Natural history collections are an integral part of teaching and research in many disciplines but are often underdeveloped or neglected due to a variety of reasons (e.g., funding, interest). Proper data collection, tagging, and maintenance of these collections as well as continued development by new specimen production are vital to keep these tools in usable condition. This work focuses on the expansion of the avian natural history collection at the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus and our goal of growing this collection by creating new study skins and skeletal specimens. All specimens were collected and donated by Birds Georgia Project Safe Flight or university students passively (e.g., window or car collisions) and preserved through either freeze-drying of the whole, intact body or through processing the carcass through a live dermestid beetle colony. Freeze-drying of intact specimens is a three-step process consisting of taking morphological measurements, posing the specimen, and cycling the specimen through the dryer. Skeletal reclamation using dermestid beetles is a separate process in which the specimen is introduced to the colony where the beetles consume all soft tissue, remaining bones are then briefly soaked in dilute ammonia to remove residual soft tissue, and then allowed to dry before incorporation into the collection. The combination of these two methods allows for all donated birds, in any condition, to be incorporated into teaching and research collections and prove to be less challenging to learn and less labor-intensive than traditional methods of specimen production (i.e., study skin creation). Using these methods, we have developed a teaching and research collection of over 200 full-body study skins and skeletal specimens over four years on our campus, and the collection will continue to grow as new specimens are processed.

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