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The King of Dinosaurs

Vertebrate Zoology

Studying animals for clues about the health
of our environment
Vertebrate zoology is the study of animals with backbones. The Department of Vertebrate Zoology at Cleveland Museum of Natural History has four primary areas of study: ichthyology (fishes), herpetology (amphibians and reptiles), mammalogy (mammals) and astacology (crayfishes). It also maintains a colony of Dermestidae—so-called skin or carpet beetles—for laboratory use.
 
Department field study includes population surveys at designated natural areas, other specific sites and through entire stream drainage systems in northeastern Ohio. This supports various studies about amphibian distribution and amphibian declines in the region. Some of these studies, such as mudpuppy population dynamics, are long-term. Others are conducted in concert with herpetological ecologists around the globe, addressing issues of amphibian sustainability while subject to stressors of new diseases and continued anthropogenic habitat modifications.
 
Much of the field work takes place in wetlands or streams, and consequently the department is involved with Museum initiatives for wetland restoration and new wetland construction.
 
Collections include specimens and data from all of the department’s areas of study. These are updated through ongoing collection of specimens of vertebrate fauna in northeast Ohio and, in some cases, through photography to document the occurrence of species at a certain time and place.
   
The Vertebrate Zoology Department has opportunities for volunteers and students. More information about volunteering is available here. Undergraduate students interested in a paid summer internship are encouraged to investigate the Kirtlandia Research Internship Program.