The secret and amazing life of dead animals talk

KUCHING: Friends of Sarawak Museum will present another talk in its Afternoon @ Museum series this Saturday, May 17.


The talk entitled ‘The Secret and Amazing Life of Dead Animals’ will discuss the importance of natural history collections and will be presented by Dr Peter Wimberger from USA from 2 to 3pm at Niah Room, Dewan Tun Abdul Razak Building (Sarawak Museum).


Natural history collections are treasures; they are libraries of invaluable records of life, but most of us have little idea of the vast amount of information that resides in every specimen. Most of us view natural history museums as places where we can look at dead animals and, maybe, even learn something about them. Originally, natural history collections were just that – collections that were placed on display in “cabinets of curiosities.”


As people explored the world and brought back strange animals and plants from exotic locales, these cabinets grew into rooms and buildings. Much early biology was done in natural history museums. Species were described. Patterns were observed. The monumental biological breakthroughs of the 18th and 19th century, such as extinctions, biogeography and evolution by natural selection, were the result of careful field observations abetted by careful studies in museums.


You might ask, are museum collections as a place for new discoveries over now that we know so much about the natural world? The answer to that question is an emphatic no – Dr. Wimberger will describe the new uses to which museum specimens are being put and the discoveries that are being made.


It turns out that every specimen is a library of invisible information – DNA, stable isotopes (atom variants that can tell us about diet and migration), pollutants and pathogens. We are using the historical record provided by museum specimens to look into the past to better understand disease outbreaks, climate change and the course of evolution. Natural history collections are invaluable repositories of information about our world – some of the future uses of specimens are unimaginable to us, just as current uses were unimaginable to collectors of the last centuries.


The speaker, Dr Peter Wimberger is an evolutionary and conservation biologist, and he is the Director of the Slater Museum of Natural History and Albertson Professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, USA.


Wimberger attended the University of Washington and Cornell University where he received his Ph.D. in Evolution and Ecology. He has published papers on birds, plants, mollusks and worms. He currently is working on research projects ranging from the evolutionary genetics in glacier-dwelling worms to rapid, human-induced evolution in hummingbirds. He has developed a number of curricula incorporating museum specimens designed to improve young students’ observation and inference-making skills.


Registration is not required and the admission is free and the talk which will be held in English is open to public.


The Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) was registered in September 2013 with a mission to promote the appreciation of Sarawak’s heritage through its museums. FoSM’s activities are divided into three main areas, promoting the role of museums in Sarawak, providing a way for interested people to get involved in museums and providing quality interpretation of museums.


For more information, do contact Louise at 012-8550588 or email to [email protected]

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