Biology ETDs

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Natural history collections (NHCs) are useful in many fields of study, but knowledge about how they are used in the modern day is poor. The first part of this study, focused on the collections data held by the Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB), analyzes specimen-based publications, specimen loan records, and guestbook information to determine how NHCs have been used in scientific study over time. Using a novel methodology, I objectively sorted the publications into ten research subjects via particular phrases found in publication titles, places of publication, and keywords. I observed from this dataset the proportions of particular subjects for different divisions in MSB over time, to judge which subjects increased or decreased over time. From MSB loan records I analyzed the proportion of state-collected specimens loaned over time, as well as the proportion of different specimen parts that have been loaned as recorded for MSB Mammals and Birds divisions. Lastly, I explored guestbook data to determine the major affiliates of visitors to different divisions and the proportion of visits unrelated to research over time. The patterns shown here illustrate that new uses of MSB specimens in research are on the rise, that loans are changing as MSBs holdings grow and become more cosmopolitan, and that more of MSB's visitors are coming for tours every year. Analyses that quantify the use and impact of NHCs demonstrate the importance of this key infrastructure to the scientific community and beyond. In Chapter 3, I summarize and analyze an exhibit I created in collaboration with MSB and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS), which explains how NHCs are used by researchers to further conservation efforts in New Mexico.

Project Sponsors

Chapter 3 of this thesis was funded by the UNM Biology Department Graduate Allocations Committee and the UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association Student Research Grant.




natural history collections, natural history museums, university collections, research collections

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Cook, Joseph

Second Committee Member


Third Committee Member


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Biology Commons