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Category Archives: Zoology

Anniversary for a Museum Outlaw

Just outside my office on the 4th floor of the Museum is a big, hairy outlaw that can stare anybody down. It’s the mounted head of one of the original ‘outlaw buffalo’ of the Pablo/Allard herd of Plains Bison (Bison bison bison), the most significant of the private herds purchased by the Canadian government that helped to bring these magnificent animals back from the brink of extinction. By 1890, it…

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True Colours Shining Through – the building of an exhibit

Exhibits begin as the germ of an idea and often take on a life of their own. This was no different for the new Colours in Nature exhibit, now open in the TD Canada Trust Discovery Room. This space was set aside to showcase the hidden treasures of our collections that we ordinarily don’t have an opportunity to display; less that 5% of our collections are exhibited at any one…

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When a small thing means a lot

As summer comes to a close, I am finally getting an opportunity to go through some of my fieldwork photos. I ran across this one of a culvert that connected a large marsh with a roadside ditch along Highway 6  just south of Tan Lake  (about 30 kilometres north of St. Martin Junction). The large dark cloud in the water on either side of the culvert is a school of brook stickleback…

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I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat!

Seeing cats in Manitoba doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. I have one that lives in my house (and only in my house), and too many that wander around the neighbourhood doing a number on birds and getting hit by cars. And there are always cartoon cats on TV or the web like Sylvester (of Bugs Bunny fame) as he tries to capture and eat Tweety – that yellow…

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Manitoba Jellies: not your Grandmother’s preserves

No, I’m not about to give a recipe for Saskatoon berry jam, but instead introduce some members of an animal group that most would never associate with Manitoba: jellyfish. Jellyfish are, of course, not fishes at all, but part of a very interesting phylum of animals called the Cnidaria [nie-dare-ee-a] that includes corals, sea anemones, and jellyfish. Some of you might remember high school biology and examining the superficially plant-like…

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Century Eggs of a different flavour

Century eggs are a Chinese traditon where eggs are placed in an exotic recipe of alkaline clay and brine solution over several months. This preserves them for later consumption, and the chemical changes in the egg proteins makes for an interesting flavour. Of course, these “century” eggs are not, in truth, one hundred years old. The Museum, however, does have actual century eggs that have been carefully prepared and preserved for…

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A real time machine: Museum collections

I’m sure you are familiar with this scenario: getting on the internet for a specific nugget of information and then finding yourself some significant time later on some odd, but interesting tangent, and wondering, “How did I end up here?!”   Browsing the Museum collections can be a bit like a 3-dimensional internet search, where examining one specimen can bring you on a voyage across space and time to a fascinating and…

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ON A WILD GULL CHASE – a rarity from afar

Most of us, other than those interested in birds, don’t take much notice of the comings and goings of gulls. Some might even consider “seagulls” a nuisance of sorts as they soar effortlessly overhead… and metabolize. If pressed for natural history facts, though, it might be observed that gulls are here when it’s warm(er) and gone when it’s cold. Which seems simplistic, but is actually quite accurate. Gulls are much…

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A typical (or is that atypical?) day

As I sit at my desk being stared at by a stuffed turtle surrounded by sand dollars, Australian mice, gut contents of a snake, Indo-Pacific fishes, a set of lizard dentaries, and a donation form for a frozen hermit thrush and yellow rail, it occurred to me that many of the typical tasks of curators would be considered atypical, if not downright bizarre, for anyone not working in a natural history museum.

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“I will be unavailable until…” has been a frequent message when my number has been dialed over the last two months. And although a couple of days might have been vacation, the majority is explained by time spent on fieldwork, hence the lack of blogging. So what is “fieldwork”?

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