Overview of NMU's Biology Spaces

NMU's Department of Biology houses the majority of its courses and labs in one of three campus buildings: West Science, Weston Hall, and Jamrich Hall. Within the facilities, the department also has a number of unique learning areas that students from all levels utilize, many of which offer hands-on educational opportunities.

Explore the content on this page to discover the numerous and uniquely Northern spaces that our biology students have access to.

The Biology Department maintains several animal holding facilities including an animal room suite with areas for rodent (primarily mouse) colonies. We also have an area dedicated to culture of aquatic species, primarily fish. In addition, the department maintains displays of live organisms, including fish and invertebrates, for teaching purposes.

The NMU greenhouse is a 166 square meter (1790 square foot) glass-covered greenhouse split equally into a "research" side and a "teaching" side.

Heating: Each side is heated by 2 Vulcan steam furnaces year-round. Backup heat is supplied by steam radiators that run the length of the outside wall. Heated air is circulated in the sides by way of two 50 cm (20 inch) circulation fans.

Cooling: Each side is cooled by an 8 square meter swamp cooler, which cools by evaporation of water from water-absorbing fins and a vent to the outside. Two exhaust fans are placed opposite the swamp cooler to pull air through the vent. Each side also has two full-length peak vents which let in fresh air from above.

Light: Extra light is supplied by 12, 400-watt high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps per side. Motorized mylar shading is used to block sunlight when it is too intense and to help cool the greenhouse.

Computer Controls: The research and teaching sides are individually computer-controlled by EnviroSTEP computers built by Wadsworth Controls. These computers automatically keep the temperature, humidity and light of each side at our predetermined setpoints by turning on and off equipment when necessary. The computers log all this information as well as equipment run statistics, and outside weather conditions, which can later be retrieved using a normal desktop computer located in the greenhouse prep room.

Plant Collection: The teaching side of the greenhouse currently contains approximately 70 species of plants, from desert succulents to rainforest trees. The plants are used to help teach botany/biology classes.

Watering System: Currently half of the teaching side is watered automatically using a hanging mist and drip system. This allows for a period of absence for the plant caretakers.

The herbarium, or collection of preserved plant specimens, includes more than 5,000 specimens drawn from throughout the range of plant species. These specimens are used in a variety of botany courses and are also available to researchers.

NMU's Weston Hall offers both research and teaching laboratory space to the Biology Department.

Twelve dedicated teaching laboratories (approximately 10,000 total square feet) are supported by an extensive stock room, modern cellular and molecular biology core rooms (complete with autoclaves, ultracold freezers and centrifuges), a tissue culture facility and storage areas for field and laboratory equipment.

Twelve research laboratories support the research programs of the faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate student researchers. These research laboratories are supported by animal/fish culture areas, a tissues culture facility and the core area.

The Biology Department houses zoological collections that cover the breadth of diversity of the animal Tree of Life, ranging across most major groups of invertebrate and vertebrate animals.  Established in 1974 by J. Kirwin Werner and Lewis Peters, the museum is an important resource for NMU students and faculty.  The collections have particular strengths in the fauna of the Great Lakes Region.  They are maintained by faculty curators and student collection managers, and they support teaching and research in the Department and beyond. 

Vertebrate collections: All major lineages of vertebrate organisms are represented in the vertebrate collections, including fluid-preserved fishes, amphibians and reptiles, bird skins and eggs, and mammal skins, skulls, skeletons, and frozen tissues.  Faculty curators include Alec Lindsay (birds; >300 specimens), Jill Leonard (fishes), and Kurt Galbreath (mammals; >1700 specimens).

Invertebrate collections: These are the largest and most diverse of the Department’s collections.  Cumulatively numbering in the tens of thousands of specimens, the invertebrate collections include freshwater decapods (e.g., crabs, crayfish), aquatic and terrestrial insects (including Luther West’s personal entomology collection), Lake Superior wave-zone invertebrates, freshwater sponges, gastropods, leeches, and parasites.  Faculty curators of the major invertebrate collections are Neil Cumberlidge (decapods) and Mac Strand (other invertebrates).

Specimen databaseSpecimen data from the NMU collections are in the process of being digitized and entered into the Arctos museum collection management system.  Digitized data are freely accessible to educators and researchers and can be searched here.  Currently, data for mammals and birds are available through the database.  Our goal is to continue to digitize the remaining collections as resources permit.

Loan policy: We encourage the use of our data and specimens for non-destructive research and teaching purposes.  All loan requests must be directed to the curator who is responsible for the relevant collection, and should be in the form of a signed cover letter on institutional letterhead outlining the request. The letter should include a brief summary of the research, including the qualifications of the requester, description of research objectives, timeline for the study, justification for the request (including availability of other material that will be used in the study), relevant data collection methods to be used, and a list of the specific specimens that are being requested. Additional conditions of loans beyond those described here may be deemed appropriate depending on the nature of the loan.

Researchers who are interested in using specimens are encouraged to visit in person, as we are a small museum with minimal resources and our capacity to pack and ship loans is limited.  For loans that we do ship, all shipping costs must be covered by the recipient of the loan, and therefore a UPS account number to which the shipping costs will be charged must be provided.  We are currently unable to ship loans via other carriers (e.g., FedEx).

Northern Michigan University retains ownership of all loaned specimens. Recipients of loans are not permitted to provide either the specimens or their derivatives (e.g., DNA extracts) to a third party without written consent from the appropriate curator. All specimens and derivatives (including DNA extractions from tissues) must be returned to NMU upon completion of the project for which the loan request was made. All publications, GenBank submissions, or other products of research that uses NMU specimens must acknowledge the use of those specimens and cite them by their NMU catalog number.

For general queries regarding NMU's zoological collections, contact Kurt Galbreath.

Longyear Forest

The Longyear tract is 160 acres that were donated to the university (120 acres in 1949 and an additional 40 acres in 1958) by Abby Beecher Roberts as a memorial to her father, John Munro Longyear. Longyear is primarily a forest habitat composed of northern hardwoods with some conifers. It also includes northern bog habitat. The forest is used for research and for ecology field exercises. It is also used for recreation by students and the local community.


The Shiras Tract

The Shiras Tract is 205 acres that includes 100 acres acquired from the Michigan Department of Corrections in 1966 and another 105 acres received as a gift from Cleveland Cliffs Corporation (actually Cliffs Electric Service Company) in 1986. The area is used by some faculty for courses and research. The trails through the property are also extensively used by the local community.


The Triangle

The Triangle Tract was originally 46 acres that were purchased from the Royal Charcoal Company in 1969. In 1972 NMU did a land exchange with the City of Marquette so that the city could build Lakeview Arena. Currently NMU owns about 38 acres. This dune, swale and lake shore area is available for courses and research.