Items large and small, living and dead, were carried into the Museum of Natural History by science sleuths seeking to identify their prized possessions during ID Day.

Nearly 400 community members attended the 16th annual event hosted by the Museum of Natural History, October 7, 2012, many of them local school children. A team of 18 knowledgeable U-M Museum of Zoology graduate students, collection managers and curators volunteered their time to identify and describe biological specimens, as well as 15 volunteers from other areas.

A smattering of the 100 or so items brought in included: live oil beetles and a wolf spider, a raccoon skull, white-tailed deer teeth, boa constrictor scales, a dragonfly exoskeleton, glacial cobbles, gold in quartz, partial trilobite, an African necklace made from blobs of yellow tree sap, and even iron arrowheads from approximately 800 B.C. Seeing what shows up is half the fun for everyone!

In addition to bringing in their own objects, participants learned about display specimens provided from each of the UMMZ’s divisional collections: bird, mammal, amphibians and reptiles, fishes, insects and mollusks.

Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, curator and director of UMMZ extends his thanks to all UMMZ personnel who helped make ID Day a success: EEB graduate students: Cindy Bick, Samantha Flowers, Alison Gould, Tristan McKnight, Paula Teichholtz, Alexa Unruh (recent graduate); Animal Diversity Web: Tanya Dewey; faculty: Alison Davis Rabosky, Tom Duda, Barry O’Connor, Diarmaid Ó Foighil, Dan Rabosky, Gerald Smith (emeritus); collections staff: Janet Hinshaw, Steve Hinshaw, Taehwan Lee, Mark O’Brien; EEB undergraduate student: Dan Winfield.

O’Brien, collections manager, Insect Division, found it interesting that many little girls spent a lot of time with the insects on display. “We had a dissecting scope set up with a carpenter ant to look at,” he said. “It was really fun hearing the kids look in and go ‘Wow!’  Most had never looked into a microscope before, and who knows what that exposure will lead them to?”

Two young girls and their mother brought in several oil beetles (Cantharidae, Meloe americana) in a plastic cage wanting to know what they were. “When I pointed out that the beetles give off a caustic fluid, one of the girls said, ‘Don't worry, Mom, we used a stick to pick them up.’”

If the science sleuths left with some new information and a story or two to tell, then ID Day was a success.

Captions: top to bottom: 1. Dan Winfield manning the herpetology table. 2. Taehwan Lee at the mollusk table talking to a visitor. 3. Steve and Janet Hinshaw staff the bird table. 4. Dan Winfield and Professor Dan Rabosky keeping things under control with the amphibians and reptiles. 5. Professor Emeritus Gerry Smith educates visitors about fishes. Credit: Mark O'Brien.