I was super excited to see the arrival of the blue whale skeleton at UBC today. This beauty will be the centerpiece of the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. The museum is housed within the Beaty Biodiversity Centre, which comprises an interdisciplinary group of over 50 scientists with interests in biodiversity research.
The Biodiversity Museum project has been many years in the making. I volunteered at the museum during my undergrad and my supervisor often talked wistfully about the “new museum” that would one day house all of the collections together. At the time, the vertebrate and insect collections were on the 4th floor, the fish collection was in the basement, the plant collection in another wing entirely. And I’m still not entirely sure where the fungus collection was!
As a result, most people were unaware that UBC has an amazing collection of vertebrate specimens, plants, fish, insects… the list goes on! Over 2 million specimens were housed in the dark dingy corridors of the old biology building. Now they have a new home and I really hope people will take the time to see some of the diversity that this planet holds. To make it even more accessible to the public, UBC plans to hold seminars and lectures on biodiversity topics, as well as conducting programs for school-aged children and families.
Natural history museums such as this not only serve as a repository of life, they also serve as valuable teaching and research tools. Many times during my volunteering days, I would encounter grad students taking measurements of samples, or collecting a bit of hair or feather. As an undergrad, I would often borrow specimens for class presentations.
The museum is one of the places where I most strongly feel connected to science. When you work long enough in a lab, you get into this mindset where it seems normal to be working with chemicals and molecules you can’t see, and it’s easy to forget the “big” science. To me, museums are an example of the “big” science. To see the diversity that it holds, and to know that you are a part of that, I think that’s something special. To be able to see species that may no longer walk this Earth… that’s something special too.
So come and check out the Museum! Can’t decide when? May 22 is International Day of Biological Diversity – I’ll be there! According to the website, there will be a welcoming ceremony, museum tours (including opportunities to view the whale!), hands-on activities and a talk from museum director Wayne Maddison.
[Photo by the Beaty Biodiversity Museum website]