The Buffalo (Dermestid) Resurgence

Due to a large variety of personal and professional changes for both C. Funk and myself (A. Taivalkoski), we had planned to shut down the dermestid laboratory at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. We had been operating at a low capacity for the Spring semester, just trying to work through the backlog in our freezer. The week the shutdown was supposed to occur we got a call from the Buffalo Zoo. UBZAG was offered an axis deer whose jaw had been broken as a juvenile and had healed to live to a ripe old adult age. Naturally, given my interest in pathologies, I couldn’t turn this deer down.

At the zoo we were also offered a rabbit.  And on the way back to the lab we came upon a recently hit rabbit on the road. Naturally, we picked that up too. At this point we had three new specimens for the dermestids and were still unsure of the direction we would take with the lab. Since it was now the summer we decided to process the new specimens and then make the decision about whether to shut down the lab.

The majority of the new specimens since May
The majority of the new specimens collected since May

It was around this time that C.Funk found out that a grant that she was listed as the bird analyst on was accepted. This again led to much debate about not only accepting the grant but also about keeping the dermestid lab running. Eventually it was decided that C.Funk would accept the grant (with me as her research assistant) and we would continue to run the lab at low capacity until the 2017-2018 school year when our part on the grant would begin.

A view of the specimens currently in the tank
A view of the specimens currently in the tank

After the Buffalo Zoo heard about our interest in birds and the upcoming large-scale bird analyses we would be doing, they began to set aside birds that were found on the zoo premises (window strikes, etc.). As a result, our collection ballooned in the past few months. At the writing of this article we have 78 specimens, an increase of 27 since we had been planning on shutting the lab down.



3 thoughts on “The Buffalo (Dermestid) Resurgence”

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