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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Natural History Collections open to public April 26

New Mexico State University's Center for Natural History Collections will host an open house Thursday, April 26, on the university's main campus.


Maintained by several departments across campus, NMSU's Natural History Collections include the Arthropod Museum, the New Mexico College Herbarium, the Plant Pathology Collection, the Vertebrate Museum, and the Zuhl Mineral and Fossil Collection. With the exception of the Zuhl Collection, open during business hours on weekdays, these are not ordinarily open to the public.

"Basically, we want to show the community what we have here. We have some unique and irreplaceable specimens. The value is incalculable because of the number of specimens," said David Richman, curator of the Arthropod Museum.

Richman recommends taking a walking tour of the collections beginning with the Zuhl Collection located in the Alumni and Visitors Center on College Drive, then visit the Arthropod and Plant Pathology collections in Skeen Hall and finish by visiting the Vertebrate collection in Foster Hall and Herbarium in the Biology Annex.

The Zuhl collection includes mineral and gemstone specimens as well as fossils and petrified wood. Notable specimens include one of the largest pieces of petrified wood ever cut and polished as well as late Jurassic period Solenhofen Limestone from Germany. Fossils preserved in this limestone are known for exquisite detail in preservation of bones and soft tissues and are "impossible to get," Richman said. The Zuhl Collection will be open from 1-5 p.m. for the tour.

The Arthropod Museum, located in Skeen Hall Room W168, contains species of federal concern, including nine different specimens of the Anthony Blister Beetle, some of which are paratypes, or specimens that were available at the original description of the species. The Arthropod Museum will be open from 1-6 p.m.

The Plant Pathology Collection, also in Skeen Hall, will have microscope specimens from the field of mycology set up in a teaching laboratory from 1-5 p.m. A tour of the virology lab also will be available.

The Vertebrate Wildlife Museum, located in Foster Hall Room 101, will be hosting a demonstration of how to prepare a vertebrate skin for display and will be open from 2:30-5 p.m.

The Herbarium, found in Biology Annex Room 105, also will host a demonstration of how to prepare specimens. Home to thousands of specimens, including some that can no longer be obtained, the Herbarium will be open from 2-5 p.m.

The Center for Natural History Collections was formed in 2000 when the curators of the various collections decided to pursue the common goal of eventually developing a Natural History Museum.

Some of the specimens in the collections date back as far as the 1890s and the collections as a whole are used for identification of species, teaching, research and outreach.

"These aren't just fussy collections sitting around; they are constantly being used," Richman said.