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Vertebrate natural history collections (e.g., skeletons, skins) provide unparalleled opportunities for undergraduate research. Unfortunately, these collections are often difficult to access due to their spatial distribution and funding. On the UNG Dahlonega campus, we have developed a new facility and methodology for the collection of specimens and creation of a museum-quality natural history collection. In this study, we detail the process associated with specimen preparation and preliminary information on an investigation of Didelphis virginiana (Virginia opossum). First, vertebrate remains are collected from natural fatalities and contextual information (e.g., taxonomy, location, sex) is entered into an online database. Next, most flesh is removed and specimens are frozen to kill any parasites before being placed into a dermestid beetle colony to remove remaining tissue. Skeletons are then soaked in an ammonia solution to remove any grease thus facilitating long-term storage. During January of 2020, we collected five specimens of Didelphis virginiana from across Lumpkin County, Georgia and will continue these collections over the next year. Once processed, we will obtain quantitative measurements of the skeletons to assess sexual dimorphism in this species as well as compare these data to an existing large dataset from central Georgia. These analyses will provide novel insights into the ecology of this species in northern Georgia as well as variation in morphology across its range. This study represents the framework by which we plan to assess similar patterns in other species through this natural history collection.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
1.4 GB



  • Subject
    • Biology

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event date
    • 17 April 2020

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Dr. David Patterson, Dr. Erin Barding, and Jessica Patterson