Amphibians & Reptiles

Amphibians & Reptiles

With more than 95,000 specimens, the Division of Amphibians & Reptiles has steadily grown to become one of the largest herpetological collections in the western US. Personnel and associates conduct research in the American Southwest and throughout Latin America. The division is the primary repository of specimens for the New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish.



Division of Arthropods maintains collections of specimens gathered worldwide. These serve as the basis for discovery of new species and systematic studies of amazing diversity. More than 350 families and 2,300 species are represented in this rapidly growing arthropod collection.



The Division of Birds contains more than 40,000 specimens, which represent all bird orders and 85 percent of bird families. The collection contains historic specimens of threatened, endangered, and extinct species such as the passenger pigeon. The largest holdings are from the American Southwest, Peru, and South America.



The Division of Fishes has 95,000 cataloged lots of fishes - more than 4 million individual specimens. Collections of eggs, larvae, and adults aid in the study of the specialized ecology of desert fishes. The division is the primary repository for academic and agency biologists in New Mexico.

Genomic Resources

Genomic Resources

The Division of Genomic Resources (DGR) maintains more than 460,000 archived tissue samples and nucleic acids from over 200,000 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. The DGR collection is global in scope, representing taxa from over 30 countries. Our mission is to maintain a permanent reference archive of frozen tissues and DNA to aid in understanding the complexity of biological diversity and to address critical biological problems such as emerging pathogens, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, and invasive species.



The herbarium houses 130,000 plant specimens dating back to the 1800s. The collection primarily contains vascular plants, but it also contains lichen, mosses, and fungi. The herbarium also has a library, reprint collection, and a laboratory for cytogenetics.



With more than 300,000 specimens, this division is among the world's three largest mammal collections. Specimens represent more than 1,700 species from localities all over the world, with especially large holdings from Panama, Bolivia, Siberia, Mongolia, Alaska, Canada, and the American Southwest.



The Division of Parasitology holds the third largest collection of parasites in North America. There are nearly 30,000 cataloged parasites, including a growing schistosome archive. This collection is unique in that most parasites are tied directly to the host specimen, allowing powerful integrated views of coevolution.

Natural Heritage New Mexico

Natural Heritage New Mexico

Natural Heritage New Mexico (NHNM) does research on the conservation and sustainable management of New Mexico's biodiversity. We have New Mexico's only state-wide rare species and ecosystems database (NM Biotics) which helps shape conservation efforts. NHNM does biology research and education in the context of conservation and climate change.

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
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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

Frog-filled Summer for MSB Herpetology

 Summer 2022

Male green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) with inflated vocal sac.  Males make a loud, repetitive "QUONK" sound to attract females and help lucky researchers find them. Photo by Kathleen Webster.
Male green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) with inflated vocal sac.  Males make a loud, repetitive "QUONK" sound to attract females and help lucky researchers find them. Photo by Kathleen Webster


This past summer, on small side roads across twenty-one states of the eastern United States, seven researchers from the University of New Mexico could be found driving through the late hours of the night looking for frogs hopping across the road.

Dr. Lisa Barrow, Assistant Professor and Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles at The Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB), is the Principal Investigator behind this massive initiative, paid for by a generous National Science Foundation grant.

Amphibians are one of the most threatened vertebrate groups in the world, yet lack comparative genomic studies because of their large, complex genomes. Genetic variability can ensure the resilience of wild populations in the face of environmental change, making it vital to understand genetic variation to support conservation efforts. 

This three-year study aims to fill these data gaps and create searchable, multi-purpose amphibian specimens and tissues to be held at the MSB. This project also draws on existing open access global databases of genetic sequences, currently being analyzed by Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Luis Amador and several students in a new Biodiversity Informatics course at UNM. 

A cross-country field effort began this summer, led by Dr. Barrow, with a team of six MSB associates and students from the University of New Mexico. Dani Wiley, Research Scientist I and Lab Manager, Chris McDaniels and Kathleen Webster, both second-year PhD students, Kadie Omlor, research technician and recent graduate of Ohio University, Bre Kappel, UNM Sophomore, and Moses Michelsohn, Lecturer and MSB volunteer, headed out to the field in mid-May.

Summer 2022 MSB field crew
The Team.  Back row L to R: Lisa Barrow, Kadie Omlor, Kathleen Webster
Front row: L to R: Dani Wiley, Bre Kappel, Chris McDaniels. Photo by Moses Michelsohn.


The group first sampled Arkansas and Missouri before splitting off into three teams to cover most of the eastern US. Team McDaniels made a loop through the Midwest – up to Michigan, through North Dakota and back, Team Wiley headed east to Virginia, while Team Barrow traveled through Kentucky before rejoining with Team Wiley and heading north through the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Together the teams sampled in 73 counties across 21 states

Map of new specimens archived at MSB and searchable through the Arctos database.
Map of new specimens archived at MSB and searchable through the Arctos database.

During the day, when frogs hide from the heat, NSF Graduate Research Fellow Chris McDaniels and technician Kadie Omlor collected Six-Lined Racerunners (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus) for McDaniels' PhD research.

Kathleen Webster was also hard at work on her PhD research, splitting off from the crew in June to conduct her own sampling in The Comoros Archipelago and Réunion Island for five weeks. 

Tissue samples and specimens weren’t the only thing to make it back to the MSB. Blood smears were also created for each specimen and will be screened for blood parasites back in the lab. The first batch of these slides, collected from Florida in 2018 and screened by undergraduate museum technician Ari Torres this past summer, have already returned a confirmed case of lizard malaria. 

Slide showing a red blood cell infected with lizard malaria. Photo by Ari Torres.
Microscope slide showing a red blood cell infected with lizard malaria. Photo by Ari Torres.

Overall, a total of 664 specimens from 34 species were collected and deposited at the Museum of Southwestern Biology after 65 continuous days in the field. This coming spring, sampling will continue in the southeastern United States, targeting species which breed earlier in the year in warmer climates.

Back in New Mexico, Master’s student Jonathan Duran was busy sampling turtles for stable isotope analysis along with Sevilleta REU student Karin Ebey. Undergraduate Honors student Irvin Arroyo-Torres was dissecting rattlesnakes for his study on diet composition and parasite communities. Meanwhile, Senior Collection Manager Dr. Tom Giermakowski continued collaborative monitoring efforts of the Narrow-headed Gartersnake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus) while keeping division operations running smoothly.

Learn more about the MSB Division of Amphibians and Reptiles and our work: visit our website or follow us on Twitter / Instagram / TikTok. If you’d like to help facilitate future student research opportunities and division activities, you can donate directly to The Division of Amphibians and Reptiles here.


For a general background on our museum, please watch our introduction video here 


Staff, curators, students, volunteers, and research associates are working from home as much as possible on digital data curation, data analyses, scientific manuscripts, and grant proposals. New Mexico based field-work is proceeding, while following all appropriate safety guidelines to prevent transmission of SARS CoV-2. 
Many exciting publications by our personnel or based on our collections are coming out. Check out the latest ones here:


Latest MSB Division of Mammals Publications

Latest MSB Division of Birds Publications  

Latest MSB Division of Amphibians & Reptiles Publications  

Latest MSB Division of Fishes Publications


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