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Brown Bag 4/17/2013

April 25, 2013

The brown bag seminar on 4/17/2013 was titled “Evaluating Natural History Collection Use” and was presented by Bethany Abrahamson. It was much shorter than the usual brown bag presentations because the original presenter canceled and Ms. Abrahamson had to come up with a presentation with one nights notice. Her research is looking at natural history collections in which the specimens are collected then stored and determining how these collections are being used. She claims that natural history collections are important as sources of preservation and verification and as databases of evolution medical art and forensics.

Her presentation began with the history of natural history collections. In the pre nineteenth century they were used to enhance knowledge and classify living things and to collect the wonders in nature. In the nineteenth century they were used to investigate evolutionary relationships and collect populations. In the twentieth century they were used to study ecological patterns and physiological principles and collect series across populations. She hopes to see new roles for natural history collections for conservation and biodiversity in the twenty first century so as to educate a broader audience about their usefulness. One of her goals for the future is to create a display for New Mexico in Spring 2014 titled “Biological Collection Roles in Conservation”.

She then went on to explain her actual research in which she studied topics in publications that referenced natural history collections. She determined how the topics that these publications talked about changed over time with trends in scientific investigations. She looked at three hundred and thirty two publication in which three hundred and eleven referenced the Museum of Southwestern Biology’s Division of Herpetology. She searched phrases and keyword groups to determine the topics each publication referenced.

She found that there was a significant increase in genetics, modeling, and phylogenetics and a nonsignificant increase in conservation,and distribution. She found a non significant decrease in ecology and evolution.

This was a fascinating study and one that I had never thought about. I would love to continue following her research because studying other publications is a way to understand how science is changing and can give an numerical value to the importance of conserving natural history collections.

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