The vast collections at the U of M’s Bell Museum of Natural History—encompassing more than 4 million specimens—are a vital research tool for scientists around the world. Bird egg collections such as the one at the Bell, for example, provided the key link between DDT and raptor decline that led to a U.S. ban of the pesticide. And from fungi to fish, generous donors contribute items for the Bell's collections and funds to preserve them.
With a new online tool, the museum’s collections are now open to everyone. The Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas (bellatlas.umn.edu) gives the public access to approximately 400,000 scientific records and 175,000 images—and counting. It’s one new way the Bell is igniting curiosity and discovery leading up to the opening of the new Bell Museum + Planetarium, which opens on the St. Paul campus next summer.
Photography by Paul Nelson