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Articles on Specimens

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Behind the scenes, natural history museums store biological samples from the field. Ryan Stephens

Museum specimens could help fight the next pandemic – why preserving collections is crucial to future scientific discoveries

Specimen preservation means researchers don't need to reinvent the wheel each time they ask a new question, making it critical for the advancement of science. But many specimens are discarded or lost.
With a lot not on display, museums may not even know all that’s in their vast holdings. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Digitizing the vast ‘dark data’ in museum fossil collections

A tiny percentage of museums’ natural history holdings are on display. Very little of these vast archives is digitized and available online. But museums are working to change that.
New forms of life are discovered in high-tech ways that leave yesterday’s natural history collections in the dust. Detective image via www.shutterstock.com.

The modern, molecular hunt for the world’s biodiversity

Forget the pith helmet and butterfly net. Discovering biodiversity now is much more about metagenomics and the 0's and 1's of digital databases.
What do collections of dead butterflies do for their still-living counterparts? Andrew D Warren

Why we still collect butterflies

The dead animal specimens that comprise natural history collections contribute a lot toward scientific understanding of their still-living counterparts – and those that have gone extinct.

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