Biology Collections

The Biology Department at Gustavus Adolphus College curates diverse collections of organisms including plants (herbarium), vertebrate animals and invertebrate animals.

Collections are assemblages of species of a particular type of organism (e.g. fireflies, fish, ferns, etc.). They are dynamic and grow as newly-collected and donated specimens are acquired. Collections serve critical roles in fields such as taxonomy, ecology, botany, zoology, conservation biology and evolutionary biology. Several uses include:

  • documenting morphological variation within and among populations,
  • describing population range sizes,
  • demonstrating a species’ presence in a particular environment, and
  • assisting in species identification.

The Biology Department collections have been integral to both student learning and scholarship for decades. Currently, the collections are used in some of the following ways:

  • Students in Fish & Fisheries (BIO 100) use the fish collection to explore relationships between fish size and age ultimately estimating the age structure of a fish population.
  • In Ecology, Evolution & Behavior (BIO 202), students use herbarium specimens to learn about sun and shade type leaves.
  • Before conducting independent research projects, students in Vertebrate Zoology (BIO 242) use the collections to identify and learn about local fish, amphibians, birds and mammals.
  • Students in Conservation Biology (BIO 245) use the herbarium to identify plants.
  • Students in Horticulture and Ecology (BIO 370) use the herbarium to identify specific species of plants.
  • The insect collection continues to grow as Entomology (BIO 376) students donate specimens from their collections. Students also use the collection to learn about insect form & function.
  • Students in Plant Systematics (BIO 377) use the herbarium to identify species, compare morphological traits and learn herbarium curation techniques.
  • In Plant Physiology (BIO 378), herbarium specimens are used to show variation within a species.
  • Students in Aquatic Biology (BIO 385) use the fish collection to identify local fish and understand natural morphological variation in local populations.

On-line presentation of our collections will extend the value of these resources to lay and scientific communities.