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The University of New Mexico’s Museum of Southwestern Biology

is a research and teaching facility in the Department of Biology of the University of New Mexico. Through its world-class natural history collections, associated databases, and staff expertise, MSB provides significant research infrastructure, meaningful undergraduate experiences, cutting-edge graduate training, and substantial public-service and outreach.



Recent News:

October 2014

Fishes and Herps hosted UNM Art Class, Lindsey Schmitt instructor Drawing I.  They visited on 23 October from 2:15 to 4:30. Some of the students are interested in coming back to make more sketches.  Good time had by all. Photos to follow



September 2014

Stephen T. Ross, MSB Curator Emeritus of Fishes and Adjunct Professor of Biology, recently published a chapter in volume 1 of the 3-volume series, Freshwater Fishes of North America, edited by Melvin L. Warren, Jr., and Brooks M. Burr, and published by Johns Hopkins University Press. The chapter, Evolution and Ecology of North American Freshwater Fishes is coauthored with William J. Matthews of the University of Oklahoma. MSB is acknowledged (page xvii) for helping with publication costs.


April 2014

In early April the MSB started it's very own Facebook page to make it easier for posting news and events about the MSB. Please, checik it out!


April 29, 2014

Kendra Brunet Lecomte, at the Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Paraguay.  Kendra is an undergraduate, student Curatorial Assistant in MSB Division of Fishes. She is studying abroad for 5 months at the Universidad de Palermo, Buenos Aires Argentina, one of the cooperating universities with the UNM Global Education Office program. 


April 9, 2014

The Division of Amphibians and Reptiles has recently cataloged its 95,000th specimen and is continuing cataloging of newly deposited specimens from New Mexico’s state and federal agency biologists. With the help of two volunteers and two students, we are digitizing field notes from herpetology students in classes as far back as late 1960’s as well as biologists from New Mexico, whose field notes start in the 1940’s. This work is funded partly by the New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish and is in collaboration with New Mexico Natural Heritage.

The division has recently been awarded a contract from New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish  to evaluate the status of the Arizona Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus) in New Mexico. This toad is restricted to riparian areas of the west-central portion of the state and relatively little is known about its habits and distribution in New Mexico. Tom Giermakowski, Mason Ryan and Ian Latella will be surveying areas where this species has previously been documented throughout the spring and summer of 2014.

Tom Giermakowski was part of an inter-institutional team that recently published a report on the climate effects on several bird and reptile species in the west. The freely-downloadable report is available through USGS. Please, see the announcement on the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center website ( ) or the USGS Press Release ( )


April 4, 2014

The MSB now has a facebook page!

April 2, 2014

Good things come to those who wait, and wait, and wait. On April 1, 2014 the MSB's Divisions of Alcohol Arthropods and Parasites received the go ahead to start using the collection space, and not a moment too soon. Both divisions had maxed out their alloted space in the main collection room and had come to a standstill regarding curation and storage of their specimens. The Sr. Collection Managers Sandra Brantley (Arthropods) and Sara Brant (Parasites) were giddy and suspicious, as the news came down on April 1. No fooling around here. They are already starting to put specimens in the collection space. From L-R: Ryan Barber, Mariel Campbell, Matt Leister, Sara Brant and Sandy Brantley.



April 1, 2014

Every once in a while, Chris Witt, Curator of the Bird Division, opens up the collection and pulls trays of birds. Recently, he invited folks to stop in and look at a selection of birds from Alaska and New Mexico, including a complete tray of birds Cole Wolf used for his biology studies.             




March 31, 2014

UNM offers a graduate minor in Museum Studies and while this discipline is focused on fine art and anthropology, every year the Museum Studies class visits the MSB to learn how different, yet the same, our collections and management of those collections are to fine arts and anthropology. The MSB adheres to the standards of the American

Association of Museums, now American Alliance of Museums for the collection, curation and management of our collections.




March 24, 2014

Congratulations to Heidi Hopkins on the successful defense of her Ph.D. dissertation. Heidi has been in the news quite a bit lately, and if you pick up a copy of today's Daily Lobo, Heidi is featured in the Lobo Spotlight on Page 2.

March 19, 2014

Frogs and Toads, oh my! Tom Giermakowski, Sr. Collection Manager of the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, will be giving a talk March 22, 2014 on Frogs and Toads of the Rio Grande Valley in conjuction with the Bernalillo County Open Space program from 6-7:30pm at the Bachechi Open Space.


March 12, 2014

AIM-UP! (Advancing the Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs) is a National Science Foundation sponsored network that focuses on how to integrate museum specimens and data into undergraduate teaching. UNM is the lead institution on this effort which is based in the Museum of Southwestern Biology.Our primary partners are Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, and University of Alaska. Twenty other institutions from 16 states are also participating. Our 4th annual workshop focused on the theme of Climate Change. It was held in Asilomar, CA from 27 February to 2 March 2014. Check out our website:






March 7, 2014

The staff from the UNM Office of Sponsored Projects (Pre-Award) toured the MSB on March 7, 2014 to learn what the MSB is all about and why when we submit grant proposals we ask for items such as steel cabinets, ethanol, vials, traps and assorted kitchen ware. Their 45 minute visit lasted an hour and a half. They were able to correlate a grant proposal they had worked on or processed once awarded to what the collection managers were talking about when they described what their division did. At the end of the tour one grant specialist remarked she had a "better respect for biologists".

I wanted to tell you that the tour was excellent!  It really opened our eyes (as well as mine) here at OSP.  Just to see the various specimens and what really goes on with this type of research and what it needed to perform this type of research really puts this in perspective on what your department does and why you ask for various items that most would not understand why they are needed. The tour was amazing to say the least.  I truly enjoyed it!  I have always liked biology but truly never really understood how broad the study really goes and what it takes to do this type of research.  I look forward to future tours.  Thank you and all the people who went through the trouble to show us what UNM Southwestern Biology Museum is doing.  I know most people don’t even have a clue of what really goes into doing this type of research.  Again, please pass on to Christopher Witt and the many others who took the time to show us and explain the various details that goes on with this type of research our thanks. 

Kindest regards,

Dianna Martinez

Grant Coordinator

Dear Ms. Osborn,

I am still amazed at the things I saw at your facility. The information we were told, all the exhibits we were shown, and just being able to put faces to names is very much appreciated. I am so grateful for this opportunity, please thank everyone who took time out of their busy and very interesting schedules to talk to us. It was seriously amazing, I can’t wait to go back! Thank you!



March 6, 2014

Although this research is listed under January 29, 2014, it never hurts to keep our research in the news:

Natalie Blea, a native burquena and former UnO Undergraduate Scholar  in Steve Poe's laboratory just discovered that she has been accepted into the graduate program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. UnO was an undergraduate training program centered at the Museum of Southwestern Biology that was  funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored 46 undergraduate student research projects with the aim of encouraging students to attend graduate school. Congratulations Natalie!








March 1, 2014


A group of students from New Mexico State University traveled to the MSB for their class “The Natural History Museum in Modern Society”.    The goal of the class is to expose the students to all of the purposes and functions of modern natural history museums, especially their role in research, public education, the biodiversity crisis, and service to society.  Our main reason for visiting MSB was to expose the students to a vibrant and cutting-edge research facility.  The students thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot!  I hope to make this class a regular part of the curriculum at NMSU.  We thank you for all of your help and we thank Sara, Tom, Lex, Andy, and Jon for the excellent tours.  Much appreciated!




Best Regards,



Jennifer K. Frey, PhD

Curator, NMSU Wildlife Museum

College Associate Professor, Dept Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Ecology

P.O. Box 30003, MSC 4901

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM  88003-8003


February 27, 2014

Heidi Hopkins, a Ph.D. candidate of Assoc. Professor Kelly Miller has recently had a monograph published in partial fullfillment of her dissertation for a Ph.D. in biology. Heidi will defend her dissertation on March 24, 2014 in CERIA 337. This is a revision of the genus Arenivaga (Rehn) (Blattodea, Corydiidae), with descriptions of new species and key to the males of the genus. Here is the official release.

Rachel Mallis, Matt Leister and Kelly Miller have published a paper about Tengella perfuga (Zootaxa Tengella), ​a Nicaraguan spider.

Rachel is a graduate student and Matt  is an undergraduate student, both working in Assoc. Professor Miller's lab. Rachel has a successfull live colony of over in Castetter!.






February 26, 2014

The MSB divisions are branching out, creating new and exciting venues to keep their work up-to-date and fresh. The Mammal Division has a Facebook page where they highlight trips to the local schools, tours in the museum, field expeditions, and in some photos, just fun. Check it out!

Not to be missed, is the Kelly Miller Lab. Kelly is the Curator of the Arthropod Division where everything from Abax to Zygaena, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, and millipedes, just to name a few, are studied and curated. Here is the Miller Lab website

Not to be outdone, our Bird Division, with Curator Chris Witt who studies hummingbirds at high altitudes, also has a website where he highlights work of his lab and division

What is the common thread here? These are very active divisions with large research programs. Not everthing they do can be contained on the MSB main website. They have created new ways to keep visitors to the MSB website informed on their research. If you haven't checked out their pages, go now. You don't know what you are missing.


February 25, 2014

The MSB Fishes division has been very active:

Written by MSB Curator Emeritus of Fishes and Adjunct Professor of Biology, Stephen T. Ross, Ph.D.,

the Ecology of North American Freshwater Fishes was published by the University of California Press,

Berkeley in June 2013. (486 pp. ISBN 978-0-520-24945-5).  This beautifully illustrated book provides

readers with an understanding of why specific species of fishes and assemblages occur in particular places,

interact with each other and their environment.








The digital archives of William Jacob Koster, Ph.D. (UNM Professor of Biology 1938-1975)

 will be available through the University of New Mexico Institutional Repository

(“LoboVault”  in 2014.  These archives include PDF files of Dr. Koster’s original

field notes linked to the cataloged records of New Mexico fishes he collected

during his tenure at the University of New Mexico. 







Christopher W. Hoagstrom, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Zoology at Weber State University, Ogden UT arrived in October 2013 to spend a year sabbatical at the University of New Mexico, collaborating with Thomas F. Turner, Ph.D. UNM Biology Professor and MSB Curator of Fishes in the ecology of pelagic-broadcast spawning freshwater fishes.


January 31, 2014

A crew was here filming in the Division of Mammals for an upcoming episode of "Mysteries at the Museum" to air on the Travel Channel. We are bound by contract not to give away any clues, so you will all have to wait until summer to find out what mystery was solved at the MSB.


January 29, 2014

Graduate student Natalie Wright and Assoc Prof Chris Witt have published a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on the evolution of avian genome size. "We found that for any particular bird species, a larger heart and larger flight muscles were associated with a smaller genome. This suggests that intense metabolic activity, such as occurs during flight, has caused the evolution of smaller genomes. The more energy that is required for flight, the more advantage there is to shedding extra DNA content that would otherwise reduce metabolic efficiency." 

670 MSB specimens were used in the study, and a 22-page supplement to the paper contains direct links to the online specimens in Arctos. With this kind of study, MSB is setting new standards for specimen-vouchered science. "By linking publications directly to specimens and their original data, we're making our science more robust, repeatable, and extendable."

Links to the paper and a news article about it are on Chris Witt's webpage:


Last year, Natural Heritage New Mexico received the Outstanding Member Program Conservation Impact Award from NatureServe "in recognition of outstanding and innovative efforts to apply natural heritage data to effect local, state and regional conservation". Este Muldavin, Director of Natural Heritage New Mexico, has placed the plaque in the Museum of Southwestern Biology office. Stop by and take a look. Congratulations to all the staff of the Natural Heritage New Mexico program!






January 27, 2014

A new MSB Occasional Paper has been published. Hubbard and Dove's "A Proposed Emendation of the Gray Flycatcher's Type Locality and Formal Designation of it's Lectotype. Please see the full article on our Publication Series and Annual Reports page. The paper is dedicated to Bob Dickerman.

Also, the following definitions regarding zoological nomenclature are necessary to understand the paper and its title (courtesy of Wikipedia). This information is courtesy of Chris Witt, Curator of the Bird Division.



Main article: Syntype

A syntype is any one of two or more specimens that is listed in a species description where no holotype was designated; historically, syntypes were often explicitly designated as such, and under the present ICZN this is a requirement, but modern attempts to publish species description based on syntypes are generally frowned upon by practicing taxonomists, and most are gradually being replaced by lectotypes. Those that still exist are still considered name-bearing types.


A lectotype is a specimen later selected to serve as the single type specimen for species originally described from a set of syntypes.

lectotype is a kind of name-bearing type. When a species was originally described on the basis of a name-bearing type consisting of multiple specimens, one of those may be designated as the lectotype. A lectotype is the single specimen selected from among thesyntypes to serve as the only name-bearing type specimen, and is formally designated as such. Having a single name-bearing type reduces the potential for confusion, especially considering that it is not uncommon for a series of syntypes to contain specimens of more than one species.

A notable example is that Carl Linnaeus is the lectotype for the species Homo sapiens.[6] 


January 24, 2014

Thanks to Jon Dunnum, Tom Giermakowski, Tom Turner, Bill Gannon for judging science exhibits at Jefferson Middle School. Every year different members of the MSB participate in this event.

January 21, 2014

The UNM Herbarium started 2014 with a bang thanks to the efforts of the Southwest Carex Working Group. This group studies sedge identification and distribution and was represented by Chick Keller (Los Alamos, NM), Max Licher (Sedona, AZ), Jim McGrath (Edgewood, NM), Bill Norris (Silver City, NM) and Glenn Rink (Flagstaff, AZ) who visited and reviewed the 1739 specimens of Carex, the sedge genus, housed in the UNM Herbarium.

January 4, 2014

The MSB is in the news! The Saturday, January 4, 2014 edition of the Albuquerque Journal Metro & NM Section features an article "Combing Chipmunks". Jefferson Middle School's Suzy Dunnum and her 7th grade gifted science class and MSB's Kayce Bell have teamed up to help Kayce with her Ph.D. Disstertation research on chipmunks and their parasites.








December 16, 2013

MSB hummingbird specimens reveal mechanism of high altitude adaptation 

MSB Curator of Birds, Christopher Witt, partnered with evolutionary geneticist Jay Storz (Univ. Nebraska) and collaborators from three other institutions to compare the hemoglobin proteins in hummingbird species that live at different elevations. The MSB specimens and frozen tissues that were collected from the Andes Mountains over the past six years formed the entire basis of their study that was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA

Ecuadorian hillstar, Oreotrochilus chimborazo, is native to high-altitude mountain grassland

between 3500 and 5200 meters in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador.
Image courtesy of Dubi Shapiro.

A table in the paper contains direct links to the online specimens records of each hummingbird that was studied. With a click of the mouse,

researchers can now request tissue subsamples from the MSB, allowing them to build on these published studies at any time in the future. In this way, MSB is setting a new standard of transparency and extendability for biological science.

In humans and nearly all vertebrates, hemoglobin is the essential protein that delivers oxygen to cells. The new study discovered that hemoglobin in hummingbirds has evolved repeatedly in exactly the same ways after species colonized mountains. The three-dimensional structure of hemoglobin has adapted in each case for efficient uptake of oxygen.

Black-breasted hillstar, Oreotrochilus melanogaster, is native to high-altitude mountain scrub

at altitudes of 3,500 to 4,400 metres in the Andes of central Peru.
Image courtesy of Dubi Shapiro.


Hovering hummingbirds use oxygen at a faster rate than any other animal, so their hemoglobins are under intense pressure to maintain a high rate of oxygen uptake from each breath of air. Air pressure is lower at high elevations, causing oxygen to be absorbed into the blood more slowly. The new study made direct measurements of oxygen uptake by hemoglobin that was extracted from frozen MSB blood samples. The data showed that the rate at which hummingbird hemoglobins take up oxygen is proportionate to the elevation at which they live.

Lots of hummingbird species have independently colonized the mountains over the last ~15 million years. Witt, Storz and colleagues showed that in each case, the hemoglobin structure changed in exactly the same way to maintain the oxygen supply. Even more amazingly, the underlying changes to the DNA have been exactly the same. This indicates that there are very few ways that the hemoglobin protein could possibly be adjusted in order to aid montane breathing. Even at the level of individual DNA base pairs, evolution by natural selection can be predictable.

One of the highest of high-altitude hummingbirds included in this study, the white-tufted sunbeam,

Aglaeactis castelnaudi, is native to high-altitude moist montane forests and shrubland in the Peruvian Andes.
Image courtesy of David Ocampo.


To read more about this landmark study, see the news reports in The Guardian and The Christian Science Monitor.


October 8, 2013

MSB Specimens are the Basis for International Genome Projects

Nancy Holroyd James Cotton of Matt Berriman's Parasite Genomics group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in UK reported that the Sobilophyme baturini (a parasitic nematode)

material provided by MSB were used to generate draft genome data as part of a larger project known as the '50 Helminth Genomes Initiative'.

Nancy reports that they have ‘finalised’ most of the genome assemblies and gene models.  Next step is to build these data into a web-based resource called WormBase-ParaSite.  

Then they will start to identify the major gene families both across the nematodes and platyhelminths.  

The DNA from this specimen was collected as part of Anson Koehler’s (2006) master’s thesis at UNM under fieldwork through the Beringian Coevolution Project (sponsored by NSF). The new genome project demonstrates the “unintended consequences” of museum specimens, that is, these materials (if available) are often used in projects other than those originally envisioned.


Sobilophyme baturini (male and female)

Photo credit: Anson Koehler



September 27, 2013

Congratulations to Jason Malaney and his co-authors for their recent publication in Nature:


July 26, 2013

Congratulations to Nathan Lord on the successful defense of his Ph.D. Dissertation:









16 July 2013

We are pleased to announce Special Publication #10: Birds in Corrales by J. Findley.

We are pleased to announce a new publication by Robert Dickerman and Andrew Johnson:"Notes on the Elf Owls of Trans-Pecos Texas and

Adjacent Coahuila and New Mexico". Published by the Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society, 45(1-2): 2012

7 July 2013

Andrew Hope (PhD 2011), Joe Cook (Curator of Mammals, Museum of Southwestern Biology) and collaborators published a paper in today's online version of Nature Climate Change that explores how current land management practices in Alaska might protect a series of tundra and boreal forest species of mammals under future projections of climate change. Boreal species are spreading northwards as tundra communities recede under climate change in the Arctic. Concurrently, human activities in the Arctic are increasing. This study investigates the potential future distribution of tundra species and relates the location of refugial areas to land-use practices in northern Alaska. These UNM investigators used the genetic history of these species as a basis for more rigorously projecting future trajectories for the tundra biome in Alaska. See

3 July 2013

Joseph Cook and Stephen MacDonald have published a chapter in "North Pacific Temperate Rainforests" (U of Washington Press), entitled:Island Life: Coming to Grips with the Insular Nature of Southeast Alaska and Adjoining Coastal British Columbia


June 2013

Award Winners!!

Two MSB graduate students took home awards from the 2013 American Society of Mammalogists meeting in June in Philadelphia.

Brooks Kohli (MS 2013) won the Annie M. Alexander Award, the top award for a master's student. His talk was entitled: Phylogeography of a Holarctic rodent (Clethrionomys rutilus).






Jason Malaney (PhD 2013) won the A. Brazier Howell Award for his talk entitled Using biogeographic history to inform Conservation: The Case of the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse.

Jason Malaney





Congratulations to both.


UNM Alum (2011) Dr. Brittany Barker wins the BioScience Grand prize photo contest based on her work at Belen Middle Shool.


May 6, 2013

Congratulations and Best Wishes to the Museum of Southwestern Biology Graduates for 2013


Bachelor of Science

Teresa Conway

Christian Garcia

Andrea Jackson (UNO)

Donovan Jackson (UNO)

Abbie Reade

Safia Safi

Maribel Solis

Adrienne Vigil

Bachelor of Science Awarded with Honors for Research in Biology

Magna Cum Laude

Steven McCormick UNO)

Nicholas Homziak (UNO)

Summa Cum Laude

Elizabeth Stone (UNO)


Master of Science Degree

Tracy Diver (Summer)

Alyssa Hopkins

Brooks Kohli

Theresa McInnes


Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Nathan Lord (Summer)

Jason Malaney

Eugenio Nearns

Jennifer Plaut


May 1, 2013

Congratulations to Tom Turner, Dave Propst and their recovery team for national recognition of their efforts related to Gila Trout conservation. The entire team is

David Propst, Recovery Team Leader - Museum of Southwestern Biology

James Brooks - USFWS NM Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office

Julie Carter - Arizona Dept of Game and Fish

Jerry Monzingo - US Forest Service - Gila National Forest

Kirk Patten - New Mexico Dept of Game and Fish

Thomas Turner - Museum of Southwestern Biology

The Gila trout recovery team was selected to receive the prestigious Recovery Champions Award from the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to their quick and thoughtful response to the Whitewater Baldy Complex Wildfire led to the protection of five species from catastrophic losses.  Active for two decades, this team has implemented a recovery plan, an emergency plan, responded to wildfires, and treated non-native salmonid invasions. This recognition is part of the celebration of National Endangered Species Day in mid-May.  


April 30, 2013

Congratulations to Lex Snyder, Collection Manager of the Fishes Division on achieving 20 years of service at UNM.

Congratulations to Tim Lowrey, Curator of the Herbarium on his appointment as Associate Dean for the Office of Graduate Studies.


April 25, 2013

Natural Heritage New Mexico Wins 2013 NatureServe Network Award for Conservation Impact



17 April 2013

Stephen Ross (Stephen T. Ross is Curator Emeritus of Fishes, Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico; Adjunct Professor of Biology, University of New Mexico; and Thomas Waring Bennett Jr. Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Southern Mississippi. He is the author of The Inland Fishes of Mississippi (2001, University of Mississippi Press) has published a new book through the University of California Press: Ecology of North American Freshwater Fishes

The North American freshwater fish fauna is the most diverse and thoroughly researched temperate fish fauna in the   world. Ecology of North American Freshwater Fishes is the only textbook to provide advanced undergraduate and graduate students  and researchers with an up-to-date and integrated view of the ecological and evolutionary concepts, principles, and processes involved in the formation and maintenance of this fauna.

Ecology of North American Freshwater Fishes provides readers with a broad understanding of why specific species and assemblages occur in particular places. Additionally, the text explores how individuals and species interact with each other and with their environments, how such interactions have been altered by anthropogenic impacts, and the relative success of efforts to restore damaged ecosystems.

This book is designed for use in courses related to aquatic and fish ecology, fish biology, ichthyology, and related advanced ecology and conservation courses, and is divided into five sections for ease of use. Chapter summaries, supplemental reading lists, online sources, extensive figures, and color photography are included to guide readers through the material and facilitate student learning.

Part 1: Faunal origins, evolution, and diversity

Part 2: Formation, maintenance, and persistence of local populations and assemblages

Part 3: Form and function

Part 4: Interactions among individuals and species

Part 5: Issues in conservation


10 April 2013

AIM-UP! (Advancing the Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs) held it's third annual workshop at Harvard University 10-13 April 2013. Check out the news from the Harvard Gazette : and learn more about our efforts on the website. This effort is centered in the Museum of Southwestern Biology.








Charlie Painter, herpetologist with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and a long-time curatorial associate of MSB Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, has received an award for excellence in herpetofaunal conservation. See for more detail.

The Alison Haskell Award for Excellence in Herpetofaunal Conservation is presented by Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), in memory of Alison Haskell (1956 – 2006). This award is intended to recognize an individual from North America whom exemplifies extraordinary commitment to herpetofaunal conservation, has been overlooked by other means of acclaim, has displayed exemplary commitment to building or strengthening partnerships, and has displayed distinguished career-long contributions to partnerships and herpetofaunal conservation.





5 April 2013

Research Day

Congraulations to the following students on their poster presentations and awards:


Best Poster Presentation:

C. Jonathan Schmitt, Sabrina M. McNew, Division of Birds, Museum of Southwestern Biology, Department of Biology, UNM, Enrique L. Montaño, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park MD, Walter Vargas Campos, Centro de Ornitologia y Biodiversidad, Lima, Perú, and Christopher C. Witt, Division of Birds, Museum of Southwestern Biology, Department of Biology, UNM.

Genetic Color Polymorphism and Local Adaptation in the Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus ).

Second Best
Poster Presentation:

Tracy Diver, Thomas F. Turner, and Megan J. Osborne, Department of Biology, and Division of Fishes, Mu­seum of Southwestern Biology, UNM.

The Evolution and Maintenance of Deeply Divergent Lineages of Red Shiner, Cyprinella lutrensis, in the Rio Grande Watershed.

Honorable Mention
Poster Presentation:

Natalie A. Wright, Department of Biology and Division of Birds, Museum of Southwestern Biology, UNM, T. Ryan Gregory, Department of Integrative Biology and the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, Guelph, Onterio, Canada, and Christopher C. Witt, Department of Biology and Division of Birds, Museum of Southwestern Biology, UNM.

Genome Size Evolution and Flight Ability in Birds.


Jonathan Schmitt

CONGRATULATIONS! Dr. Jon Dunnum was recently awarded the 2013 Biological Society of New Mexico Staff Award. Jon has been the Collection Manager of the Mammal Division of the Museum of Southwestern Biology since 2006. During that period, the collection has increased tremendously in size, scope, and productivity and much of that success is due to Jon’s efforts and talents.

Jon frequently delivers “behind-the-scenes” tours of the collection, makes informal presentations at local K-12 schools, participates as a judge in local science fairs, and lectures on a variety of topics related to specimen-based research. New Mexico is not a wealthy state and most K-12 students have little connection with higher education. His presentations provide a window into UNM and higher education.

He is extremely engaged with the process of building a world-class mammal collection, an important piece of UNM’s scientific portfolio. In 2012 (like every year for the past decade), >40 peer-reviewed publications in 26 journals were based on this collection—making it one of the most productive research units on campus by that metric. Google Scholar registers >1500 citations annually for this collection, again bringing significant recognition to the Biology Department and UNM in a variety of research venues ranging primarily across the fields of molecular systematics, isotope ecology, climate change biology and pathogen discovery. In addition, at least 6 theses or dissertations from 5 institutions were completed in 2012 that utilized MSB mammal specimens.

Jon inspires our students to excel in their studies and work. He does this through a combination of a positive outlook, enthusiasm for discovery, attention to student progress, cultural sensitivity, and by providing a varied and enriching set of experiences ranging from fieldwork to all aspects of natural history collections preparation and curation. The Museum of Southwestern Biology is extremely fortunate to have talented individuals like Jon Dunnum running the show.

Congratulations to Kayce Bell, the 2013 Biology Society of New Mexico Outstanding Graduate Student! In her 3 years at UNM, Kayce has made a number important contributions to the department that broaden the impact of her efforts beyond her research on host-parasite co-evolutionary dynamics which was recently recognized by the National Science Foundation with a prestigious Dissertation Improvement Grant. She also has been heavily engaged in the NSF sponsored AIM-UP! research coordinating network in undergraduate biology education, a collaborative effort across 21 other institutions, that aims to find new ways of infusing the vast resources of natural history collections into undergraduate courses and labs. She has developed educational modules (and posted them on the web) that introduce large web-based datasets to students and then allows them to actively explore fundamental questions in ecology and evolution. She also participated in an international workshop in January in St. Louis related to developing and standardizing protocols for frozen tissue archives and genomic resources.

Kayce has mentored four undergraduate students and a PREP student (three from under-represented groups) and has been an excellent mentor and role model. One of those students is now in Vet School in Colorado and another will be starting graduate school in Michigan this fall. In summary, Kayce Bell is a talented young scientist and mentor in Biology with a demonstrated capacity for high quality research and teaching contributions within the department.

She received excellent evaluations for her efforts as a TA this last semester in Mammalogy, and previously in Tropical Biology. These qualities, combined with her interest in fundamental evolutionary questions, suggest that she has a very bright future as a scientist and educator. Already she has been elected as a student member (one of three) to the Board of Directors of the American Society of Mammalogists.


Tom Giermakowski, our amphibians and reptiles collection manager, was recently elected co-chair of the Southwest Regional Working Group for Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC). Southwest PARC is organized for the purpose of implementing the PARC mission – the conservation of herpetofauna and their habitats – within the southwestern United States. PARC’s members are a diverse group from state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, museums, the pet trade industry, nature centers, zoos, the energy industry, universities, herpetological organizations, research laboratories, forest industries, and environmental consultants. For more about PARC and to read their annual report visit

Announcing the 2013 Joint Meeting

of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH)

                                                            Albuquerque Convention Center, 10 – 15 July, 2013


                                                              Abstracts due 31 March 2013

                                                                 Early Registration 21 April 2013















































































MSB collection managers: (Left to right) Sandy Brantley (Arthropods),

Lex Snyder (Fishes), Andy Johnson (Birds), Jon Dunnum (Mammals),

Phil Tonne (Herbarium), Sara Brant (Parasitology), Dave Lightfoot (Arthropods), Tom Giermakowski (Herpetology), Cheryl Parmenter (Genomic resources).


23 January 2013

Our own Joe Cook has been immortalized as a tapeworm!!

Arostrilepis cooki sp. n. was named in honor of Joseph A. Cook in recognition of contributions in understanding rodent systematics and biogeography, and innovative explorations of host-parasite associations among arvicoline rodents.

The holotype (MSB Para 1244) and paratypes are held in the MSB Division of Parasitology and the symbiotype (MSB 158108), a Myodes gapperi, is held in the MSB Division of Mammals.

MAKARIKOV, ARSENY A., KURT E. GALBREATH & ERIC P. HOBERG. 2013. Parasite diversity at the Holarctic nexus: species of Arostrilepis (Eucestoda: Hymenolepididae) in voles and lemmings (Cricetidae: Arvicolinae) from greater Beringia. Zootaxa 3608 (6): 401–439.

11 January 2013


MSB collection managers did a travelling roadshow to Sandia Prep high school.  Students from Dr. Chuck Buxbaum's comparative anatomy classes were given presentations on the museum and the value and utility of natural history research collections.  Students were able to have a hands on experience with material from the collections, observing evolutionary traits and adaptations up close as well as getting a feel for the great biological diversity archived in the MSB collections.


6 December, 2012


Joe Cook and collaborators have two chapters in the newly published book Biology and Conservation of Martens, Sables, and Fishers: A New Synthesis.Edited by Keith B. Aubry, William J. Zielinski, Martin G. Raphael, Gilbert Proulx, Steven W. Buskirk.

Dawson, N.G., and J.A. Cook. 2012. Behind the genes: Diversification of North American martens (Martes americana and Martes caurina).  Pp. 23-28.

Hoberg, E.P., A.V.A. Koehler, and J.A. Cook.  2012. Complex host-parasite systems in Martes: Implications for conservation biology of endemic faunas. Pp. 38-57.




21 September, 2012

In cooperation with the Albuquerque Mayor’s office, USGS initiated a pilot program in Albuquerque pairing high school students with USGS mentors. USGS Arid Lands Field Station museum specialist Cindy Ramotnik participated in the summer program and trained a student for 10 weeks in the care and management of natural history specimens at the Museum of Southwestern Biology. Cameron Degani, a student at Eldorado High School, got hands-on experience ranging from preparing study skins of mammals to checking sticky traps for potential museum pests.

24 August, 2012

Mongolian Vertebrate Parasite Project  2012 -

MSB doctoral students, Bryan McLean and Kayce Bell, participated in a successful mammal expedition to Mongolia from June until August. The expedition, a collaboration between UNM, University of Nebraska, and University of Kansas and National University of Mongolia aimed to survey mammal, bird, amphibian, and reptile diversity and document their associated parasites. The expedition collected at multiple localities across the Gobi Desert in southwestern Mongolia, an area heavily impacted by increasing mineral exploration and mining activity. The >1300 mammal specimens preserved included bats, gerbils, hamsters, hedgehogs, dormice, jerboas, and an array of other small mammals.  This brings the total number of Mongolian mammals at the MSB to over 3800, the largest collection of Mongolian mammals archived in North American collections. 

15 August, 2012

Island Surveys to Learn about Endemic Species (ISLES), SE Alaska 2012 -

MSB undergraduate students, Randle McCain, Kelly Speer, Donovan Jackson, Galen Rask, and Candice Espinosa, recently completed mammal and parasite surveys on Heceta, Tuxekan, and White Cliff islands of SE Alaska. This project is an ongoing cooperative effort between state and federal resource management agencies, the University of New Mexico, and public school teachers .  The aim is to build a natural history archive  that represents wildlife populations throughout Southeast Alaska to stimulate research and teaching efforts about the region’s incomparable wildlife, islands, and associated ecosystems (ISLES).

August 8-14, 2012

The 7th World Congress of Herpetology was held in Vancouver BC from 8-14 August on the campus of the University of British Columbia with approximately 1,700 in attendance.  This meeting was jointly sponsored by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH), American Elasmobranch Society (AES), the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR), and the Herpetological League (HL).  In attendance were MSB Divisions of Fishes and Amphibians and Reptiles staff:  Dr. Thomas F. Turner, Curator of Fishes, Dr. Stephen T. Ross, Curator Emeritus, Dr. J. Tomasz Giermakowski, Collections Manager of Amphibians and Reptiles, and Alexandra M. Snyder, Collections Manager of Fishes.  For more information, go to News & Events


June 8, 2012 Jim Brown, Chris Witt and Natalie Wright investigate egg production variation in birds.


MSB houses collections of vertebrates, arthropods, plants and genomic materials from the American West, Central and South America, and from throughout the world. The MSB consists of eight divisions, and two special programs (the Natural Heritage New Mexico and the USGS Arid Lands Field Station).


The Museum of Southwestern Biology’s collections are spatially extensive and temporally intensive and, thus, are among the finest biological resources currently available to scientists and educators who are interested in tackling tough environmental and health issues facing society. Our well-maintained and web-accessible archives and associated databases are poised to contribute significantly both to understanding the complexity of biological diversity and ecosystem function on local, regional, and global, scales, and to addressing critical biological problems (e.g., emerging pathogens, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, invasive species).

1) Division of Amphibians and Reptiles: >86,602 specimens, mostly from the Southwestern United States, but with substantial numbers from other states, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Galapagos Islands. Our herpetological collections represent the largest collection of New Mexican specimens and the second largest collection of specimens from the “Four Corner” states;

2) Division of Arthropods: >200,000 preserved specimens, many from the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, but also throughout the world, with substantial concentrations of Arachnida, Myriapoda, Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Orthoptera and Siphonoptera. We are the repository and processing center for two NSF-LTER programs, Jornada Basin and Sevilleta sites, both in New Mexico, and a number of National Park Service inventory projects from across the Southwest;

3) Division of Birds: >30,000 specimens which makes us the largest single collection in the American Southwest and puts us on par with all the collections in Texas, combined. We are also the only bird collection in the Southwest with a full-time Collection Manager;

4) Division of Fishes: >85,825 cataloged lots (~3.7 million specimens) making it the largest university-based fish collection in the southwestern US. The collection emphasizes long-term monitoring, ecology, and life-history of fishes inhabiting imperiled aquatic ecosystems of the desert Southwest;

5) Division of Genomic Resources: a cryogenic archive of tissue samples from vertebrates, invertebrates, parasites and DNA from other museum divisions and outside collections, it contains multiple kinds of tissue from  >170,000 organisms and is worldwide in scope;

6) The UNM Herbarium: ca. 115,000 accessioned specimens of mainly vascular plants collected in New Mexico and surrounding southwestern states;

7) Division of Mammals: contains >250,000 specimens, mostly from western North America, Central and South America, and Asia, but with substantial holdings from elsewhere. Worldwide, this is the largest mammal collection centered at a university and among the 5 largest mammal collections overall;

8) Division of Parasites: contains 30,000 specimens donated by Robert Rausch and is dedicated to the concept of ‘integrated’ research collections that simultaneously provide information of pathogens, parasites, and hosts for comprehensive study of epidemiology, pathology, ecology and co-evolution of infectious diseases and hosts.  This is an emerging area of research that will undoubtedly generate enormous student and researcher interest;

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Biological Surveys Collection: includes >48,000 vertebrate specimens, primarily from public lands in the western United States. The collection serves as a repository for specimens taken in support of Federal research by USGS and other agencies within the Department of Interior.

Natural Heritage New Mexico: maintains databases on occurrences of native New Mexican plants and animals of conservation concern; largest database contains >23,500 observation records. Information is used by policy makers, natural resource managers, and government and business leaders to support conservation and land management decisions.


These world-class collections are used not only to investigate our planet but also to train and inspire the next generation of environmental scientists.

Each division or program sets its own policies for visitors, researchers and data inquiries. For further information visit the appropriate division or program web pages.




images of native animals and plants
Short-horned lizard Phrynosoma hernandesii (I. Murray), Organ Mountains (M. Weisenberger), Escobaria organensis (T. Todsen)

msb and bird image
Praying Mantis (S. Davidson), Coachwhip Masticophis flagellum (I. Murray), CERIA (J. Mygatt)