School of Biological Sciences


Volunteer Opportunities

The museum staff is small. We welcome volunteers, age 18 or older.

The museum has three components with potential volunteer opportunities: the Public Exhibit, the Research Collection, and the Teaching Collection.

Public Exhibit

Creating or Upgrading a Display

Need: Ongoing. 
Requirements: Designing and installing a display usually takes a minimum of about 40 hours.  The museum will provide funds for printing signage and a small amount of money for additional props, such as artificial vegetation.  You must work with the available taxidermy mounts and within the physical confines of existing display cases.  You will be responsible for writing signage and finding appropriate background props, if needed.  Writing signage is more of a challenge than it appears.  There should be a balance between providing useful and interesting information without being too wordy.  
Volunteers that successfully create and install a display will get a sign in the display acknowledging their efforts.  Some volunteers have done displays as class projects for credit.  
Some examples of displays created by volunteers are the Bush Pig, Lead Shot, and Mountain Goat displays and the Fur Touch Table.
Katie with her Bush Pig
Volunteer Katie Peterson, with the Bush Pig display she designed and installed in 2013. 

Research Collection

The Research Collection, at the opposite end of the hall from the Public Exhibit in Abelson, is the core of the museum.   
There is no way around it: Much of the work in the research collection is tedious, repetitive, and thankless.  Care and meticulous attention to detail is necessary.  It often involves tasks such as entering large amounts of data into a computer or writing specimen labels in small, neat handwriting.  

We have a few specific projects we could use volunteers for.  

Columbia Basin Project Bird Data Entry  

In the 1950s, former Museum Director George Hudson did a 5-year survey of birds at several locations in the Columbia Basin.  We would like to enter that historical data into ebird, an on-line bird record database.   Part of the records have been entered by a prior volunteer.   There is probably about 40 to 80 hours of work remaining to complete this project.  

The volunteer interested in working on this project will not need prior experience with ebird; it is very easy to learn how to enter the data.  Some knowledge of local birds would be useful, since a few of the birds have undergone name changes or have been split into more than one species since the 1950s.  The curator is available to help with those issues.  

Hudson's records are in binders that cannot leave the museum, so the data entry would either have to be done in the musuem or pages copied for entry off-site.  

Specimen Preparation

Specimens for the research collection are prepared as "study skins."  Preparation of study skins requires far less expertise than a taxidermy mount, but most people need to prepare several skins to become reasonably adept at it.  Preparation of a study skin requires skinning a bird or mammal, filling the skin with a cotton "body", sewing the skin back up, collecting tissue samples from the real body for archival, and writing a tag for the skin.

Preparation of a study skin typically requires a block of several hours of time, espeically during the learning process.  Teaching study skin preparation also takes a substantial amount of the curator's time, so, if you think you might like to prepare skins, we ask that you commit to preparing at least five specimens. 

Pickle Collection

The "pickle" collection consists of the specimens stored in ethanol, which is how reptiles, amphibians, and fish are usually preserved.  The pickle collection needs a great deal of work.  We need to incorporate several "orphaned" collections into our collection, match computer entries against specimens, update species names, etc., etc. 

Most of the work needed on the pickle collection is well beyond the scope or expertise of what we would expect from a typical volunteer. If you think you might be interested and can make a fairly substantial committment in time, contact us.  


School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 644236, Pullman WA 99164-4236, 509-335-3553, Contact Us
The SBS main office is located in 312 Abelson Hall on the Pullman campus.