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. 


In the spring of 2020, like many organizations around the world, the CU Museum of Natural History Boulder was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19. Each and every week, for over a year, the museum highlighted the history of a single catalogued item from our vast collection of more than 5 million objects. Each Wonder of the Week, or WoW blog posted on a Wednesday—offered something interesting and new to anticipate. To view the collection through a post-lockdown lens, explore the following posts.



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. ...

Aliciella Sedifolia

Plant Hunting for Aliciella (Gilia) sedifolia, the stone crop gilia

Feb. 24, 2021

This alpine-endemic plant is now known from four sites in the San Juans of southwestern Colorado. The species was originally collected in 1892 at an uncertain type locality. (The “type locality” is that site from where a species is first described.) In the case of Aliciella sedifolia , there was...

postman butterfly

Heliconius Butterfly

Feb. 17, 2021

The Heliconius or passion-vine butterflies are tropical butterflies from Central and South America that show a huge diversity of wing patterns. They have undergone rapid speciation and divergence (being different from one another), and also show an amazing amount of convergence (having traits similar to one another) in wing pattern...

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Feb. 8, 2021

The magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia) is a small songbird with a distinctive black mask and streaked “necklace” laid on a brilliant yellow breast. Each spring and fall these birds make a long-distance migration, flying from their tropical posts in the Caribbean, Central America, and Southern Mexico to breeding grounds in...