Science & Culture | Zoology

Explore the Collection


The collection of birds consists of over 11,000 specimens inclusive of early oological collections (1300 egg sets) and more recent skeletal material (3500 specimens). UNSM birds are part of a midwest database with several institutions including the University of Kansas and contains specimens from the 1870s and into the 1900s that are primarily from Nebraska, Mexico, and Central America. They include birds collected by M.A. Carriker and J.T. Zimmer, both natives of the state. Lawrence Bruner, head of the Department of Entomology and Ornithology, collected specimens from Argentina and Mexico primarily for exhibits. Myron Swenk was in charge of the collection from 1900 until 1940, and his "Birds and Mammals of Nebraska" (1920) was largely based on specimens in the Museum.The Museum is the home of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union, formed in 1899, and the Division of Zoology houses the NOU library with its extensive holdings of state and regional bird journals.


The first concerted effort to collect mammal specimens for research purposes was instigated by Myron Swenk at the early part of the century. Dr. Harvey Gunderson, a mammalogist, was the Assistant Director of the Museum, Professor in Zoology, and Curator of Zoology from 1964-1977. The collection now has over 14,000 specimens primarily from Nebraska and includes nearly 1000 collected prior to 1925. Like most state collections, the UNSM mammal collection contains many large series of single species useful for population studies, but now there are substantial holdings of whole skeletons (4-5,000). An excellent collection of big game trophy heads collected by Mr. Elgin Gates hangs in the halls; these have data and represent several endangered and threatened species. The most recent news for mammals is the arrival and incorporation of the mammal collection from Dr. Jay D. Druecker and Chadron State College. This collection of about 4,000 is the most complete collection of mammals from the Pine Ridge in western Nebraska.

amphibians and reptiles

The collection of amphibians and reptiles was salvaged, organized, and cataloged by Dr. John Lynch, Professor in Biological Sciences and Research Associate in the Museum, in the early 1970s. The collection totals over 10,400 specimens.


The fish collection was officially started in 1984. Mr. Robert Hrabik initiated this project and was supported by a general operating grant from the Institute of Museum Services. The collection now contains nearly 8,500 lots. Although there are some specimens from the 1920s, the majority are from the 1970s and 1980s. Besides fish collected by Carl Hubbs and G.A. Moore, the collections of Dr. John Lynch, Dr. Ed Peters, Dr. Richard Stasiak, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality make up a large portion of the material. No other earlier surveys of fish exist in the state. Although the collection is primarily Nebraska fish, there is a large proportion of Missouri material. This collection is growing rapidly and has been curated with the expert help of Mr. David Golden (1980's) and most recently by Mr. Brian Roh.