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Newsletter #196, May 22, 2010

Things to do in the neighbourhood: UBC Beaty Museum of Biodiversity

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The United Nations declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, so it was only fitting that the new Beaty Museum of Biodiversity be officially opened on May 22, the International Day for Biological Diversity.

The actual museum is not yet finished, but their show-stopping Atrium display is up and running. The two story glass atrium has a complete skeleton of a blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived, hanging from the ceiling.

UBC currently has 6 major biological collections on campus, but they are spread out over several buildings and are not accessible to the public.

The Beaty Biodiversity Centre is a complex of three new buildings, one of which will house all the various collections in one place, similar to the Museum of Anthropology. The various collections are:
The herbarium

The UBC Herbarium houses the largest collection of plants in western Canada, with more than 600,000 specimens from around the world. Nearly half of those specimens are bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts), making the UBC bryophyte collection the largest in Canada, and one of the best in the world.

The Spencer Entomological Collection

The Spencer Entomological Collection (insects) is the largest in Western Canada, with over 600,000 specimens. Over half a million pinned specimens, 75,000 alcohol-preserved specimens and 25,000 specimens on slides showcase BC and the Yukon’s spectacular insect diversity.

The Marine Invertebrate Collection

Primarily used for teaching, this collection holds several thousand specimens collected from BC and around the world, including cephalopods, bivalves, corals and sponges. The Collection has recently been greatly enhanced by donations of seashell collections, which represent a substantial representation of marine diversity from throughout the world.

The Cowan Vertebrate Collection

The Cowan Vertebrate Collection contains over 40,000 specimens of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. The collections are primarily from western Canada, especially British Columbia and the Yukon.

The UBC Fish Museum

The UBC Fish Museum is home to the second largest fish collection in Canada, containing over 800,000 alcohol-stored whole fishes, cleared and stained specimens that reveal internal bony structure, skeletal preparations, and X-ray images. The Collection also includes extensive tissue and DNA archives.

The Fossil Collection

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum’s fossil collection contains over 20,000 specimens, ranging from recent shells to 500 million year old blue-green algal fossils, called stromatolites, which are the oldest evidence of life on earth. The Museum houses a modest collection from the famous Burgess Shale, in Eastern BC, alongside specimens from localities all over the globe.

And the big bonus with the new facility will be the ability to provide space for the more than 50 scientists from around the world who are working all over campus on problems in diversity.

Although the day was cool and cloudy, there was a good turnout with lots of kids in tow. There were about a dozen canopies around the grounds with hands-on displays, origami folding and drawing tables.
Kids of all ages were drawn to the live barnacles doing their thing. The building on the right behind the tent is the Beaty Biodiversity Centre, which will provide space for reasearchers and the actual Museum displays.
Two tables of microscopes allowed the kids to have a close-up look at insects. They were even given small nets to catch insects in the lawn and flower beds.
The 26 metre long skeleton is of a mature emale that died and was washed ashore at the north end of Prince Edward Island in 1097. In hopes of preserving the whale's skeleton for research or museum display, the PEI government and the Canadian Museum of Nature arranged for the skeleton to be dragged off the beach and buried.

The whale skeleton remained under the red PEI dirt for two decades. In 2007, the Museum of Nature and the PEI government granted UBC permission to retrieve the whale, and bring it to BC to be displayed in the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

There will be 4 more free Open Houses during the summer:

  • May 29, 10:00am - 4:00pm for Alumni Weekend.
  • June 19, 11:00am-3:00pm, Heritage - Where we come from
  • July 17, 11:00am-3:00pm, BC Biodiversity - Where we live
  • Aug 21, 11:00am-3:00pm, Watery Worlds - Aquatic biodiversity

Each preview features a different theme, with unique programs and activities, so come back often. By collecting krill pins from at least three of the five preview days, you can earn a special blue whale button in the fall. Food and drinks will be available for purchase on site in the cafe.

The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is centrally located on campus, just south of the UBC Bookstore. It's a short 10 minute walk from the bus loop and across the street from the Health Sciences Parkade on East Mall. It's worth the visit, especially with kids.

Visit the Biodiversity Museum web site.
Read about the skeleton recovery and cleaning.

Other Things to do in the Neighbourhood:

Newsletter #147
UBC Botanical Garden

Newsletter #148
UBC Farm in danger

Newsletter #149
Camosun Bog

Newsletter #150
Southlands Nursery

Newsletter #151
Museum of Anthropology Grounds

Newsletter #152
Kerrisdale Village

Newsletter #153
UBC Walking Tour

Newsletter #166
Thunderbird Olympic Arena

Newsletter #169
Museum of Anthropology reopens

Newsletter #173
UBC Nitobe Garden

Newsletter #174
Arthur Erickson House and Garden

Newsletter # 180
The Pacific Museum of the Earth

Newsletter #182
Southlands Country Fair

Newsletter #196
UBC Beaty Museum of Biodiversity

Newsletter #209
UBC Beaty Museum of Biodiversity, part 2

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Newsletter #197
It was a busy week in the collectables auction business

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