Auburn’s Secret Menagerie

Auburn University’s Museum of Natural History to offer monthly tours of collections

By Candis Hacker Birchfield


Visitors will catch a glimpse of what makes Alabama one of the most biologically diverse states in the nation at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, where the collections highlight the rich natural heritage of Alabama, the Southeast, and beyond. Normally closed to the public, the museum has initiated a new program, First Wednesdays, providing an opportunity for the community to explore the approximately 2 million specimens found in the museum’s eight collections. On the first Wednesday of every month, tours are available by appointment-only from 4 to 6 p.m. Items from the museum’s collections will be on display, and staff will be on hand to answer questions.

A tour of the museum features a menagerie of specimens preserved in jars, including all manner of amphibians, reptiles, aquatic crea- tures, insects, spiders and fish. The museum is also home to the most complete collection of preserved Alabama plants and showcases stuffed birds and mammals from around the world. Additionally, a bone-cast replica of part of an Appalachiosaurus, a dinosaur that once inhabited Southeast Alabama, is on display as are skulls and fossils.

Some of the specimens in the museum were first described by Auburn University professors, such as a spider species that was recently discovered in Auburn by Jason Bond, director of the Museum of Natural History, and Charles Ray, a research fellow in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Myrmekiaphila tigris, also known as the “Auburn Tiger Trapdoor Spider.”

“We are incredibly proud of our museum collections,” says Bond, “and we hope every- one will take advantage of this great opportu- nity to see the collections firsthand, interact with museum staff, see more of what Auburn University has to offer and experience the rich biodiversity of Alabama and the world.”

Museum tours are particularly ideal for large groups of eager learners and can be styl- ized to complement specific topics such as “carnivores, omnivores and herbivores,” or “reptiles and amphibians.” A conference room and classroom are also available, providing a setting for activities such as live-animal pre- sentations. The museum welcomes school groups, and staff members are certified in educational programs like Project Learning Tree, Project Wild, Project Wet, Project Flying Wild and Growing up Wild, among others. Educational groups can also contact museum staff to schedule tours at other times during the week.

“Providing opportunities for the schools and the public-at-large to learn about the amazing research at the Museum of Natural History is very exciting,” says Kay Stone, Museum of Natural History Outreach program administrator. “Group tours are available by appointment and can be tailored to meet your curriculum and/or content needs.”

The state of Alabama alone boasts more than 4,500 identified species, most of which are included among the museum’s eight col- lections, including: fishes; mammals; arach- nids and myriapods; aquatic invertebrates; plants; amphibians and reptiles; birds; and insects. As a collections-based museum, the treasure trove of specimens is primarily used by Auburn University professors, students and researchers from around the world con- ducting biodiversity research.

The Museum of Natural History is housed in the Biodiversity Learning Center, a new 15,000-square-foot facility on the Auburn University campus. The Biodiversity Learning Center is located between M. White Smith Hall and Rouse Life Sciences Building and is accessible from Mell Street.

There is no fee to participate in First Wednesdays. To register for First Wednesdays, go to
For more information or to register a large

group, contact Kay Stone at 334-844-4132 or by email at [email protected]