Collection research

Past projects using INHS bird collection specimens

Two studies demonstrate the utility of the INHS bird collection.

In a study conducted during 1971–72, Loggerhead Shrikes, a declining, state-threatened species, were collected in some numbers statewide. The resulting analysis determined that the birds were accumulating DDE, a metabolite of DDT, in their tissues and their eggshells, suggesting that DDE in the environment was contributing to the decline of Loggerhead Shrike populations in Illinois.

In another study, INHS researchers extracted DNA from feather roots of INHS specimens of the state endangered Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) collected during the 1930s and 1960s. These samples demonstrated that these earlier populations contained high levels of genetic diversity that was subsequently lost as the Prairie Chicken populations declined. This was apparently the first study providing direct evidence of reduction of genetic variation in a wild population through a historical range contraction. The study thus emphasized the value of museum collections as sources of genetic information from past or extinct populations for addressing questions of ecological importance.