Zoo Animals as Museum Specimens: Continuing Contributions to Research and Education
Jeffrey E. Bradley, MSc
Zoos and aquariums have long been a source of specimens for natural history museums. The Burke Museum, at the University of Washington in Seattle, makes use of such specimens, most often from the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium. As Collection Manager of the Burke's Mammalogy Collection, I have helped hundreds of mammals, reptiles and birds transition from life at the zoo to curation at the museum. As museum specimens, they contribute to research by the global scientific community and education programs for museum visitors and students in Washington State. This talk will describe some of the process involved in turning a deceased zoo animal into an archived museum specimen in the Burke's collections. I will discuss some of the challenges (technical, logistical, sometimes political) that can be involved in processing the remains of an animal that may be large, decomposing, and well loved by a community that is just beginning to mourn its death. Using specimens, stories and images, I will discuss different ways that our museum uses zoo specimens in education and interpretive programs to help inspire and inform the public. I will also give examples of research that is being done with these specimens, to demonstrate how important they can be for scientists trying to better understand the evolution, natural history and conservation of the world's wildlife.
The author thanks the Woodland Park Zoo and the lab of Dr. Sharlene Santana for data and images used in this presentation.