Ichthyology

Ichthyology Services and Policies

As the Washington State Museum of Natural History, the Burke Museum offers the following public services through its Ichthyology Collection. If you don’t find a service or policy you’re looking for, contact the ichthyology collections manager on the People and Contact page.

Specimen Loans

Our loan policy makes any and all parts of the collection available to qualified investigators and their students in the U.S. and abroad. We lend, donate and exchange material freely. Each request, however, is reviewed to determine if the potential borrower is likely to take proper care of the material and if the material itself is in a condition to withstand shipment. We do not loan more than half of our holdings of a species at one time, so researchers may have to arrange sequential loans.

Loans are invoiced with catalog numbers, species names, locality data and period of the loan (one year with the option to then extend the loan period). The costs of processing and shipping specimens on loan are covered by the Ichthyology Collection, with the expectation that loans will be returned at the borrower's expense.

Individuals interested in obtaining specimens on loan should first search our databases to identify potentially interesting lots, and should then contact the Collections Manager for additional information and/or to request a loan or complete the Specimen Loan Request Form. For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

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Visiting the Collections

Researchers are welcome to visit the collection. We have bench space and dissecting microscopes available for use.

Arranging a Visit. For questions or to schedule a visit, please contact the collections manager or complete the Ichthyology Visit/Tour Request Form. Note that the Ichthyology Collection is not physically located at the Burke Museum but is a short distance south of the museum. For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

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Collections Tours

The Ichthyology Collection offers a variety of tours to the public and university community. We can tailor the length and content of a tour to accommodate most interests and age groups. Arrangements should be made at least two weeks in advance.

We also offer class tours for students in grades 3–12 through our School Outreach Program. These tours are also flexible in design, but usually include a close-up view of many interesting types of fishes from all over the world.

Arranging a Tour. For questions or to schedule a visit, please contact the collections manager or complete the Ichthyology Visit/Tour Request Form. Note that the Ichthyology Collection is not physically located at the Burke Museum but is a short distance south of the museum. For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

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School Outreach Program

As part of our School Outreach Program, the Ichthyology Collection hosts tours of the facility year-round to students in grades 3-12. The tour normally takes about one hour and consists of two parts. The first part involves a tour of our facilities where we prepare, catalog, archive and conduct research on our museum holdings that total over 11 million individual specimens, and roughly 4,100 species. You will see how a natural history collection of this magnitude is arranged and managed, in addition to learning about its importance and its uses.

The second part of the tour involves a detailed look at some of the more interesting examples of fish diversity. Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates (the large group of animals to which we as humans belong), with roughly 32,800 living species formally recognized by science. Over the course of 500 million years of history, fishes have evolved a remarkable array of body shapes and behaviors, and have radiated into nearly all aquatic habitats. Using our collection of preserved specimens, we will show you many interesting and unusual fishes from around the world and discuss the evolutionary adaptive significance of their morphology.

The maximum group size that we can accommodate is 25 students. This size limit does not include teachers and parents. Reservations are required and should be made one to two months in advance.

Arranging a School Visit. For questions or to schedule a visit, please contact the collections manager or complete the Ichthyology Visit/Tour Request Form. Note that the Ichthyology Collection is not physically located at the Burke Museum but is a short distance south of the museum. For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

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Specimen Identification

Members of the public, as well as researchers not trained in the taxonomy of fishes, often encounter interesting fish specimens that they are not able to identify. Such specimens may be collected on fishing trips, found dead on the beach, or taken by other means. Some recent examples include a putative Piranha (it wasn't!) collected in a local lake, a Pacific Barracuda (Sphyraena argentea) caught on hook and line in the Duwamish River near downtown Seattle, an Opah (Lampris guttatus) found dead on the beach, and a large (3-m) Sixgill Shark (Hexanchus griseus) found floating in Puget Sound and towed home by a kayaker!

Identification options. If you encounter an interesting or unusual fish that you wish to have identified, you may bring it to the Ichthyology Collection. You may also submit a photo of a specimen for identification using the Fish Identification and Question Form.

If you would like to bring a specimen to the Ichthyology Collection, please contact the collections manager first. If possible, you should freeze or preserve the specimen (see "Methods of Preserving Fishes") to keep it from rotting until you are able to bring it to the collection. For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

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Specimen Donation

Our acquisition policy centers on the cold-water, marine ichthyofauna (juveniles and adults, as well as early life history stages) of the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean. With this as our primary mandate, we are unique among ichthyological collections in the U.S. We also provide a repository for freshwater fishes of the Pacific Northwest.

Under no circumstances will the Burke Museum or the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences accept specimens that were illegally collected or acquired by the donor.

Individuals who wish to donate specimens, but are unfamiliar with standard practices, should consult Methods of Preserving Fishes and contact the collections manager from the People and Contact page.

Resource: Methods of Preserving Fishes

Specimen Exchanges and Gifts

We encourage exchanges of specimens with other institutions and often make gifts of well-represented species to local schools and other organizations. For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

UW Courses and Research

The Burke’s Ichthyology Collection is the primary basis for graduate and undergraduate education in ichthyology and fisheries biology at the UW and, for that matter, in the whole of the Pacific Northwest. Enrolled in formal courses, such as "Marine Biology," "Biology of Fishes," and "Ecology of Fishes," thousands of students have used the resources of the Fish Collection in the past 35 years as part of their degree programs. Informal mentoring of undergraduates is provided as well. At any one time, there are as many as four undergraduates in the Collection, either working or conducting research under the supervision of the Curator, the collections manager, or a graduate student in ichthyology.

At the graduate level, the Ichthyology Collection provides the basis for masters’ and doctoral research of all kinds, from dietary studies of a single species of freshwater sculpin confined, to a single watershed in Washington State, to worldwide phylogenetic studies on deep-sea beryciform fishes. In the past 35 years, the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences has granted 37 graduate degrees for collection-based research in ichthyology (26 master's degrees and 11 doctoral degrees). For more information, please contact the collections manager on the People and Contact page.

Resource: School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Volunteer Opportunities

For information about current volunteer opportunities in the Ichthyology Collection, visit the volunteering at the Burke page.

 

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