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Biology professor secures grant to save West Virginia's primary natural history collection
Date:5/11/2012

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. Thanks to the work of a Marshall University biology professor, the nation's largest museum collection of mammals, amphibians and reptiles from West Virginia will be preserved for future generations.

Dr. Suzanne G. Strait has been awarded a $373,256 grant from the National Science Foundation to re-curate and modernize the West Virginia Biological Survey Museum, which is housed in the university's College of Science. Her colleague Dr. Thomas K. Pauley, also a professor of biology, is co-investigator on the grant.

The museum is located in the Science Building and comprises more than 21,000 specimens amassed over 70 years. According to Strait, nearly every species described in West Virginia is part of the collection, including many of those listed as federally endangered or at risk.

Strait says that over the next two years, the grant will allow researchers to buy new cabinets, containers and freezers for storing and preserving the specimens.

"This natural history collection from West Virginia is larger than that of any other museum in the country, and it is truly a unique resource to be developed for training the next generation of biologists who will study Appalachia's animals," said Strait. "It is in urgent need of new equipment and curation to ensure its survival, so we were quite pleased to get this award."

She added that the grant also will help build a new facility for storage of tissue collections for genomic studies, digitize all archival data and develop an electronic database. The database will be placed online to make it available to researchers worldwide.

"In addition to re-housing the specimens, we'll be scanning all the field notebooks, maps and slides in the museum," she said. "One of the things that makes our collection remarkable is that we have, in some cases, 40 years worth of natural history records from the same mountain in West Virginia. That's extraordinarily rare, s
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Contact: Ginny Painter
ginny.painter@marshall.edu
304-746-1964
Marshall University Research Corporation
Source:Eurekalert  

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