The Museum of Natural History Collections (MNHC) has a single curator and depends heavily on interns and volunteers to accomplish its numerous projects and goals. In addition, UCSC funding for the museum is extremely limited, supporting only minimal maintenance of the existing collection, and not the additional research and expansion which the MNHC is interested in pursuing. The MNHC welcomes volunteer efforts and donations to the museum either for its general activities or toward specific projects.
Internships & Volunteer Opportunities
The MNHC has a dedicated and lively group of volunteers and student interns who engage with each other and the MNHC curator, sharing their knowledge and passion for natural history and museum techniques. Student interns and community volunteers have the freedom to engage in projects of interest to themselves, developing their knowledge of specific organisms or museum management skills. Undergraduate interns may either choose a 2-unit or 5-unit internship sponsored through the Environmental Studies internship office. For more information, contact MNHC curator Chris Lay by phone at 459-4763 or via email at email@example.com.
- Study Skin Preparation and Taxidermy: Between the existing backlog and new donations, the museum always has freezers full of birds and mammals needing to be prepared as study skins. Recently, an intern also used taxidermy techniques to prepare a fully mounted bobcat for display in the Science and Engineering Library.
- Herbarium Specimen Processing: The museum has approximately 3,000 collected plant specimens waiting to be processed and currently processes and catalogs a few hundred plant specimens per quarter. This involves museum volunteers entering plant specimen data into a computer database, mounting new herbarium specimens, and accessioning them to become part of MNHC's herbarium collection of Santa Cruz county plants. In addition, volunteers from the local Santa Cruz chapter of the California Native Plant Society mount new specimens on the the first Tuesday of each month.
- Morgan Insect Collection and Field Observations: The Morgan Insect Collection includes about 80,000 specimens collected from distinct habitats in Santa Cruz County. Morgan recorded extensive data about each specimen, including the plant species on which it was found. Currently, the MNHC is in the process of completing the task of labeling the last few thousand insects. Most of the insects have been identified to family, and some, especially the bumble bees (Bombus spp.), have been identified to species. In addition, Morgan took extensive field notes about plants, animals, weather, and other factors at each of his study sites. Ultimately, it is the museum's goal to complete the insect identifications, enter the data for each specimen and study site into a database, and revisit some study sites for additional data collection, analysis, and comparison. Possible intern and volunteer activities include collection curation, labeling, data entry, data analysis, and continued collecting at some of Morgan's collection sites.
- Webmaster: The museum maintains a website regarding its own activities and another regarding the Natural History of the UCSC campus. The museum is seeking an intern or volunteer with the appropriate skills to help expand, improve, and update these websites.
- Publications: To further natural history knowledge and increase revenue to the MNHC, the museum produces publications relevant to the natural history of the UCSC campus. This represents a unique opportunity for volunteers or interns with the necessary expertise and dedication to see their photographs, drawings, lists, and/or descriptions published. In 2008, MNHC published the revised and updated second edition of the The Natural History of the UC Santa Cruz Campus edited by Tonya Haff, Martha Brown, and Breck Tyler. Currently, the MNHC is working on creating an illustrated pocket field guide to the common mushrooms found on the UCSC campus
- Field Research: The MNHC also supports undergraduate research projects on campus and on UCSC reserve lands. On campus, the MNHC continues to support research associated with the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot managed by Environmental Studies professor Greg Gilbert. On UCSC reserve lands, the museum has helped support student projects such as collecting plant specimens, live-trapping small mammals, recording mammals through tracks and trip-cameras, and surveying various other taxa.