Ickert-Bond Lab: systematics meets ecology, paleontology, and genomics

The importance of museum collections


From 2010-2015, I have led or co-led seminars (see below) to explore the use of natural history collections in undergraduate research with my colleagues Dr. Joe Cook (Professor & Curator of Mammals, University of New Mexico); Dr. Eileen Lacey (Professor & Curator of Mammals, University of California, Berkeley) and Dr. Scott Edwards (Professor & Curator of Birds, Harvard University) on the NSF-sponsored Research Coordination Network AIM-UP! (Advancing Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs). These seminars and classes have provided opportunities to integrate several kinds of information, to give the students both an appreciation of the complexity of issues involved in contemporary phylogenetic research using museum collections, and an overall historical context for how different disciplines of organismal biology address similar problems of morphological variation in a geographical context.
AIM-UP! Annual meeting at Sevilleta, NM, 24 Jan. 2015.

Teaching modules I developed using museum collections:

  1. Plant Range and Distribution in Alaska
  2. Coal balls
  3. Stomatal Density and Climate Change

Check out some of these very inspiring videos on the use of collections in teaching, which have resulted from this RCN.

  1. Meet A Curator: Dr. Rick Williams
  2. Faculty Perspectives: The Value of Collections in the Classroom
  3. Student Perspectives: Collections as an Untapped Teaching Tool



MSM221/497 Fundamentals of Museum studies I (stacked undergraduate, graduate students, fall & spring, online delivery)

This online 3-credit course will introduce students to the inner world of museums, how they function and the many different skills they bring together. We will consider museum studies with a wide lens to give you the broadest possible experience.  This course will be valuable for students curious about pursuing a career in museums as educators, administrators or curators, for those who interact with museums, and for those already in related fields seeking professional development opportunities. This course is taught by staff at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, Alaska’s only teaching, collecting, and research museum. Our instructors are practicing museum professionals and educators whose expertise spans a spectrum of disciplines, including natural and cultural history, art, film, exhibit design, and museum administration.

BIOL195 Introduction to Alaska Flora (undergraduate, summers, online delivery)

Botany course turns students’ surroundings into a lab

One of the hallmarks of systematic botany course is the hands-on learning experience in lab. To create a similar lab experience for the online offering, we have carefully chosen technology that will allow students from all over the state (and even outside Alaska) to collect data, perform plant dissections and have a hands-on learning experience within the flora’s native environment. Instead of traditional course materials like textbooks, students will purchase an inexpensive wide-angle macro lens that connects to their smartphone or tablet. This 2-inch lens lets students take high-resolution, detailed photos of flora on the go. The technology not only lets students mimic lab spaces in their own areas but also expands their digital networks through the submission of images to iNaturalist, enabling them to share and collaborate with enthusiasts around the world. Students don’t just sit at their computers in this class. They must get outside, touch with their hands and share what they discover. This course is an exciting intersection of curiosity for wild plants, an exploration of Alaska’s plant communities and an accessible introduction to the science of botany.


BIOL644 Advanced Topics in Evolution: Citizen Science and Big Data (Graduate student seminar, alternating Spring)

3 credits, Spring, Murie 230, web-enabled, M 2:15-5:15 p.m.

This 3 credit graduate student seminar course will read and discuss a lot of the primary literature as it pertains to the subject, including mostly recent papers from within the last couple of years. We will consider the pros & cons of citizen science in research using big data; data quality; citizen science in conservation; motivation and psychology; success & failures; best practices; volunteer engagement; gamification and other aspects of citizen science. The overall goal is to increase graduate student knowledge, understanding and familiarity with including citizen science in research projects, and to gain a working familiarity both with the recent citizen science literature and how it relates to their specific field(s) of research.


BIOL644 Advanced Topics in Evolution: Biogeography – reconstructing patterns of diversification (Graduate student seminar, alternating Spring)

3 credits, Spring, Murie 230, web-enabled, M 2:15-5:15 p.m.

This graduate student seminar course will read and discuss a lot of the primary literature as it pertains to the subject, including mostly recent papers from within the last couple of years. We will consider the basic science of biogeographic inference, but we will also highlight in detail some of the software approaches currently being used in biogeographic inference (e.g., Lagrange, BEAST & BEAUTI, RASP) as well as bioinformatics computing portals such as CIPRES and the ARSC computing portal to run jobs.

MRAP288 Museum Research Apprenticeship (undergraduate course)




BIOL195 Introduction to Alaska’s Flora (Summer session undergraduate course)

BIOL 330 Systematic Botany (major’s course, alternating Spring)

Last year we developed some teaching modules using the Learning Glass at eLearning. Here are some examples on the gymnosperm life cycle and the angiosperm life cycle.

     Gymnosperm life cycle (Ovulate) – click on the image to watch the video

    Gymnosperm life cycle (Staminate)

   Gymnosperm life cycle (Fertilization)

Angiosperm life cycle


BIOL644 Advanced Topics in Evolution: Biogeography – reconstructing patterns of diversification (Graduate student seminar, alternating Spring)

BIOL692 SEM: Human Dimensions of Natural History. A web-enabled seminar at UNM streamed to UAF, UC Berkeley and Harvard as part of AIM-UP! with participating institutions having students enrolled.

MRAP288 Museum Research Apprenticeship (undergraduate course)


BIOL692 SEM: Integrating Morphological and Geographic Variation into the Classroom, a web-enabled seminar at UAF streamed to University of New Mexico (UNM), UC Berkeley and Harvard as part of AIM-UP! with participating institutions having students enrolled.


BIOL 330 Systematic Botany (major’s course, Spring, UAF)


Ickert-Bond, S.M., C. Bouffard. 2019. To go where only Don Pinkava could go -and beyond: delivering an online systematic botany course in Alaska. Colloquium: Donald J. Pinkava’s legacy – the ASU Herbarium in the Sonoran Desert. Botany 2019. Botanical Society of America Meeting, Tuscon, AZ. Jul 26-31. [Link]

**Anderson, K.L. , Kaden, U., Druckenmiller, P.S., Fowell, S., **Spangler, M., Huettmann, F., Ickert-Bond, S.M. 2017. Arctic science education using public museum collections from the University of Alaska Museum: An evolving and expanding landscape. Arctic Science 3: 635-653. [Link]

Lacey, E.A., Hammond, T.T., Bell, K., Edwards, S.V., Ellwood, L., Guralnick, R., Ickert-Bond, S.M., Mast, A., McCormack, J., Monfils, A., Soltis, P.S., Soltis, D.S., Cook, J.A. 2017. Climate change, collections and the classroom: Using big data to tackle big problems. Evolution: Education and Outreach 2017:2 DOI:10.1186/s12052-017-0065-3. [Link]

Cook, J.A., Lacey E.A., Ickert-Bond, S.M., Hoberg, E.P., Galbreath, K.E., Bell, K.C., Greiman, S.E., McLean, B.S., Edwards, S. 2016. From museum cases to the classroom: Emerging opportunities for specimen-based education. Pp In Pavlinov, I., ed. “Aspects of Biodiversity” Archives of Zoological Museum of Lomonosov Moscow State University 54: 787–799. [Link]

Cook, J.A., Edwards, S.V., Lacey, E., Guralnick, R.P., Soltis, P.S., Soltis, D.E., Welch, C., Bell, K.C., Galbreath, K.E., Himes, C., Allen, J.M., Heath, T.A., Carnaval, A.C., Cooper, K.L., Liu, M., Hanken, J., Ickert-Bond, S.M. 2014. Natural history collections as emerging resources for innovative education. BioScience 64: 725-734. [Link]