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 edge faculty.
- 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 facility.
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 (CORBIDI), Peru.
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 externally-funded programs.
- 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 programs.
- 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.