Specimens in Education

Specimens from the UMZM are used in numerous settings and programs for students of all ages!  By providing the ability to handle and study preserved zoological specimens up-close and in person, the UMZM collections enrich education and outreach in ecology, evolution, conservation, and natural history.

K-12 and Public Outreach

The UMZM offers both on-campus tours for visiting groups, and traveling off-campus educational specimen boxes to support pre-set learning and outreach modules.  If you're unsure what option is best for your group, contact us.

There are numerous free resources available to educators seeking to include more activities based on natural history specimens and concepts. Below are some of our favorite resources:

The Brain Scoop

This popular science communication series on YouTube was the brainchild the UMZM's own Emily Graslie during her undergraduate time at the University of Montana! Her brief and engaging videos are a great learning complement for various biological topics and behind-the-scene peeks into the wondrous back rooms of natural history museums. Emily has continued her work with the support of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and the Public Broadcasting System.


iDigBio offers an impressive array of lesson plants, tutorials, and other resources for K-12 and undergraduate educators. It is supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the Florida Museum of Natural History.


AIM-UP features educational modules appropriate for undergraduate and advanced high school students. It is supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of New Mexico, and the Museum of Southwestern Biology. 

AMNH Conservation Modules

The American Museum of Natural History hosts a collection of conservation-oriented modules through the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners. These modules explore conservation from a variety of perspectives and many are available in multiple languages.

Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science

The Understanding Evolution and Science websites cover a broader variety of topics, but take inspiration from natural history collections as a way of understanding the world. These sites are together supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Specimens in University Classes

Ornithology (BIO 304)

Ornithology covers the classification, structure, evolution, behavior and ecology of birds, and relies heavily on the UMZM's vast collection of bird study skins, skeletons, feathers, nests, and eggs.

Mammology (BIO 306)

Mammalogy covers the evolution, systematics, anatomy, physiology and ecology of mammals. It relies almost exclusively on the variety of study skins, pelts, skulls, and skeletons in the UMZM collections.

Principles of Living Systems (BIO 161)

This class focuses on the unifying principles of biological structure-function relationships at different levels of organization and complexity, including reproduction, genetics, development, evolution, ecosystems, and the inter-relationships of the human species to the rest of life. UMZM specimens are featured in special laboratory modules to support conceptual learning.

Biology and Management of Fishes (BIO 308)

Biology and Management of Fishes covers the diversity, adaptations and ecology of fishes, including analysis and management of fish populations and communities.  Specimens from the UMZM allow students to better identify fish species and understand their form and function.

Wildlife Techniques (WBIO 373)

The lab- and field-oriented Wildlife Techniques class covers commonly used wildlife research and management techniques. UMZM specimens help students to learn the taxonomy and identification of common regional wildlife.

Vertebrate Osteology (BIOB 495 or ANTH 492)

This Vertebrate Osteology course consists of an intensive introduction to identification techniques and interpretive methods used in the analysis of vertebrate osteological remains from archaeological sites, forensic cases, and natural deposits. This course relies heavily on the UMZM collections to help students learn the post cranial skeleton and identification of fragmentary remains.

Anthropological Museology (ANTH 483)

Offered through the UM Anthropology Department, this course is an introduction to anthropological museums, museum work, and museum theory. It features UMZM specimens in case studies and to illustrate special topics.