Building a skin collection

The freezer in room 202 of the McNair Science Building (MSB) has a collection of dead birds that goes back to at least 10 years ago. In the room next door (MSB 203) there is a cabinet that holds bird and mammal specimens. In this same room there are shelving units with a wonderful fluid collection of amphibian and reptiles. There is a small fish collection as well. Fluid collections are familiar to me. It is dry collections I know little about. I needed help.

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum has a series of Power Point presentations on Bird Specimen preparation. These document, together with a video on How to make bird study skins, have been the major sources of information for developing the experience for undergraduate students at Francis Marion University.

My favorite sources:

Working with Birds. Ildico Szabo, Assistant Curator of the Cowan Tetrapod Collection at the University of British Columbia Beaty Biodiversity Museum, has put together a selection of resources (links to videos, essays, and websites) for anyone interested in working with birds. Includes the Power Point presentations mentioned above, which is a photo essay on basic skin preparation techniques.

How to make bird study skins. Mark Robbins from the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Chris Milensky from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History simultaneously prepare two bird specimens using two different methods. Presented by the North American Ornithological Conference (NAOC-V) 2012 and hosted by the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. If you have little experience preparing bird study skins this video is for you ( 1:29:30).

Using and Contributing to Avian Collections Workshop. Held as part of the Fifth North American Ornithological Conference (NAOC-V), this workshop features an international roster of speakers discussing the changing uses of avian collections and demonstrating techniques to prepare and preserve specimens. Includes 11 videos.

Videos alone are not enough to learn how to prepare birds. Birds are not all the same. When you start preparing study skins you have many questions. The best way to gain experience preparing study skins is by volunteering at a museum or university that holds a bird collection. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh North Carolina hosts a bird preparation session on Wednesday and Thursday. Brian O’Shea, Collection Manager of Ornithology, was kind enough to let me join a bird preparation session, and answered all my questions. I still have questions, some are being answered along the way, as the class is getting ready for the third preparation session on March 10th, some will have to wait.

Brian O’Shea helping an undergraduate student prepare a bird study skin at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. December 14, 2016. Photo credit: Norma Salcedo.

Other videos on preparing bird skins: Kevin Winker, Curator of Ornithology at the University of Alaska Museum of the North,  prepares a bird specimen in five videos: Bird specimen preparation, Part 1Bird specimen preparation, Part 2Bird specimen preparation, Part 3Bird specimen preparation, Part 4; Bird specimen preparation, Part 5.


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