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Department of Zoology

The department's mission is to explore and document the living universe to better understand and protect it; and to inspire a sense of wonder and respect for wild places and wildlife.

Current human activities continue to pose threats to our planet's water, air, and biodiversity. Appropriate response to these threats requires a sound understanding of the complex interactions of plants, animals, and the physical environment. Therefore, the Department of Zoology maintains an active program of specimen acquisition and management, scientific research, university teaching, and public programming to promote a better understanding of the natural world that supports our existence. Although our collections and programs span the globe, our current activities focus primarily on ecosystems of the Great Plains and Southern Rocky Mountains of North America.

General Collections and Research Information

Check out volunteer opportunities with the Collections and Research Division.

What's New — Colorado's Lost Cat
The Lynx (Lynx lynx) is a cat of the north, whose range extends into the coniferous forests of Colorado. Lynx live in areas above 9,000 feet (2,700 M), where there aren't many people and where they can find snowshoe hares and other foods. These medium-sized cats are not dangerous to people.

The lynx is the subject of a major reintroduction program by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The agency is capturing cats from Alaska and Canada and releasing them in suitable forest, hoping that the cats will re-create a wild population where it used to occur.

As you might guess, reintroductions are controversial! Biology, politics, economics, ethics, and attitudes all play key roles. For instance:

Which animals do we want to spend money and effort on, given that we can't save everybody?
Should we work as hard to save snails and wildflowers as mammals and birds?
Is it right to move animals into strange places?
Do local residents support or oppose the reintroduction? Do they fear it?
Should decisions be based on biology, or should politics and personal opinions be the deciding factors?

You can learn about Colorado lynx and check on the progress of the reintroductions at
Here, you will find information on this mysterious cat, a Kid's Page, and a place to send your comments regarding the reintroduction program.

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A group of Denver citizens first met on December 13, 1887, to discuss buying the Edwin Carter collection of bird eggs, study skins, and bird and mammal taxidermy mounts for public display. Carter died before this dream became reality, with the establishment in 1900 of what is now known as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Thus, from inception, zoological collections formed the foundation for the Museum. John T. Mason, who served as the Museum's first director from 1900 to 1910, donated a large collection of pinned insects to the growing zoological trust. Many specimens from the Carter and Mason acquisitions remain in the research and education collections of the department. During the last century, a succession of distinguished scientists and scholars have built the collections and legacy of the department. Alexander Wetmore, who later became director of the Smithsonian Institution, was hired as bird taxidermist at the Museum in 1909. Alfred M. Bailey, one of the most widely known ornithologists of his day, was curator of birds and mammals at the Museum, and ultimately served as its director between 1936 and 1969. The zoological collections accumulated, cared for, and studied by the dozens of distinguished curators and hundreds of visiting scientists in the department's history represent a selected record of life on earth. The Museum's proud legacy of collections curation, scientific discovery, and public service continue with the dedicated efforts of today's staff in the Department of Zoology. In addition to collections-based research and programming, the Department currently supports several field-based projects that help serve our mission.

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  • Ornithology: approximately 42,000 bird skins and skeletons; 7,500 eggs and nests
  • Mammalogy: almost 10,000 skin and skeletal specimens
  • Arthropods: 60,000 pinned insects and 3,000 alcohol-preserved spiders
  • Conchology: 16,000 shells (primarily from the Pacific and Caribbean)

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Departmental Initiatives and Highlights

  • Collections Storage and Computerization Project - In 1993, the department reached a milestone when the last wooden specimen storage cabinets were replaced by museum standard metal ones. In 1995, the mammal specimen catalog was fully computerized, and in 1996, the bird specimen catalog was fully computerized. The department is in the initial stages of transferring the Museum's collections database into electronic format to make it accessible on the Web site.

  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Area Project - The department received funding from the U.S. Army between 1992 and 1996 to conduct a series of ecological studies at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a federal superfund site slated to become a national wildlife refuge. Seventeen technical presentations, six technical articles, one doctoral thesis, and two masters theses have thus far been produced from the studies. Also, a teacher's educational packet, a 60-minute documentary video, a 500-square-foot interpretive exhibit, and two children's books have been produced in association with the project.

  • Dinosaur Ridge Raptor Migration Station (DRRMS) - This is one of only two spring raptor migration stations in the southwestern U.S. Data from DRRMS form part of a worldwide network of information used to determine population trends of birds of prey. Departmental staff helped found this site on Dakota Ridge, a hogback near Morrison, Colorado. Each spring since 1990, the department has provided staff and volunteers to identify and record migrating raptors at DRRMS and submit data to the Hawk Migration Association of North America. Thanks to funding from the W.M.B Berger Foundation, Zoology and Education staff together with interpretive naturalists from Colorado Bird Observatory and Jefferson County Open Space, have provided educational tours to more than two thousand metro-area school students and other public visitors per year at the site. An average of about 3,700 raptors of 17 species are recorded each year.

  • Regional Faunal Inventory Project - In recent years, we have conducted faunal surveys in understudied or rapidly changing regions of Colorado. A study of mammals in a remote State Wildlife Area in southeastern Colorado yielded several county distribution records and one state distribution record. Since 1993 five masters theses dealing with human impact on regional fauna and directed by department staff have been completed. Eight technical presentations and two technical articles have been produced thus far from these projects. Staff are beginning an exciting series of studies designed to document human influence on fauna in urban recreation sites along the South Platte River corridor through the Denver metro area.

  • Comanche Grassland Ecosystem Project (CGEP) - Since 1995, staff and volunteers have studied the distribution, abundance, and population dynamics of hawks in Comanche National Grassland in relation to landscape use by humans. In 1997, mammalian surveys were included in this study to gain a better understanding of raptor-prey relationships, as well as mammalian distribution and abundance. The U. S. Forest Service has assisted in past funding. In 1998, funding by the Berger Foundation has allowed the educational component of this project to flourish. Annual fluctuations of mammalian prey in relation to landscape composition have also been a focus of this project for the past two years.

  • Colorado Spider Survey - A three-year survey of the biodiversity of spiders in Colorado began in May 1999. For more information about this study, access the CSS research area.

  • Donald E. Phillipson Butterfly Collection - In late 1995, Donald Phillipson, an attorney from Golden, Colorado, donated his collection of more than 3,300 pinned and labeled butterflies to the Museum. With this acquisition of great scientific value, the department's holdings of Colorado butterflies nearly doubled, and biodiversity researchers the world over have access to a new cache of information.

  • Dr. Bea Vogel Spider Donation - In 1998, Dr. Bea Vogel of Montana donated 1,047 vials of spiders collected in Colorado, Texas, and Montana. This donation will serve as the core of the DMNS spider collection.

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  • Rob Roy Ramey, Department Head
    [email protected]

  • Cheri A. Jones, Curator of Mammalogy
    [email protected]
    Ph.D., 1990, Zoology, University of Florida

  • Paula E. Cushing, Curator of Entomology and Arachnology
    [email protected]
    Ph.D., 1995, Zoology, University of Florida

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Staff and Associates

  • Staff
    • William G. Alther, Collections Manager
      [email protected]
      B.S., 1981, Wildlife Biology, Texas A&M University

    • Tracy M. Hehenberger, Office Manager
      [email protected]
      B.S., 1996, Zoology/Biological Aspects of Conservation/Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    • Lance M. Carpenter, Curatorial Assistant
      [email protected]
      B.S., 1990, Environmental Biology, Fort Lewis College

    • Kirstie M. Bay, Bouslog Graduate Assistant in Ornithology
      [email protected]
      B.S., 1997, Wildlife & Fisheries Biology and Management, University of Wyoming

  • Research Associates
    W. H. Baltosser, Ph.D.
    Ronald D. Beane
    John H. Brandt, Ph.D.
    Jack Brookhart
    Robert B. Finley, Jr., Ph.D.
    Carron Meaney, Ph.D.
    Diana F. Tomback, Ph.D.

  • Departmental Associates
    Irv Cone
    Hugh E. Kingery
    Kirk Navo
    Colleen Ramos

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Copyright © 1998, DMNS. All rights reserved.