Shippensburg University Vertebrate Museum
Dr. Pablo Delis
Dr. Gordon L Kirkland, Jr. (Delis, 2004), professor of biology, founded the Shippensburg University Vertebrate Museum (SUVM) in 1972. He became both curator and director until his untimely death in 1999. At its peak, the Museum had a mammal collection that ranked among one of the 35 largest in the Western Hemisphere (Hafner, et al., 1997) and one of the most significant recent collections of small mammals in the state of Pennsylvania. Although the museum’s main focus was the mammal collection, a modest herpetological and ornithological collection was also maintained. At a maximum, the SUVM housed over 28,000 mammal specimens. The SUVM also housed over 1000 bird specimens along with a fluid herpetology collection of over 2,000 specimens. The SUVM’s original purpose was to support faculty, graduate and undergraduate student research on the taxonomy, biogeography, and ecology of Pennsylvania species.
During the years 1999 to 2004 the SUVM has undergone a vast transformation. The passing of its director, the transition to a new role and new management has transformed the original, internationally known, institution to a more modest entity. The majority of the mammalian and herpetological, specimens have been transferred to the State Museum of Pennsylvania, at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, under the direction of Dr Walter Meshaka, while the fish collection has been temporarily loaned to the Marine Science Consortium at Wallops Island, Virginia.
Since the finish of the main phase of the renovation the Franklin Science Center, the remainder of the SUVM collection, approximately 500 specimens of mammals and the entire collection of bird specimens, have been stored in FSC 217, containing 25 m2 of floor space. In 2002, the newly hired Vertebrate Zoologist, Dr. Pablo Delis, was appointed Director of the SUVM. Doctor Delis has initiated the modern cataloguing and updating of the data base supporting the remaining collection.
Goals for the Shippensburg University Vertebrate Museum
Since its creation, the Shippensburg University Vertebrate Museum served two overriding goals: education and research.
Current Educational Opportunities
A portion of the original collection is being used for taching. This teaching collection supports the practical portions of classes such as Principles of Biology, Field Biology, Field Zoology, Vertebrate Zoology, Ornithology, and Mammalogy. The SUVM serves also as a basic example providing students with hands on exposure to the profession of natural history museum curator. This portion of the collection is supplemented and completed by the addition of specimens collected by the faculty at SU, students, and private or public donations.
The remaining segment of the collection, currently housed at the SUVM, still contains a good representation of Pennsylvania small mammals, mostly rodents and insectivores, with complete specimen records. Building on Dr. Kirkland’s great legacy (Kirkland 1975, Kirkland and Van Deusen 1979, Kirkland and Fleming 1990, Kirkland and Krim 1990, Kirkland and Hart 1999, Kirkland et al. 1985), the new faculty in the Biology Department, including Drs. Pablo Delis and Richard Stewart, are actively engaged in mammalian research in Pennsylvania. With the original core of specimens and the addition of newly collected items, the SUVM will remain a valuable reservoir for scholarly research on systematics, morphology, biogeography, ecology, and conservation of wildlife in the American Northeast.
Delis, R. Pablo. 2004. Pennsylvania Scientists. Shippensburg University. Gordon Kirkland Jr. (1943-1999). Pennsylvania Academy of Science Newsletter, 62(3): 10.
Hafner, M.S., W.L. Gannon, J. Salazar-Bravo and S. T. Alvarez-Castañeda. 1997. Mammal collections in the western hemisphere. A survey and directory of existing collections. The American Society of Mammalogists. Allen Press, Publisher. Lawrence, Kansas. 93pp +ii.
Kirkland, G.L., Jr. 1975. Taxonomy and geographic distribution of Peromyscus maniculatus nubiterrae Rhoads (Mammalia: Rodentia). Annals of the Carnegie Museum 45:213-229.
Kirkland, G.L., Jr. and T.V. Fleming. 1990. Ecology of feral house mice (Mus musculus) on Wallops Island, Virginia. Virginia Journal of Science 41:330-339.
Kirkland, G.L., Jr. and J. A. Hart. 1999. Recent distributional records for ten species of small mammals in Pennsylvania. Northeastern Naturalist 6(1):1-18.
Kirkland, G.L., Jr. and P.M. Krim. 1990. Survey of the statuses of the mammals of Pennsylvania. Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 64:33-45.
Kirkland, G.L., Jr. and H.M. Van Deusen. 1979. Shrews of the Sorex dispar group: Sorex dispar Batchelder and Sorex gaspensis Anthony and Goodwin. American Museum Novitates 2675:1-21.
Kirkland, G.L., Jr., T.R. Johnston, Jr., and P.F. Steblein. 1985. Small mammal exploitation of a forest-clearcut interface. Acta Theriologica 30:211-218.