CSBR: RAPID: NATURAL HISTORY: Securing the safety of critical Great Lakes alcohol preserved specimens

Grant Details


An award is made to Central Michigan University (CMU) to support the Museum of Cultural and Natural History (MCNH), which holds a research collection of fish, reptile, and amphibian specimens stored in alcohol, posing a significant and urgent safety risk for the campus. These collections are currently housed in a former classroom in a building not rated to hold flammable substances and lacks a fire suppression system and industry standard flammable storage cabinets. These specimens are of research significance conducted in and around the Great Lakes Ecoregion, particularly in support of understanding and mitigating environmental threats. This vital ecosystem, which contains ninety percent of the fresh water in the United States, has large and direct economic, health, and well-being impacts on the region, necessitating its protection. The research and teaching value of the collection has led MCNH to identify dedicated space on campus with fire suppression where they can place proper flammable safety cabinets that will mitigate fire or explosion risks while maintaining the highest professional museum standards. This award will allow MCNH to acquire equipment and hire personnel to pack, move, rehouse in cabinets, and re-inventory the collection during the course of one year. MCNH is a laboratory museum supporting Michigan's oldest practical museum training program. This project will also support CMU's Museum Studies Program students to gain real-life experience in resolving safety hazard issues and to understand safe handling practices for natural history collections stored in alcohol.

This award will allow The Museum of Cultural and Natural History (MCNH) at Central Michigan University (CMU) to save critical ethanol-preserved specimens by eliminating a flammability threat to campus while maintaining safety and security. These collections document the ichthyological and herpetological history of the Laurentian Great Lakes (both native and invasive species) and are used and developed by current researchers, including those working with CMU's Institute for Great Lakes Research (IGLR). Completion of this project will also enable MCNH to resume accepting fish, reptile, and amphibian specimen donations, which is currently impeded due to safety concerns. The project will further increase access to these collections for research by allowing MCNH to maintain an online presence through the iDigBio (idigbio.org) and Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) web portals, increasing access to MCNH collections. The MCNH will eventually house these collections in one contiguous space, however due to the currently prohibitive cost of such an endeavor, this project addresses an immediate concern by dispersing the collections in flammable storage cabinets to a series of control areas while still allowing security and physical control of the specimens within accepted museum standards. This project will prove invaluable experience for CMU's Museum Studies Program students, as well as making these specimens more accessible for future research, teaching, educational programming, and exhibits.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date09/1/1902/28/21


  • National Science Foundation: $128,904.00


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