Museum collections are invaluable scientific and education tools that celebrate the past, define the present and inform the future. Embedded in our cupboards, shelves and freezers is hidden information waiting to be teased out by current and future scientists. Our collections provide opportunities and access for CU students to gain real world experience in preparation for careers essential for solving the challenges of tomorrow.

Each and every week, here and on Facebook, we will focus our lens to highlight the history of a single cataloged item from our vast collection of more than 5 million objects. Each WoW will post on Wednesday—offering something new to anticipate for the next 77,000 years!




May 12, 2021

Humans have found many uses for this material once the organism decomposes. Cuttlebones are often used as calcium supplements for pets. Parrots, tortoises, parakeets, and even hermit crabs benefit from added calcium in their diet; egg-laying animals often need extra calcium to replenish their reserves of the nutrient, and the...

sand wasp

Sand Wasp

May 5, 2021

Ammophila , also known as Thread-Waisted Sand Wasps, is a genus of medium-sized wasps that exhibit peculiar sand-nesting behavior. Like many solitary wasps, Ammophila dig nests with individual cells in which to oviposit their eggs. What is unique about this genus is that egg-laying females are markedly good mothers, provisioning...

pike characin

Pike characin

April 28, 2021

Pike characins, Acestrorhynchus microlepis , are one of many characid species also referred to as freshwater barracudas. This specimen was collected by Max M. Ellis in 1910 while he led an exploration into the regions of the headwaters of the Amazon River under the financing of Indiana philanthropist Jake Gimbel...

Morning Glory Bee

Morning Glory Bee

April 21, 2021

Morning Glory Bees, Cemolobus ipomoea , are rare, solitary bees that specialize on the pollen of morning glory flowers ( Ipomoea spp. ). This bee is relatively large, over a half inch long and it is covered in branched hairs used for pollen-collecting. Until very recently, morning glory bees had...

Oregon grape

Oregon grape

April 14, 2021

Oregon grape ( Mahonia repens ) is a low, evergreen shrub of dry habitats in the forests and mountains of Colorado, up to 10,000 feet. Mahonia repens is a member of the Barberry family, a group known to have lived in our region—found as far north as British Columbia down...

Giant Clam

Fluted Giant Clam

April 7, 2021

Tridacna squamosa , or the fluted giant clam, is a species of giant clam native to the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the largest living bivalve (named for the two symmetrical shell 'valves' that are connected, or hinged, by ligaments). This endangered species lives primarily in warm shallow reefs...

March Flies

March Flies

March 31, 2021

Today’s Wow Bibionids (March Flies) take us back to the Eocene, 56 to 34 million years ago. Fossilized Bibionids like these are very common in fossil insect deposits from Florissant and the Green River Formation in Colorado. They are often found together in groups of multiple specimens in Green River...

Short-Fruited Willow

Short-Fruited Willow

March 17, 2021

This week’s WoW is the Short-Fruited Willow ( Salix brachycarpa )— a medium-sized shrub that grows in Colorado’s moist meadows and wetlands of the subalpine and alpine zones (10,000-14,000 feet elevation). It is widely distributed in the northern latitudes of North America and southward along the western mountains. Wetlands dominated...

colorado snow flea

Colorado Snow Flea

March 10, 2021

The Colorado Snow Flea, Boreus coloradensis , is named for specimens collected from the Mountain Research Station on Niwot Ridge in 1952 and now preserved in our entomology collection. The common name “snow flea” also covers another group of insects called Collembola, or springtails and it is important to note...

mimbres bowl

Mimbres Bowl

March 3, 2021

Mimbres bowls are likely the most famous ceramics in Southwest archaeology and are preserved by natural history, anthropology, and art museums around the country. Mimbres refers to the Mimbres Valley of present-day southwestern New Mexico, where Indigenous peoples lived and created these pottery artifacts from 1000 to early 1100 AD. ...