Department News



Professor Blaire Van Valkenburgh recently received two National Science Foundation grants to make major improvements to the UCLA Donald R. Dickey Bird and Mammal Collection. Like most natural history collections, this one is a priceless record of past ecosystems. The Dickey Collection includes over 64,000 specimens, a large number of which were collected prior to the widespread industrialization and population expansion that occurred after World War II. As a result, it includes specimens that can provide baseline data on genetic diversity, disease distribution, and industrial contaminant levels (e.g. mercury) for comparison with post WWII individuals. UCLA faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, high school interns, and visiting scientists use the collections for research, and it also exposes thousands of students to tangible evidence of variation in nature, the relationship of animal form to function, and evolutionary relationships. For the past several decades, the collection has resided in deteriorating 70 year-old wooden cases that can no longer protect specimens from possible insect and water damage. Funds from the NSF grants, along with contributions from an anonymous donor and the Dean of Life Sciences will be used purchase 164 modern specimen cabinets that will be installed in a new space-saver system. These improved cases will ensure the safety and longevity of the bird and mammal specimens for the foreseeable future. For more information on the history and contents of the Dickey Collection, see here.