Mission & Vision
Our vision is for the Museum of Natural Science to maintain its position among the
top university-based research museums in the nation, while increasing our visibility.
The Museum of Natural Science has nationally and internationally prominent programs
in collections-based research and museum-related undergraduate and graduate education,
but is often undervalued in informal national assessments because of its substandard
physical plant. Our vision is for all Museum of Natural Science collections to be
consolidated into a renovated Foster Hall. The renovated space would include state
of the art research collections space, classrooms for undergraduate and graduate courses,
and space for public outreach activities, including public exhibits.
Research Collections: For the Museum, our collections are research laboratories and classrooms, as well
as archives of scientific specimens. Moreover, collections have an increasingly critical
role in documenting natural and cultural history in the face of globalization and
habitat destruction. Therefore, our highest priority is the development of ever more
comprehensive, data rich collections in vertebrate biology, paleontology, archaeology,
and ethnography. The LSU Museum of Natural Science receives substantial national and
international recognition for the quality and activity of its collections, in particular
its vertebrate collections. Although universities may appreciate the treasures contained
within their museum holdings, they often devalue collections by reducing monetary
and structural support for them.
National ranking of individual collections. For example, the Collection of Birds is
currently ranked 4th behind Harvard, Michigan, and Berkeley in size. It should continue
to move up in rank. The Genetic Resources Collection ranks 1st in size and number
of species among vertebrate collections, but its status is threatened by aggressively
competing institutions, e.g., University of Kansas and the Smithsonian.
Collection quality is indicated by the number of research visitors per year, loans
granted by the collection, publications associated with the collection, NSF collection
improvement grants, grants for collection use and field work, etc. These data are
collected annually and when curators write collection grants.
Collection growth is indicated by numbers of specimens and increased use of space.
Collection quality is also indicated by the quality of associated facilities. Better
infrastructure and facilities protect collections from environmental problems and
facilitate their use for research.
- Acquire orphaned collections from other institutions. For example, the Herpetology
Collection will soon double in size and become the largest in the southeast through
the acquisition of most of the Tulane University collection. The Mammal Collection
will also increase in size through a similar acquisition from Tulane.
- Increase the number of collecting expeditions.
- Engage in more aggressive fundraising from research foundations and the private sector
to purchase, transport and house orphaned collections and to increase the number of
collecting expeditions. NSF collection grants are an integral part of this process.
- Acquire the space currently held by the Art Department in Foster Hall for the expansion
of collections and associated research and teaching space.
Faculty: The Museum’s faculty members are responsible for curating collections and conducting
collections-based research, in addition to teaching and other professorial duties.
Collecting and curating are labor-intensive endeavors that lead to basic research
endeavors that may differ from those produced by experimental or applied scientists.
Thus, a curator’s performance may be assessed differently by his/her Museum peers
than by faculty in cognitive departments (Biological Sciences, Geology & Geophysics,
and Geography & Anthropology). Nevertheless, the Museum prides itself on its cutting
- Curation. For collections to be of maximum use, they must grow and be well curated.
Our faculty is responsible for this growth and care.
- Number of grants, publications, and public presentations of research.
- Quality of graduate students and graduate student training.
- Quality of teaching, as indicated by student evaluations and course demand.
- Service to the Museum. Museums are complex, multifaceted entities, and their faculty
must assume tangential responsibilities, such as public education, stewardship of
technology, permit acquisition, and private fundraising.
- National and international service. The reputation of the Museum depends heavily on
the reputation of its faculty, which derives mainly from research, but also from service
to the research and teaching community.
- Evaluate the productivity of each faculty member each year in publications, grants,
graduate student training, teaching, curation, and service.
- Provide seed-grants from the Museum’s limited research and collection-support accounts
to productive faculty. Encourage more productive faculty members to increase their
research output through tactical use of our limited resources.
Graduate education: The Museum’s main focus at the graduate level is the training
of students for careers in academia, especially as tenure track professors and research
professionals. This objective enhances our national and international reputation and
assures growth in the quality of our programs through the acquisition of outstanding
students from the institutions where our former students are faculty members.
- The quality of incoming students. This is indicated by (1) undergraduate institution,
(2) publications upon arrival, and (3) activity/experience in the field of study upon
arrival. We do not believe that GRE scores are especially good indicators of success
in natural history research (although our students tend to have high scores). Ambition
and enthusiasm are much more important.
- Jobs obtained upon completion of the graduate degree. We aim to place our Ph.D. students
and postdocs in tenure track jobs, and our M.S. and M.A. students in museum, research,
and conservation positions.
- Number of papers published and grants received by graduate students.
- Number of research presentations/posters presented by graduate students.
- Number of national research awards received by graduate students.
- Quality of our graduate courses, as indicated by student evaluations and teacher awards.
- We need to educate the University administration about the quality of the Museum program.
The public regularly hears about LSU’s landscape architecture and internal audit programs.
LSU ornithology program is internationally recognized as outstanding, and if there
were a ranking system for ornithology, it would first or second in the world.
- Recruitment. In general, recruitment is not a problem because of our good reputation.
Most of our programs are oversubscribed, given the Museum’s current level of funding
and limited space. However, we compete with major university-museum programs that
have better physical plants and more money than we do. Improving our space, increasing
graduate student stipends, and increasing stipends and research funding for postdoctoral
students would increase the competitiveness of LSUMNS.
- The success of our programs depends upon a research and teaching approach that features
both traditional museum field work and cutting edge technology. This duel emphasis
attracts students to the Museum and makes them more competitive for jobs (most universities
only provide technology training). Both aspects require money, and we aggressively
seek grants and private funding for them.
- To assure productivity, we provide students with seed money for research, but insist
that they obtain grants, write papers, and give research presentations in order to
stay in the program.
- Our courses emphasize writing and public speaking, the two most important elements
of success in academia.
Undergraduate education: The Museum’s main undergraduate focus is on attracting high-quality students to
LSU and inspiring young natural historians. Because of our reputation for fieldwork
and teaching, we attract undergraduates from around the country.
- Number of students working or volunteering in the Museum.
- Number of undergraduates on Museum research trips.
- Quality of undergraduate courses that Museum faculty teach for the departments of
Biological Sciences, Geography & Anthropology, and Geology & Geophysics, as indicated
by student evaluations and teacher awards.
- Number of graduating students matriculating in graduate science programs.
- Recruitment. This is an area that needs improvement. We will enlist the help of LSU
Admissions Department to spread the word about our programs, both in-state and out-of-state.
- On campus recruitment. Too few students at LSU know about and appreciate the programs
at the Museum. We need to encourage more professors to use the Museum as a teaching
International programs: Because the Museum’s research is global, we regularly forge associations with foreign
colleagues and institutions. Part of our obligation in conducting research in other
countries is to reciprocate by training students from those countries and including
foreign researchers in our programs. Fulfilling this obligation enriches the Museum.
- Proportion of foreign graduate students in our program.
- Number of MOU’s with foreign institutions.
- Number of grants and publications associated with foreign colleagues.
- Recruit outstanding foreign students. Currently, five of our 18 Ph.D. students are
foreign (Brazil, Costa Rica, Nepal, Netherlands, and Malaysia).
- Establish additional formal relationships with foreign colleagues. Currently we have
MOU’s with the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and the Center for Biological Diversity
Women and minorities: American minority students and faculty are rare in museums. LSUMNS has one faculty
and one master’s student. Women working as museum curators in vertebrate biology are
also rare. Three of our nine curators are female, but none is in Biological Sciences.
Thus, we regularly try to recruit female and minority students and faculty.
- Proportion of female and minority students in the LSUMNS vertebrate biology program
(currently 5 of 18 Ph.D. students).
- Proportion of female and minority faculty.
- Identify promising minority students in high school and mentor them in natural history
in the hope that they will attend or return to LSU.
- Recruit more women as Biological Sciences graduate students.
Public education: The Museum has a small exhibit area for visitors and provides limited services to
school groups that visit. The priority of our education program, and what makes it
unique, is that it is tailored to disseminate ongoing research performed by LSUMNS
curators and graduate students, and the research conducted by faculty in the departments
of Biological Sciences, Geology & Geophysics, and Geography & Anthropology. In turn,
this program helps faculty meet the broader impact requirements of granting agencies.
The Museum also provides educational behind-the-scenes tours for LSU student undergraduates,
high school students, teachers, politicians, conservation organizations, etc. Finally,
the Museum faculty frequently engage high school students in field and laboratory
research and mentor high school student theses and science fair projects.
- Install updated, educational exhibits that will be created to highlight ongoing externally-funded
research project conducted at the LSUMNS.
- Keep records of visitors to exhibits (e.g., summer camps, school field trips, families).
- Provide professional development programs for Louisiana K-12 science teachers via
- Keep records of behind-the-scenes tours.
- Keep records of high school mentoring.
- Advertise the Museum to LSU students.
- Seek funding to design, build, and install new LSUMNS exhibits.
- Seek funding to support educational programs for science teachers.
- Obtain permanent funding for a curatorial assistant of education to assist with public
- Partner with other educational programs in Louisiana and nationwide.
Economic development: The Museum has instituted its Bird Resource Center with the primary goal of providing
a nexus for the many stakeholders in birds in Louisiana (birdwatchers, hunters, conservationists,
etc.). One of the principal purposes of the Center is to produce literature and services
to enhance birdwatching tourism in the state, which is a proposition worth tens of
millions of dollars.