tetrapods, The Ohio State University’s Tetrapod Collection in particular and what our collection means to our students, faculty and staff – more about this in Friday’s post.


Stephanie Malinich, collection manager TetrapodsAbout the Author: Stephanie Malinich is collection manager of the OSU tetrapods collection.

A Museum’s Role in De-Extinction

When you think of bringing back a species that is extinct, you may picture a huge Woolly Mammoth or a giant Tyrannosaurus rex. But have you ever pictured bringing back a plump, dove-like bird, the Passenger Pigeon? It seems a highly unlikely candidate for the de-extinct research being conducted by Long Now Foundation’s Revive & Restore. This group of geneticists are working on what they call genetic rescue, to both save highly endangered species and bring back extinct species. But what role do museums play in the de-extinction of a species that died out in 1914?

Cream colored passenger pigeon egg

Passenger Pigeon egg from the Tetrapod Collection © Hothem, 2016

Why Bring Back the Passenger Pigeon?

Imagine a sky darkened for hours because a cloud of birds are passing through a town on the way to their roosting spot. Though an amazing sight to behold these birds were actually quite damaging to the forests they used as a roost. Branches would break under the weight of nests and birds. Feces would cover the trees and ground and cause a rise in acidity in the soil. Scientists Ellsworth and McComb (2003) suggested that about 8% of the forests within the pigeons’ breeding area were damaged annually.

While all this sounds terrible for the forest, the birds were also aiding in the creation of a healthier forest. How? The damage they caused to the forest canopy, allowed more light to enter the forest. The feces they produced would actually add some nutrients to the forest floor creating nutrient rich soil. In addition, their main food source, various nuts from oaks and beeches, were able to spread throughout the Passenger Pigeon’s breeding range creating some of the various forest we walk through today.

Revive & Restore’s overall goal in de-extinction of the Passenger Pigeon is to fill the lost forest disturbance niche that the pigeon’s extinction caused. Researchers debate that by bringing back the pigeons the need for human managed forest fires or disruptions will be decreased. They hope to create more natural forest regeneration via the pigeon’s destructive behavior.

Drawer filled with passenger pigeon study skins

Tray with Passenger Pigeons ©Hothem, 2016

A Museum’s Role in De-Extinction

Museums, like vast libraries of natural history, hold the key for groups like Revive & Restore. Museum collections, such as the Tetrapod Collection here at OSU, are the final resting places for extinct species. Study skins hold the genetic material that researchers need to understand what genetic components are necessary to bring back or understand the evolution of a species. It is part of our mission to make sure that these species are understood not just in terms of location and date but also in terms of their genetic makeup or DNA. Using museum specimens for DNA sequencing of extinct species is not a new topic, in fact, it became popular in 1984 with examining dried quagga muscle tissue. Researchers then used this technique to confirm that the quagga, an extinct member of the horse family, really was as closely related to today’s horse as fossils suggested. Now researchers are looking at using Passenger Pigeon study skins to create a full genome of the species to better understand both its evolution and how to bring it back to today’s skies.

Be sure to check out the Tetrapod Collection’s campaign and help us purchase a new mobile cabinet for the extinct species in our collection. Our goal is to raise $5,500 and to educate people, about tetrapods throughout the month of October. Be sure to check out our videos, social media, blog and campaign page!

Passenger Pigeon profiles

Passenger Pigeons ©Hothem, 2016


About the Author: Stephanie Malinich is collection manager of the OSU tetrapods at the Museum of Biological Diversity.


Literature cited:

ELLSWORTH, J. W. and McCOMB, B. C. (2003), Potential Effects of Passenger Pigeon Flocks on the Structure and Composition of Presettlement Forests of Eastern North America. Conservation Biology, 17: 1548–1558. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2003.00230.x