Museum of Southwestern Biology

Undergraduate Opportunities Program

Museum of Southwestern Biology

The Museum of Southwestern Biology is a research and teaching facility in the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico.

open weekdays 8am - 5pm
visitors welcome by appointment
information for visitors

phone: (505) 277-1360
fax: (505) 277-1351
museum administrator


Museum of Southwestern Biology
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

University of New Mexico
302 Yale Blvd NE
CERIA 83, Room 204
Albuquerque, NM, USA 87131

UnO News

May 2012
Congratulations Graduates!

On May 11th, 2012 two of our UnO students, Diego Matek and Jackson Sabol, graduated and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for them. We wish them the best of luck.

Hittin' the Road Again!

Angie Swanson and April M Chavez headed down South to Belen on their last day of school to talk to Belen High School students about research opportunities in Biology at UNM. They conversed with two classes of Junior high school students who asked many questions ranging from "How does a frog come back to life if its heart freezes?" "Why did you choose to study a Shrew?" and "What is the safety on the UNM campus like?". Both classes, one consisting of 20 students and the other only about half were inquisitive and good listeners. Mrs. Gallegos welcomes us back in the fall. Angie and April say they love UnO Road Shows and will do them whenever they get the chance.

 April 2012
Finding a Path to Science

UnO Scholar Alyssa Begay spoke to 9th graders at Rio Rancho High School about life after high school and the oprotunites in science.


Reinvigorating SEEDS

UnO scholar Adeline Murthy is reinvigorating SEEDS at UNM. SEEDS is a program that is part of the Ecological Society of America, dedicated to ecology education, diversity, and sustainability. UNM's chapter has largely been inactive, which is why she decided to spark it back up again, in hopes of getting students excited about ecology--a very underrepresented field among UNM biology undergraduates. The group will be organizing many activities and projects, including field trips to New Mexico's LTER stations, resource conservation on tribal lands, and community outreach in New Mexico's public schools.

March 2012
A Record Number of Presenters

There were a record number of presentes at this year's Biology Department Research Day! 14 of the UnO Scholars presented their research this year. Click here to read more about their presentations.

Racking Up the Research Scholarships!

UNM's Biology department scholarships were awarded to MJ Vargas (Doolittle award), and April Chavez and Diego Matek (Gaudin Scholarship). Congratulations!

January 2012
More Scholars Reach New Mexico’s Youth Over the Waves

Angie Swanson and Diego Matek, appeared on KUNM's The Children's Hour, to speak about their research and what animals do over the winter. Click here to listen to the show.

December 2011
Congratulations Graduates!

On December 17th, 2011 two of our UnO students, Hiyatsi Bassett and Nicole Caimi, graduated and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for them. We wish them the best of luck.

Hittin' the Road

On Friday December 16, 2011, the UnO Roadshow traveled to Highland High School in Albuquerque to engage students of various levels, from freshman to advanced placement seniors, in the wonderful world of professional science at the University of New Mexico. UnO Scholars, Angie Swanson, April Chavez, and Jesse Trujillo, along with PREP Scholar Candice Espinoza highlighted opportunities made available through attending college and choosing science as a career. Research PowerPoint presentations and specimens were used as tools to discuss professional opportunities in science to 6 classes that are taught by Dana Allen.

November 2011
Congratulations, Dr. Shepherd!

One of our mentors, Ursula Shepherd, is the U.S. Professor of the Year! Congradulations!! Read the article here.

October 2011

Two of our scholars, MJ Vargas and Jesse Trujillo , along with mentor Chris Himes, attended this years SACNAS conferences. They say it was a great success.


Reaching New Mexico's Youth!

UnO Scholar, April Chavez, is on a roll. She appeared on KUNM's The Children's Hour to speak about her research on shrews. Listen to it here. She also presented to 21st Century Public Academy students to inspire them to go into science, and she, along with another scholar, Kelly Speer, took the UnO Roadshow to the Santa Fe Indian School to emphasize future opportunties available to students go go on to college in science.

August 2011
Successful Science Camp at UNM

MJ Vargas's Junior Scientist Camp was a great success and was covered by the Daily Lobo. Read the article here.

In The News

Chris Himes, an UnO Post-Doc mentor was featured in an article about integrating research and teaching. Read the full article here.

Summer Fun!

The summer was a great success and filled with field work, lab work, and conferences.

June 2011
Science Camp Coming Up!

One of our mentees, MJ Vargas, is focusing her project effects of science education outreach with elementary students. She is collaborating with the Education Department to assess the effects of informal science via a junior science outreach camp for 4th and 5th graders from a low income region of Albuquerque. Check out the flyer for this year's camp! It will be held in August.

Read this Month's BioBlog

Our mentee, Abigail Ramirez-Ortiz, wrote a BioBlog! Check it out here.

May 2011
Field Trip To the Doc Long Picnic Area

UnO student April Chavez and mentors Yadéeh Saywer, Jon Dunnum and Jolene Rearick participated in a field trip to the Doc Long Picnic area in the Sandias with ~70 seventh graders from Truman Middle School, Albuquerque. They spent the day hiking withe the students teaching them about the ecosystem that is in "their own back yard".


Congratulations Graduates!

On May 14th, 2011 three of our UnO students graduated and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for them. We wish them the best of luck.

After graduation Kate Cauthen will be participating in a post-baccalaureate summer program in biostatistics at Harvard. Next year she plans to broaden her familiarity with the intersection of mathematics, statistics, and biology with various coursework and laboratory experience at UNM. She plans to enter a PhD in either evolutionary psychology or biostatistics in 2012.

Matt Peralta already has accepted a job in the private sector doing ichthyological research on the the Rio Grande and San Juan river drainages. Some of the projects he will be involved in include; Rio Grande Silvery minnow egg monitoring, and larval fish surveys of native fishes of the San Juan river. In 2012 he plans on either appying for a federal position as a fish biologist and/or applying to several grad schools. Long term he hopes to continue doing ichthyological research for a federal or state agency. He would also to thank Uno for helping him excel in college.

Sophia Thompson starts graduate school in the fall in the MS program in Community and Regional Planning at UNM. She is considering pursuing a dual degree with a MS in Applied Ecology.

Science is Cool!

UnO Mentors show 2nd graders that "Science is cool!" Yadéeh Saywer and Jolene Rearick did an all day presenation to the second grade classes (~80 total students) at Cesar Chavez Elementary in Santa Fe New Mexico. They took a total of 13 live animals ranging from insects to mammals, as well as museum specimens from the Museum of Southwestern Biology representing the diversity of New Mexico's Arthoropods and Mammals. The presentation included a slide show of their research and all the "cool things" you can do as a biologist, followed by a show-and-tell of the animals and a Q&A session. A second, more one-on-one presentation was done for the bilingual class, which included direct interactions with some of the specimens.

April 2011
Congratulations Ali Ghadimi and Diana Northup!

Ali Ghadimi and Diana Northup had recent ABQ Journal front page coverage! Read all about it here.

Biology Research Day Was a Huge Success!
We had 10 UnO student poster presentations and an oral presentation by our graduate student coordinator (congratulations Yadéeh Sawyer on your 2nd place award). See Student Presentations for more details.
Congratulations MJ Vargas!

MJ received the Cocalina Memorial Scholarship and Rosalie Doolittle Memorial Scholarship, both for excellence in research and academic record in the Biology department at UNM. And to MJ's mentor Allison Chatterjee for being awarded the 2011 American Association of Anatomists Educational Research Platform Presentation Award for her  presentation  'The Importance of Spatial Ability and Mental Models in Learning Anatomy'. This award recognizes the best education talk by a student or postdoctoral fellow at Experimental Biology 2011. 

Congratulations Yadéeh Sawyer!

Our graduate student coordinator, Yadéeh Sawyer, received the Lynn Hertel and the Joseph Gaudin scholarships for her dissertation work at UNM.

Congratulations Matt Garcia!

Matt is recently submitted paper was accepted by Astrobiology. The citation is: D.E. Northup, L.A. Melim, M.N. Spilde, J.J.M. Hathaway, M.G. Garcia, M. Moya, F.D. Stone, P.J. Boston, M.L.N.E. Dapkevicius. Microbial Communities in Volcanic Lava Caves: Implications for Life Detection on Other Planets. 

December 2010
Congratulations to Our Newest Graduate, Hallie Rane!

Hallie graduated from the University of New Mexico on December 17, 2010 with Honors in Biology. UnO is proud to say congratulations and you earned it. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this bright newly minted graduate. She starts the doctorate program in biology at UNM in Fall 2011. Whatever her endeavors bring, she will be successful. If you would like more information about UnO students check out our Fall 2010 newsletter.

The UnO Roadshow Journeys to Walatowa High School

Alyssa Begay, Joey Chour and Jesse Trujillo presented their student research projects to high school students in Jemez Pueblo on 10 December 2010 to demonstrate how exciting science and higher education can be. We met with 3 classes (>50 students) taught by Mr. Ron Krueger. Topics covered included new nematode discoveries, field and statistical methods in herpetology, and the effects of chemicals on our water systems, emphasizing the broad range of possible undergraduate research activities at the University of New Mexico. A common theme was how the undergraduate experiences in research for each of these students opened up new perspectives and broadened their future horizon.


November 2010
Student Web Pages

Fall 2010 saw each of the UnO students create personal web pages.

Racking Up the Awards!

We’d like to congratulate Alyssa Begay (nominated to apply for the Udall Scholarship), Kate Cauthen (Regent’s Scholar and Honor’s program), Matthew Garcia (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Undergraduate Research Award), Lizzy Stone (nominated for the Goldwater scholarship), and MJ Vargas (Golden Key Honors Society) for their outstanding accomplishments and individual recognition this past semester.

Other Kudos!

One of our very own UnO students, Jesse Trujillo, won best student poster at this year’s Desert Fishes Council (DFC) conference in Moab, Utah in late November. Matthew Peralta, another Uno student in the Tom Turner Lab, came in a very close second place. Posters included both undergraduate and graduate students, so we can be very proud of both of them.


Mentoring Institute Conference

UnO student MJ Vargas presented at the Mentoring Institute Conference at UNM on August 28, 2010. She along with Avelina Maritinez and Shannon McCoy-Hayes, Biology Undergraduate Advisors, presented their poster on, Envisioning a Community of Practice: The Evolution of Peer Mentoring within UNM Biology, which details the project outline of a peer mentoring effort of the Biology Undergraduate Society of UNM. Project STEP Ahead is a pilot program in which there is a one to one ratio of Biology upperclassmen mentors to Freshmen in the Biology Living and Learning Community at UNM. The long term goals are retention of intended biology majors and increased participation in research programs such as UnO. A brief summary of Project STEP Ahead is here: Project STEP AHEAD

October 2010
UnO Team Building is a Knotty Experience!

On October 9th, 8 UnO mentees and 3 UnO mentors participated in a low-ropes course at the University of New Mexico aimed at building closer relationships within the UnO cohort. We learned to “Keep It Simple”, it is ok to trust and depend on other people, patience is important, listening to your peers is essential, and we focused on verbal and non-verbal communication skills because somebody will always be there to catch you if you fall. Andrea Jackson summarized the experience well, “I learned to communicate with [my] group and those [I am] surrounded with because it will help us advance in our careers”. We can’t wait for the high-ropes course!


The SACNAS Conference Was a Great Experience!

Over 3,200 people attended the SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) National Conference September 30 – October 3, 2010 in Anaheim, California including a contingent from UNM. The conference featured a record number of exhibitors, student presentations, and overall attendees.

The five posters by UnO students attracted plenty of attention and topics of these presentations ranged from genetics to morphology, bacteria to mammals, and Alaska to Mexico. UnO students reported they all had a great time and noted that “it was a good team building experience” and an excellent opportunity to scope out future graduate school opportunities. One of the biggest things they took away from this trip was how much they can depend on their peers to help with challenges associated with the stresses of presenting research at a meeting. “Your peers are here for you”.  We discovered that we can rely on each other as we discussed topics ranging from data interpretation to how to address difficult questions.  The only let-down of the meetings was the southern Californian food, “it was awful”. But then again, it’s hard to please those of us familiar with New Mexican cuisine.

Each student had different experiences while presenting their work. Hiyatsi Bassett spoke with a high school group that stopped by her poster. Joey Chour made an excellent contact in Dr. Scott Edwards, who invited her to apply for the Diversity for Undergrads Program sponsored by the annual Evolution meetings. She also learned that “smiling will get you far and if you don’t know something, that’s ok too”. Matt Garcia had his very best poster presentation out of the 8 presentations he has delivered to date. Jesse Trujillo received an offer to apply to graduate school in a professor’s lab in Texas. And last, but not least, MJ Vargas met many interested people as a result of her microbial study of cave environments.  All of the UnO attendees agree that, overall, SACNAS was well worth attending!


September 2010
Fall Newsletter

Get it here!

SACNAS Coming Up!

Five of our Students are heading to the SACNAS conferences Sept 30- Oct 3. Good luck!!

June 2010
Field Training in Wyoming

Alessandra Higa, a conservation biology instructor and researcher from Oglala Lakota College (OLC), two of her students, and UnO students Hiyatsi Bassett and Randle McCain participated in field training with MSB's Division of Mammals in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming.  The OLC participants were keen to learn about MSB's field operations and gain some experience trapping and processing. Hiyatsi and Randle were part of the MSB field crew. From Alessandra:  

"...I wish to have better words (than THANK YOU) that demonstrate how thankful I am for the opportunity you guys provide us (Oglala Lakota College) at the Medicine Bow Nat. Forest, WY.  It was a great experience [being] in the field with you to learn different techniques and strategies of collecting and sampling small mammals... Moreover, it was nice to observe how a GREAT TEAM works:  organization, experience, leadership, teaching skills, efficiency, friendship, etc… Thank you to Randle for showing us the world of the endoparasites, and to Hiyatsi for sharing her experience of [being] a community college-UNM student.  My undergraduate students are feeling more confident towards the Mammalogical world as well as pursuing higher education..."

May 2010
Congratulations Graduates!

Six UnO students graduated from the University of New Mexico on May 15, 2010. UnO is proud to say congratulations and you earned it to; Raphielita Bishara, Carmela Carrasco, Natalie Blea, April Tafoya, Justin Pichardo and Jessica Martin. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for these bright graduates but we know whatever their endeavors bring they will be successful. If you would like more information about these students check out our Student Research page and our Spring 2010 UnO Newsletter.

Fieldtrip to Sierra de las Uvas

UnO students made a trip to Sierra de las Uvas to learn about the fauna of The Chiuahuan Desert. Highlights include:Glossy snake, Trans-Pecos rat snake,Western hooknose snake, Night snake (2), Striped whipsnake (2), Longnose snake (2), Ground snake, Western dimondback (2), Western (prairie) rattlesnake, Texas horned lizard, Desert spiny lizard, Tree lizard, Loggerhead Shrike, Western Meadowlark, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Chipping Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Western Kingbird, Scaled Quail, Turkey Vulture, Chihuahuan Raven, Scott's Oriole, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren and Golden Eagle.

justinandian.jpg nightsnake.jpg

March 2010
UnO Students Visit Rio Grande High School

MJ Vargas, Jessie Trujillo, David Banks-Richardson, and Hiyatsi Bassett made a visit to Rio Grande High School to talk to Environmental Science and Chemistry students about their research. MJ got students excited by talking about her research on caves and then having students volunteer to suit-up in her caving gear.


UnO Students Visit Sandia Preparatory School

Jessica Martin, Jessie Trujillo, and David Banks-Richardson gave presentations and worked on activities with high school students in hopes of encouraging and nurturing the scientist in all of us. Students visited the classes taught by Helen Haskell, here is what she had to say about them, "Jes, Jess, and David have just left my classroom having done four excellent programs today. They did a superb job in communicating their science research to my students and combined it with really good and appropriate hands on activities that helped explain some of the techniques they use in the lab."


February 2010
UnO and the Biology Department Host Students from Diné College

Students got a tour of the Museum of Southwestern Biology and other programs here at UNM. The UnO Program organized a full-day visit for students and staff from Diné College Shiprock and Tsaile campuses. We introduced the visitors to the Museum of Southwestern Biology's collections and research activities, and arranged for talks and tours by UNM Biology Undergraduate Advising, the American Indian Student Services and UNM Department of Civil Engineering. Linda Garcia – Pathway/Research Coordinator, Diné College, Shiprock Campus: “We had a wonderful day at UNM and pleased with all that you did for us. .Now the students have to write a reflection on two of the presentations.”

Congratulations to April Tafoya!!

April Tafoya was accepted into the Graduate Program at the EPS Department at UNM. We know you will do great things and make us all proud April.

Congratulations to Hallie Rane!!

Hallie's manuscript was accepted by The Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Check out her abstract on our Student Presentations page

December 2009
UnO Coordinators Visit UNM Gallup Campus

Three members of the UnO Program - Joe Cook (PI), Sylvia Brunner (Coordinator) and Theresa C. Hyde (Graduate Student Coordinator) – traveled to UNM’s Gallup Campus to present to high school and college students opportunities to study biology at UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque. Two presentations were given; one to college students studying biology-related subjects (e.g., nursing, chemistry), and a second to high school general biology students.

Gallup Campus has a significant focus on medical studies, but has only one full-time biology teacher, Vickie Olson, who teaches all general biology courses with assistance from adjunct teachers.

We provided information packets to both groups (college and high school students), that were compiled by UNM Biology Undergraduate Advisors, Shannon McCoy-Hayes and Avelina Martinez, as well as brochures from IMSD, MARC and UnO.


Way To Go April!

April Tafoya receives the Harry & Mabel Leonard Research Fellowship, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico. April also received the James Drew Pfeiffer Memorial Scholarship, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico and a MP Undergraduate Research Scholarship.

November 2009
First Place for April!

April Tafoya received an award for first place in oral presentations at the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation conference at New Mexico State University on October 1-3, 2009.

Uno Students Present at Albuquerque High School

On November 6, 2009, three outstanding University of New Mexico biology majors volunteered a day of their time to speak to half the students at Albuquerque High School about their exciting biology research. These biology majors, Jes Martin, Jesse David Trujillo, and David Banks-Richardson spoke to groups of 100 to 150 high school students for each of the seven periods of the day or a total of one thousand students. Based on the attentiveness of the students, the questions asked during the presentations, as well as oral and written comments after the presentations, the biology undergraduates were able to capture the imagination and inspire many of the high school students. While Albuquerque High School is physically only a five-minute drive from UNM, it is in some ways a world apart in terms of love of learning and academic success. The event was a win-win situation. The UNM biology majors were able to relate to the students in presenting the results of their interesting research and the AHS students learned about engaging, relevant research as well as how science works. Jes Martin discussed her field work with packrat middens in Death Valley, CA in the summer and the implications in discerning past climates from packrat midden data. She enticed the students by bringing a huge packrat midden. Jesse Trujillo discussed his research in Trinidad Colorado concerning the impact of wastewater treatment plant effluent, specifically estrogen-mimicking chemicals, on male fathead minnows. David Banks-Richardson presented fascinating information and photos of mammals. Prior to the day-long event, at the request of Dr. Diana Northup, AHS science teacher Joan Newsom and Sandia Prep science teacher Helen Haskell spoke to UNM’s UnO students about what to expect from high school students. At the presentation at AHS, about four AHS students asked the UNM biology majors about intern possibilities. Another AHS students received useful advice for his science fair project from one of the UNM biology speakers. The UNM biology major is helping the AHS students with a lab procedure concerning using mushrooms to filter pollutants from water.

- Joan Newsom, Albuquerque High School Teacher