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
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

Past News

20 July 2018

MSB Curator Joe Cook named Regents’ Professor by UNM


Dr. Joe Cook introducing newly renovated Division of Genomic Resources

Joe Cook’s history at UNM extends to his Master's Degree in the 1980s. He has been Curator of Mammals at MSB since 2003 and he has overseen a period of tremendous collections growth, high-impact research, and prolific student training. He has been a leader by example in many respects, authoring about 10 publications per year, and adding to our collection at an annual rate of over 14,000 specimens. Dr. Cook led MSB as Director for six years, during which time he achieved an historic renovation of the Division of Genomic Resources and transition to liquid nitrogen storage. Now UNM is recognizing Dr. Cook’s achievements with the title of Regents’ Professor, an honor attained by only a small portion of the university’s most distinguished faculty. His scholarship alone merits such an honor, although his contributions to the permanent scientific infrastructure of UNM (i.e. collections) may be unparalleled among active faculty.

22 May 2018

MSB Bird Division makes big showing at big ornithology conference


Five students, staff, and faculty attended and presented research at the 2nd meeting of the American Ornithological Society (AOS). AOS is a new society formed by the American Ornithologists Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society. Attendees included undergraduate Xena Mapel, graduate students Serina Brady, Chauncey Gadek, Jenna McCullough, and Jessie Williamson, postbac fellow Selina Bauernfeind, postdoc Lisa Barrow, senior collections manager Andrew Johnson, curator Christopher Witt, and assoc. curator Blair Wolf. The meeting was in Tucson, AZ, and the conference hotel grounds hosted a nearly full suite of Sonoran desert birds and plants. There were 11 presentations in total from our group spanning both posters and 15-minute talks. Witt was elected to Councilor of AOS at the meeting. It was an inspiring and successful conference!

15 July 2017

Museum Joins Pueblo of Isleta Environmental Fair

Sandra Brantley and Megan Osborne Isleta Environmental Fair


The Museum of Southwestern Biology joined more than 50 state and federal agencies and NGOs at the annual Pueblo of Isleta Environmental Fair on Saturday, July 15. Graduate students Kaylen Jones and Lindsey Frederick from the Division of Mammals and the Museums Studies Program, Dr. Megan Osborne from the Division of Fishes, and Dr. Sandra Brantley from Division of Arthropods demonstrated how natural history collections are essential to effective conservation actions and management planning.. Displays by members of the Isleta Pueblo also highlighted their new social and environmental programs.

04 May 2017

Museum Grant brings Colorful Botanical Images to You

Lillium Philadelphicum

Lillium philadelphicum, Brother A. Benedict, July 8, 1927

Amanda Boutz mounting an onion


The UNM Herbarium will become increasingly noticeable as a place of motion, light, color, and diversity in the near future. UNM was awarded a $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to image and georeference plants of the greater Southern Rocky Mountains.  This collaborative multi-institutional (37 partners) grant is funded by NSF’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) and we aim to mobilize data from ~ 2.0 million herbarium specimens to help efforts to understand global environmental change. Imaged, georeferenced specimens and data will be available on the SEINet ( and iDigBio portals. Students will participate in this opportunity to expand accessibility and utility of our amazing collection of plants (135,000 specimens representing 10,300 species).

15 March 2017

High School Students learnabout Native Fish

A Barkalow and DFC

Adam Barkalow, M.Sc. graduate student (with Dr. Tom Turner), lectures high school students from Bosque School and La Academia de Esperanza class on Rio Grande fishes and research. During the 48th annual Desert Fishes Council (DFC) meeting held in Albuquerque, New Mexico (November, 2016) DFC students and young professionals led an outreach event to educate high school students about aquatic ecosystems and their importance. The event was a collaborative effort from DFC members, UNM’s Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP), New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, and Bosque School. High School students rotated through education stations manned by DFC volunteers and seined for fish in the Rio Grande. Students gained insight into aquatic invertebrates, sexual dimorphism, larval fish development, and museum specimens through hands on experiences on the banks of the Rio Grande. Larval fish collections, curated and archived at the Museum of Southwestern Biology Division of Fishes, gave students the opportunity to learn about native fishes life histories and development through examination of key characteristics under magnification.

16 November 2016

Students working with US Geological Survey

This Fall semester the Division of Arthropods is fortunate to have 3 undergraduates working with us, with funding from the US Geological Survey, to help clear out a backlog of samples from Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The samples are for ecological monitoring of ground-dwelling arthropods to study the effects of climate change (Bandelier), or the effects of the 2011 Las Conchas fire (Valles Caldera). The students are separating specimens into basic arthropod groups so the taxonomists can make species identifications and prepare specimens for the museum collection.

The students are working with Mark Ward, the entomologist overseeing the Valles Caldera monitoring; Rachael Alfaro, the GA for our division; and Sandy Brantley, the collection manager for alcohol specimens. Wes said that working with us is like having another class, because we’re there to answer questions about arthropod diversity and evolution.

Lozen Benson
Lozen Benson is a junior, changing her academic direction from biology to philosophy, languages and art. She’s considering applying to the Honors College because of her wide range of interests. She’s from Silver City, NM and enjoys the state’s many natural environments.
Joaquin Garcia
Joaquin Garcia is a senior, graduating in December 2016 in biology, with a particular interest in conservation. He attended the SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) meeting in Long Beach, CA, earlier this year. Joaquin is applying to graduate schools in Washington, preferably for research in vertebrate conservation.
Wesley Noe
Wesley Noe is a senior, graduating in biology with a chemistry minor in May 2017.  He is taking Chris Witt’s high altitude biology class this semester and will take Howard Snell’s conservation or wilderness biology class next semester. Wes’s interests are in ecology and sustainability of habitats.


21 October 2016

Announcing the Publication of Diving Beetles of the World

The Museum of Southwestern Biology is proud to announce the publication of Diving Beetles of the World by Dr. Kelly Miller, our very own Curator of Arthropods, and co-author Johannes Bergsten of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Diving beetles, Family Dyticidae, are diverse (>4,300 species in 188 genera) aquatic beetles found world-wide  that are important predators in freshwater aquatic ecosystems. Essential to ecologists, limnologists, naturalists, and insect taxonomists, Diving Beetles of the World, will help to identify and classify water beetles through richly illustrated keys, high-resolution images, details on life history and biogeography, and maps. Get your copy of the First Edition while they’re still available!

Kelly and Johannes with Book: Diving Beetles of the world
Dr. Miller and Dr. Bergsten at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology.

5 August 2016

Transitions are Common at MSB

The Museum of Southwestern Biology employs many students across our divisions and these student gain valuable hands-on experience in fieldwork, specimen preparation, data literacy and database development, and integration across sample-based research disciplines. This Fall (2016), two of our former student employees are entering the Water Resources Master’s Program at UNM.

Drew Vanetsky

Drew Vanetsky took classes (Tropical Biology) and a directed study in island biology course with MSB faculty, worked in the Mammal Division, and then went on a two year walk about in Africa working with a variety of environmental programs. After returning to Albuquerque, he applied to graduate school.

"My favorite part of working at the MSB was processing the mammal specimens, especially the larger ones such as wolves. It was extremely interesting to dissect these specimens, collect tissue and parasite samples, and prepare the skeletons and pelts for storage in the collection. The dissections were excellent practice for my later experience assisting a wildlife veterinarian with necropsies in Southern Africa."

Matt Segura

Matt Segura has worked with the Bird and Genomic resources Divisions for the past three years and has been key to processing thousands of bird tissue samples that have come from fieldwork in Andes and in New Mexico.

“Working at MSB opened my eyes to multidisciplinary collaboration. I liked the openness of the museum and the closeness that all the different scientists share. This job showed me what a research job can entail and it allowed me to become a part of that world. I was able to participate in many forms of research, which helped me to ultimately find what my passions are.”

11 April 2016

Meet the New Assistant Curator of the Texas A&M Insect Collection

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
Melissodes by John Ascher 
photo by John Ascher

Congratulations! Karen Wright, a PhD Candidate in the MSB's Division of Arthropods, has been hired as the new Assistant Curator for the Texas A&M University Insect Collection (TAMUIC) in the Department of Entomology. TAMUIC is one of the top insect collections worldwide with nearly 2.8 million specimens covering over 45,000 species! At the MSB, Karen was curatorial graduate assistant for both the Division of Arthropods and the Herbarium. Karen’s dissertation explored the evolution of diet breadth in the bee genus Melissodes and has developed a long-term dataset of bee diversity at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. Karen will arrive at TAMUIC with a broad knowledge of bee and plant taxonomy, where she will not only supervise undergraduate assistants, but also interface with Texas State Agricultural Extension Office, Department of Entomology faculty and graduate students, the public, and other natural history collections at Texas A&M University. Karen has been a tremendous asset to the MSB and will be greatly missed. We wish her great future success and know that TAMUIC is gaining an invaluable resource and dedicated scientist


Texas A&M University Insect Collection
pollinator video

30 November 2015

Remounting Historical Collections at the UNM Herbarium: 
The Brother Arsène Collection

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

The Bee Plant, Peritoma serrulata, attracts pollinators including a Sphynx moth (Hyles lineata) and two bee species (a sweat bee, Agopostemon sp. and a mining bee, Colletes sp.). The Museum of Southwestern Biology captures these important interactions by preserving examples of these species for research, education, and as a historical record of the natural history of the Southwest.

One older specimen, pictured here, was collected by two French monks, Brother Benedict (Marcellin Marien Lacas) and Brother Arsène (Arsène Gustave Joseph Brouard) who lived in Santa Fe in the 1920s and 30s. Their historically important collection of nearly 2000 plants was donated to the Museum of Southwestern Biology by the College of Santa Fe and is now being restored.

original herbarium sheet

This Bee Plant specimen was collected 89 years ago and recently remounted on acid-free paper to ensure that the entire collection will allow future generations to enjoy and study these early records. The collection preserves not only the plant and its label, but also the sense of wonder of two men who independently made journeys from France to the New World and the American frontier via Cuba and Mexico. Just as a work of art can capture a time and place and sense of connection to a landscape, this Rocky Mountain Bee Plant captures the devotion and curiosity within two naturalists’ lives by preserving their aesthetic and attention to the world that they lived in. Many plants mounted on acidic paper suffer some degradation associated with the passage of time using non-archival materials. Now stored on new paper in cool dry conditions, these specimens should be around for research and re-discovery for generations.

All sheets were imaged in their original condition and the original label has been preserved in an acid-free fragment pack. Curating old specimens is time consuming but rewarding. Old or new, our specimens are available to interested visitors to the Museum of Southwestern Biology, and through their images, now to our global web community.

read more

an Albuqueruque Journal article about the aquisition

an article published online about this historical collection

a list of Brother Arséne Brouard's writings

17 February 2015

Holistic Approaches to Conservation of Desert Wetland Ecosystems

El Pandeño Spring

Dr. Evan Carson of the MSB Division of Fishes is one of the authors of a recently published book that highlights collaborative efforts at El Pandeño Spring in Julimes, Chihuahua. This holistic project, which encompassed the spring and its surroundings, is the flagship of a larger model for conservation of desert wetlands in arid lands of México.

El Pandeño Spring is highly modified from its natural state, yet it maintains a remarkable suite of native species and even species only found at this site, including the Julimes pupfish. Researchers focused their efforts on this pupfish, but were also interested in a rare isopod, mud snails, and a mosquitofish never described by science. Scientists worked with local landowners and farmers to restore a former marsh, but they also worked to ensure sustainable development of water resources, which are essential for crop irrigation in the community. The authors are happy to report that this cooperative, holistic approach to restoration resulted in a rebound of the pupfish population.

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20 January 2015

Too wet for frogs: La Niña disrupts tropical frog leaf litter communities

Extreme climate events such as an El Niño or La Niña weather patterns can wreak havoc on global economies, health systems, and plant and animal communities. In tropical Costa Rica, where rainfall is usually abundant, researchers from the University of New Mexico and the University of Costa Rica (UCR) set out to study the effects of a record-breaking La Niña event on frogs in their natural habitat.

Mason Ryan in Costa Rica

Led by Ph.D. candidate Mason Ryan, the group surveyed frogs over a five-year period that included the 2010-2012 La Niña event. The research, titled “Too wet for frogs: changes in a tropical leaf litter community coincide with La Niña,” was published today [13 January 2015] inEcosphere, a journal of the Ecological Society of America.

The role of extreme rainfall associated with a La Niña event is not well-known for amphibians in tropical areas, but one wouldn’t expect abundant rainfall to harm populations of moisture-loving organisms like amphibians. Leaf litter frogs live in a humid and moist environment comprised of dead leaves and other forest debris that falls to the ground. The onset of the 2010-12 La Niña provided a natural experiment with which to address the effects of excess rainfall on this community. Ryan and colleagues documented extreme changes in leaf-litter frog populations that coincided with the La Nina event.

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