Past Staff


Libby Beckman

Elizabeth Beckman, Ph.D.

Libby was UMZM curator from 2016-2018, overseeing the first phase of the museum's major renovation in the late 2010s. In addition to directing all the day-to-day museum functions, Libby also coordinated the installation of the research collections in the new archival space, and uploaded our specimen catalog to an online database system accessible worldwide.

Paul Hendricks headshot

Paul Hendricks, Ph.D.

Paul served as interim curator of the UMZM between 2013-2016, after working as a zoologist with the Montana Natural Heritage Program for 18 years. He has wide-ranging experience and expertise particularly in birds, with projects drawing him to field work across North America. Paul has coauthored two useful guides to Montanan fauna: Amphibians and Reptiles of Montana and Birds of Montana.

dave dyer hlding antlers over head

David Dyer, M.S.

Dave was curator of the UMZM from 1993 through 2013, welcoming and training dozens (and dozens!) of students in specimen preparation, natural history curation, osteology, zooarchaeology, and exhibit preparation. His fingerprints are all over the UMZM, as he developed many of the specimen tracking and labeling standards that are still in use today. Dave made a career through decades of work in natural history museums, including the University of Nebraska State Museum, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, and the Natural History Department of the Ohio Historical Society.

Phil Wright at work

Philip L. Wright, Ph.D.

Phil began as curator of the UMZM when he was hired by the University of Montana in 1939. A beloved educator to thousands of students over his career, Phil taught mammalogy for 46 years and ornithology for 38 years. He headed the Wildlife Technology curriculum (now the renowned Wildlife Biology Program), served as Chair of the Zoology Department, and was active and well regarded in numerous regional and national scientific societies. Best known for his work on reproductive biology of mustelids, Phil was also an avid scientific collector—the vast majority of the current UMZM specimens were collected by him or under his direction, building a wealth of information on Montanan and global biodiversity that will continue to support research for generations to come. For his lifetime of work and dedication to the museum, it was named in his honor in 1997.

Graduate Curatorial Assistants

emily at mountian goat exhibit

Emily Graslie, M.S.

Emily volunteered and interned in the UMZM as an undergraduate B.F.A student, and went on to become a full-time volunteer and later Graduate Curatorial Assistant for the museum. Her focus in the collections included processing and filing new donations and loans, preparing specimens for the collection, giving tours, training volunteers and interns, and serving as the TA for Vertebrate Osteology. She also promoted the creative and productive work of the UMZM through various internet social media, notably co-creating the popular science education YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, which itself led to her position as the first ever Chief Curiosity Correspondent at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.

Riese headshot

Robert Niese, Ph.D.

Robert worked as a Graduate Associate at UMZM while completing his Ph.D. in the Flight Lab at Fort Missoula. He brought energy and expertise in all areas of natural history collection curation, research, and outreach.

Jonathan Hardes headshot

Jonathan Hardes, M.S.

Jon worked in the UMZM from 2003 to 2006 with focus on zooarchaeology and vertebrate osteology. His additional experience with museum collections includes work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Interior Museum Program, Glacier National Park, the University of Montana Department of Anthropology, and the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology.


Nathanael Herrera

Nat is a Ph.D. candidate in Organismal Biology, Ecology, & Evolution.  He is based in the Good Lab, focusing on chipmunk phylogenetics, speciation, and adaptation.  He works on a variety of special projects for the UMZM, including outreach, curation, and helping to orchestrate the recent museum renovations.

Graslie Curiosity Interns

Nicole Phillips headshot

Nicole Phillips, Spring 2020

Nicky (Wildlife '20) centered her internship around articulating a mule deer skeleton complete with leather straps functioning as tendons and ligaments, for hands-on learning about the anatomy and biomechanics of ungulate movement. Nicky is thankful for the opportunity the Graslie Curiosity Internship program offered her, and she is excited about the potential for her project to serve as a tool for education and outreach in the UMZM for years to come.

Justin Ruby headshot

Justin Ruby, Spring 2020

Justin (Wildlife '20) was a Graslie Curiosity Intern in his junior year. His interests include wildlife conservation research, human-animal conflict, and animal behavior. As educating the public is vital for wildlife conservation, the goal of his project was to digitize skulls into 3D models that can be printed and used for general outreach events and in educational modules he developed for on- and off-campus use. The 3D printed skulls allow kids to examine and fully manipulate a wide variety of skulls to see how they work, without fear of damaging the original specimens.


Sky Gennette, Spring 2021

Sky (Wildlife '21) worked on a project that will have a lot of use around the museum: a comprehensive guide to identifying Montana's mammal species for use in classes, specimen prep, and curatorial work. Of course there are numerous good resources out there for mammal ID, but Sky's idea was to pull the "best of" tips from all those places into a guide that presents both internal and external features, can easily be updated if there are taxonomic revisions, includes order- or family-level diagrams showing what major features look like on different taxa, and can be generalized for public outreach projects.


Charles Miller headshot

Charles Miller

Charles was a top volunteer bird preparator at the UMZM for many years, after retiring from a career in the medical field. He was also a teaching naturalist at the Montana Natural History Center, connecting thousands of young people with the wonders of the natural world.