LIFE SCIENCE DIVISION
The collections in the Life Sciences Division document and preserve records of the biodiversity of Idaho, the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Rapid changes in population, land use, and climate over the past 100 years have altered the distribution and abundance of organisms worldwide. Our collections document where and when different species of plants and animals lived in the region, and provide the framework to predict how those species’ distributions will change in the future.
Museum specimens also often preserve the organisms’ DNA and other chemical constituents allowing the study of the evolutionary relationships among populations and species, their diet and the climate they experienced when alive.
The Life Sciences Division includes collections of plants, fungi, and lichens, invertebrates and vertebrates. The Ray J. Davis Herbarium (IDS) is the most extensive collection in Life Sciences with over 70,000 cataloged plant specimens, 1650 lichen specimens and smaller numbers of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), and macrofungi (mushrooms). The small invertebrate collection includes several hundred specimens of Idaho insects. The vertebrate collections, consisting of approximately 6500 specimens, well represent the diversity of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish of Southern Idaho.
The work at the herbarium could not be completed without the contribution of numerous volunteers over the years. Students and members of the community have donated collections, mounted specimens, entered information into the database imaged specimens and filed collections.
Volunteering for its own sake may be enough reward for some people, but seeing numerous plant collections is a great way to learn plant names and how the plants are classified into families. Many of our volunteers have commented that their experience in the Herbarium was a deciding factor when they successfully applied for plant related jobs.