Collections of the Department of Biological Sciences

Herbarium (Plants)

  • Non-vascular Plants (algae, mosses, liverworts)
  • Vascular Plants (ferns, trees, flowering plants)

Zoological Collections (Animals)

  • Ichthyology (fishes)
  • Herpetology (amphibians and reptiles)
  • Freshwater Decapods (crayfish, shrimp, crabs)
  • Freshwater Molluscs and Marine Invertebrates

 

Our Mission

The mission of Biological Collections is to maintain representative collections of plants and animals at local, regional, and global scales for the University of Alabama and the greater scientific community. We make our specimens and their associated data publicly available for use by educators and researchers to promote the importance of systematics and biodiversity science while also serving as a repository for specimens used in scientific research. Our collections are integral resources for researchers interested in systematics, evolutionary biology, ecology, biogeography, and conservation biology. Information produced from our specimens have generated hundreds of scientific publications including numerous species descriptions. The department’s collections currently include large holdings of vascular and non-vascular plants, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, and molluscs. Biological Collections are housed in Mary Harmon Bryant Hall on the main campus at UA. Collections facilities are open to the public for tours by appointment only (see contact information below).

 


Jars of specimens UAIC collection space

 

What are Biological Collections and why are they important?

A tremendous assortment of organisms inhabit the earth’s ecosystems. Despite centuries of describing organisms, scientists estimate they have only described a small portion of the planet’s biodiversity (total number of species in a specific area). Biological collections are organized aggregations of biological specimens (an individual organism examined by a scientist). These often-vast collections of specimens are routinely used by educators and researchers interested in biological systems. In fact, much of the information scientists understand about the natural world was produced using specimens from biological collections and other types of natural history collections. This includes the distribution, habits, and evolution of species as well as the response of biological communities to global land-use and climate change. Therefore, biological collections are invaluable resources to scientists both locally and globally. Biological collections also serve as permanent repositories for taxonomically important specimens (i.e., those used for species descriptions) and historical records of the occurrence, abundance, and variability of species.


UA Herbarium Herpetology Collection

Why study biodiversity?

Biodiversity refers to the total number of different species inhabiting a particular ecosystem or area. Generally, ecosystems with greater biodiversity are more productive and have a greater potential to provide ecosystem services such as clear air, water, food, medicines, and shelter. Because human populations are part of these ecosystems, we are dependent on such ecosystem services to live happy and healthy lives. The state of Alabama is a “treasure trove” of biodiversity containing more species of trees, turtles, and freshwater fishes than any other state in the U.S.A. and more species of freshwater molluscs (snails and mussels) and crayfishes than anywhere else in the world. By understanding how to categorize, preserve, and restore biodiversity of our ecosystems, we can improve the quality of life and longevity of human populations in an ever-lasting, sustainable manner.


Locust Fork Reef

Interested in learning more? Want to get involved? Contact us!


Collection worker Collection workers

Herbarium

Non-Vascular Plants – Dr. Juan M. Lopez-Bautista (jlopez@ua.edu)

Vascular Plants – Dr. Michael McKain (mrmckain@ua.edu) & Steve Ginzbarg (sginzbar@ua.edu)

Zoological Collections

Ichthyology, Herpetology, Freshwater Decapods – M. Worth Pugh (mwpugh@ua.edu)

Molluscs and Marine Invertebrates – Dr. Kevin Kocot (kmkocot@ua.edu)