The Beaty Biodiversity Museum

platypus skeleton
Just like the mallards that visit our yard. Well, partly.

Posted a day later than promised, but never mind.

My excursion was to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, a gem on the UBC campus. It puts UBC’s natural history collections on view (parts of them, at least). There’s the Cowan Tetrapod Collection (birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles), the Herbarium, the Spencer Entomological Collection (insects, spiders and other arthropods), the Fish Museum, the Marine Invertebrate Collection, and the Fossil Collection.

Its a lot of collection.

leopard seal teeth
No, I don’t want to meet you underwater, even if you did give that National Geographic photographer penguins.

The blue whale skeleton and the gift shop can be seen by anyone who stops by; if you pay admission, you get to go into the depths. That’s where the collections are kept.

bird skeleton
Apparently this is just a “bird.”


After seeing a sampling in the area under the whale, you enter an enormous room with row after row after row of long, tall specimen cabinets.

Victorian glass case full of stuffed birds
The first part is kind of surreal—Victorian taxidermy, like this case full of stuffed birds. (And, it was pointed out to me, a monster face.)


stuffed armadillo
I once saw a live armadillo trotting by a road. I gather that in the south that’s the equivalent of seeing a live possum beside the road. (You don’t—they’re usually flattened by cars.)

Much of the collection is behind locked cabinet doors and accessible only to researchers, but the cabinets do have display cases built into them as well.

stuffed kiwi and star-nosed mole
A kiwi and a star-nosed mole. I’m not clear on the connection between them.

The lighting is dim and dramatic, to protect the specimens, which means that it’s pretty hard to take pictures with a handheld camera, and the glass makes photography that much more challenging. Not to mention that since I rarely take pictures indoors it hadn’t occured to me to look up the settings for artificial lighting… sigh. So a low shutter speed meant that many pix didn’t turn out well, and many of those that did had weird colours. I did a bit of colour correction and other finetuning in Photoshop, but some I left as they were, because on the whole the color rather added to the ambience.

Here are the rest of them. Go see them yourselves!

row of brilliantly coloured feathers
Even digital colour correction can’t catch the glory of these feathers.
closeup of hermit crab in shell
A closeup of an absolutely gigantic hermit crab.
cross section of chambered nautilus shell
The mathematically elegant shell—a chambered nautilus. The spiral recreates a Fibonacci sequence, the basis of the Golden Section.
pallid carrier shell
The weirdest snail imaginable. It carefully glues other (empty) shells to its own, as a disguise.
Last but not least—an ammonite.



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