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Partners in Science Join Forces

Connections between the Cincinnati Museum Center and McMicken College of Arts & Sciences run deep, and benefit both institutions.

Date: 10/13/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Matt Cunningham
Phone: (513) 556-4190
Photos By: Matt Cunningham

UC ingot   When adjunct professor of geology Glenn Storrs arrives at work, he's greeted by a small herd of wooly mammoths and a lion in mid-snarl.

Storrs, the Cincinnati Museum Center's assistant vice president for natural history and science and the Withrow Farny curator of vertebrate paleontology, passes these displays and a host of other one-of-a-kind artifacts as he walks to his office at the museum's Geier Collections and Research Center.

Adjunct professor of Geology Glenn Storrs is the Assistant vice president for natural history and science and Withrow Farny curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

"I guess it is a little unusual," he said as he stopped recently to consider the lion.

Storrs is one of a number of faculty members who form a strong academic bond between McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and the Museum Center. Thanks to this strong partnership, students and faculty can better pursue their research interests and enhance the public's experience with The Museum Center, sometimes at the same time.

A National Science Foundation grant in 1998 allowed UC to transfer its collection of paleontological specimens to the Geier center, where they could be better preserved.

"Many times we'd find these things in an attic or basement," said Storrs, who noted that the Geier Center's facilities allow the fossils and artifacts to each be stored in optimal climates and under high-tech security.

trilobite from UC's collection rests in its new home, a storage cabinet at the Cincinnati Museum Center's Geier Collections and Research Center.

Many of the fossils in UC's collection are "type specimens," the standard examples of extinct plants and animals whose features set a baseline for identifying newly unearthed fossils. Storrs said this presents tremendous opportunities for graduate and doctoral students.

"Having access to this collection provides infinite numbers of graduate theses," he said.

But not all of the Museum Center/A&S relationships focus on fossils. Assistant director of psychology Heidi Kloos and her students conduct regular research at the Museum Center, though their focus is on its visitors, rather than its collections.

Kloos is in the second year of leading a capstone seminar on children's learning at the Museum Center.

Glenn Storrs examines part of the jawbone of a prehistoric fish at the Cincinnati Museum Center's Geier Collections and Research Center.

"(The students) assess an exhibit and how much the children learn from it, and they improve it," she said. "I thought we had a pretty good response last year," she added, noting that the class grew from seven students its first session to 14 in the current academic year.

Like Storrs, she spoke highly of the museum/university relationship.

"We try to cement that bond more and more," she said.

And the partnership is now spreading to reach a wider audience, said Storrs. The Cincinnati Museum Center Science Center book series was launched with a book on local fossils by geology professor David Meyer, and the second book in the series, a study by geology professor Carlton Brett and his students of local geology, is planned for an upcoming release.

"We see [the series] as a venue for student theses and publications," said Storrs.

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