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Mollusk Collection

The UMMZ Mollusk Division, through the help of the National Science Foundation's Biological Research Collections program, is currently databasing its catalog of nearly 5 million specimens. The primary goal of this project is to enter all of the University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology Mollusk Collection (UMMZ-MC) cataloged lots into an online Specify database. This process will involve georeferencing the data for GIS purposes, and also re-housing the dry specimens for their protection. A secondary goal is to develop an online type catalog with high-resolution images. The UMMZ-MC has long ranked amongst the most important freshwater and land snail collections in North America, being most notable for its excellent taxonomic and geographic coverage, type collection, and also for its relative age. A large fraction of its freshwater lots predate the major wave of extirpation and extinction associated with watershed industrialization, and the recent renaissance in the scientific and conservation biology study of the North American freshwater malacofauna has significantly heightened the UMMZ-MC's research saliency.


The staff of the Mollusk Division consists of two half-time curators, a half-time secretary, two full-time curatorial assistants, and a full-time collection manager. Additionally, there are varying numbers of graduate students, post-doctoral students, visiting scholars, and special non-degree students. The latter groups are, for the most part, funded independently of the University. Depending on the availability of funds, the Mollusk Division also hires students as part-time, non-permanent assistants, including students in the work-study program


The Mollusk Division of the University's Museum of Zoology is quartered in 16 rooms. This space includes rooms for the storage of wet and dry mollusk specimens, general storage, a library, laboratories, and offices for curators, a secretary, and students. The dry collection is located in two rooms and is stored in 254 cases, 145 of which are relatively new metal cases and 109 are older wooden cases. Some of the wooden cases date from the 19th century; others date from 1928 when the present Museum Building was constructed. The wet (ethanol-preserved) collection is stored in a separate room. The radular slide collection is housed in a special case within the dry collection.


The Mollusk Division Library is one of six divisional libraries in the museum maintained by the University of Michigan library system. The Division library itself (Rm 1019) contains holdings cataloged and maintained by the U-M Library System, as well as books and reprints which are the property of the Division. This includes all of the malacological journals (each set complete), about 1,500 other volumes dealing specifically with mollusks, and many reprints. Additionally, the central Main Room (Rm 2500) of the Museum library and the University's library storage facility house nearly all existing journals on natural history (i.e., those not dealing specifically with mollusks, but which contain many malacological articles), and the Graduate, Undergraduate, Biological Sciences and Medical Libraries (all less than three blocks away from the Museums building) are outstanding in their coverage of all biological subjects. The entire cataloged U-M library holdings can be accessed by any computer over the University's MIRLYN online catalog.


Loans are made to any qualified individuals or institutions requesting them, and who will assume the responsibility for the care of the material during the tenure of the loan, and for its safe return. In order to qualify, individuals must meet one of the following criteria: affiliation with a museum, university, or governmental unit; recognized authorities not affiliated with an institution; or individuals such as graduate students sponsored by a faculty member. Student loans are made under the name of the faculty sponsor. Loans are made free of charge for a period of six months and may be renewed for as long as the specimens are necessary for the completion of the research. Destructive analysis is not allowed without prior approval. When destructive analysis is appropriate, every effort should be made to limit destruction to less than the entire specimen. Requests for tissue samples for molecular work can be made and will be provided whenever possible. It is understood that these samples will not be returned to the museum. Individuals wishing to examine large numbers of specimens are encouraged to visit the museum. Loans of Holotype specimens are not generally made, however, detailed photographs of these specimens will be provided free of charge.

To request a loan, contact the Collection Coordinator. If the requested materials are available, you will be asked to fill out, sign and return our Loan Request Form. Loan Requests generally require less than one week to process.

Send Requests to:

Taehwan Lee, Collections Coordinator
Division of Mollusks, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Research Museums Center
3600 Varsity Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
or Email:


Collaboration takes place on a variety of levels. Common scenarios include:

(1) Collaboration with individual scientists.

Typically identification of specimens, either for specialists who cannot themselves come to use the Museum's collections, or for workers in other fields. Among the latter in recent years have been anthropologists, parasitologists, physiologists, fisheries biologists, and ecologists. Another important service is the loan of specimens important to their studies. The Mollusk Division also provides space, facilities, and sometimes financial support for zoologists who come to work with its collections. We have received scientists from around the world.

(2) Collaboration with state, federal, and international agencies.

The services performed by the Mollusk Division fall into the following categories:
Contributions to the knowledge of local, national, and foreign faunas, by surveys, direct investigation, and publishing both technical and popular reports of its findings. Direct participation in the work of other scientific and regulatory agencies. These activities include the identification of specimens, providing consultation services, and participating in research and field surveys.