Curating Collaborations Between Biological Sciences Faculty and UA Museums

The Alabama Museum of Natural History (ALMNH) at UA is the oldest museum in Alabama, but it communicates cutting-edge science to a contemporary audience through physical exhibits in Smith Hall, the public face of the museum, as well as quality online programs. The ALMNH serves an important role in natural history collections–based research, interdisciplinary collaborations, and dissemination of research results to the general public through museum exhibits.

Catty-corner to Smith Hall, ALMNH faculty curators in Mary Harmon Bryant Hall, the scientific collections facility, conduct behind-the-scenes specimen-based research. Several Biological Sciences faculty members hold curatorial appointments in the ALMNH, curating the biological collections used in this research as well as in outreach and teaching. Dr. Phil Harris is the Curator of Ichthyology and oversees collections of fish ( as well as reptiles and amphibians (herpetology) and freshwater decapod crustaceans. The ichthyology collection alone contains over 1.2 million fish, representing 2,448 species. Dr. Kevin Kocot is the Curator of Invertebrate Zoology ( and oversees a collection of over 20,000 lots of specimens, including many now threatened or endangered freshwater mussels and rarely sampled deep-sea and polar organisms preserved for genomics. Dr. Juan Lopez-Bautista is the Curator of Phycology and oversees collections of algae as well as non-vascular plants. Dr. Michael McKain is the Curator of the Herbarium (, which encompasses roughly 69,000 plant specimens representing over 3,000 species. The Biological Sciences natural history collections are supported by collections managers Worth Pugh (Ichthyology, Herpetology, and Freshwater Decapods) and Steve Ginzbarg (Herbarium) as well as by student workers and volunteers.

In recent years, there has been an increase in collaborations between ALMNH and Biological Sciences faculty and staff. For example, Dr. Kevin Kocot is collaborating with Dr. John Abbott, Director of Museum Research and Collections, and Kendra Abbott, Research and Outreach Coordinator and Research Associate, on a project focused on the conservation genomics of threatened and endangered dragonflies in the southeastern United States. Likewise, Dr. Adiel Klompmaker, Curator of Paleontology and the latest hire in the Alabama Museum of Natural History, has planned and ongoing collaborations with faculty in Biological Sciences. Dr. Klompmaker’s research focuses mainly on biotic interactions among marine animals as well as diverse aspects of the fossil record of crustaceans (see photo). UA Museums researchers like Dr. Abbott and Dr. Klompmaker are helping to facilitate interdisciplinary research among units, including UA Museums, Biological Sciences, and Geological Sciences, among others.

In 2020, Kendra Abbott took on her role as Research and Outreach Coordinator at ALMNH. As part of this role, Kendra works with faculty and staff across campus to develop new and exciting exhibits and outreach events to communicate science being conducted at UA to visitors of the ALMNH. Currently, Kendra is working with Dr. Carla Atkinson to develop an exhibit on freshwater mussels, which are incredibly diverse in Alabama and ecologically important but are also threatened by human activities (see photo). The UA Museums are an excellent venue for faculty to disseminate their research to the public through museum exhibits. For example, a new exhibit on freshwater mussels and the incredible biodiversity of Alabama freshwater ecosystems was just unveiled this summer. Over the next year, Kendra will be working with Drs. Kocot, Becker, and other BSC faculty to develop museum exhibits to communicate results of their research to the community. We encourage friends of the department to visit the ALMNH in Smith Hall to check out these exhibits and to reach out to our faculty curators for behind-the-scenes tours of our natural history collections in Mary Harmon Bryant Hall. For more information, visit and

Kendra Abbott developing an exhibit for the ALMNH
Kendra Abbott discussing an exhibit under development for the ALMNH.
A fossil crustacean studied by Dr. Adiel Klompmaker.
A fossil crustacean studied by Dr. Adiel Klompmaker.