Mammalogy History

KU Mammalogy has a long, rich history of innovation, discovery, and leadership in mammalogy.

Professor Francis H. Snow started KU's collections in 1866, the summer before the University opened. The “Cabinet of Natural History,” initiated by Snow and formally established by the University in 1868, has grown into one of the largest university-based research collections in the world. A number of museum practices and curation mammal collections had their origin or early development at the University of Kansas Kansas.

In 1881, Snow hired Lewis Lindsay Dyche as his assistant. Dyche became a full-time instructor in Natural History in 1883. When Snow was named Chancellor in 1889, Dyche became Curator of Birds and Mammals, and began the present mammal collection. His exhibit of large, mounted mammals at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is still on display today in the KU Natural History Museum in Dyche Hall (constructed in 1903). He also influenced the development of other natural history museums. For example, a young Joseph Grinnell met Dyche in Alaska and was inspired to pursue a career in natural history. In 1908, Grinnell came to Kansas from Berkeley University seeking Dyche's advice on how to operate a museum, the beginnings of the UC Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

In 1912, Dyche was succeeded by Charles Dean Bunker, who perfected the dermestid beetle method of cleaning skeletal material. Bunker, Remington Kellogg, and later H. H. Lane and Claud W. Hibbard, continued an active collecting program, concentrating on the Great Plains region.  In 1944, E. Raymond Hall, who had been a KU undergraduate with Bunker and a graduate student with Grinnell at California, became Director of the Museum and Chair of the Department of Zoology.  Under his aegis, the Modern Vertebrate Department was separated into divisions: Mammalogy, Herpetology, Ichthyology, and Ornithology.  A new wing of Dyche Hall was completed in 1963 due to Hall's acquisition of matching funds from the National Science Foundation and State Legislature.

Hall, at both Berkeley and KU, trained a number of renowned mammalogists, including Ticul Álvarez, Sydney Anderson, Rollin H. Baker, E. Lendel Cockrum, William B. Davis, James S. Findley, Robert B. Finley, Hugh H. Genoways, Donald F. Hoffmeister, Emmet T. Hooper, J. Knox Jones, Jr., Phillip Krutzsch, Ronald M. Nowak, H. W. Setzer, Richard G. Van Gelder, Terry A. Vaughan, B. Villa-R., and P. M. Youngman . These mammalogists in turn trained their own students, those students have trained another generation, and that next generation is now training their own students.

J. Knox Jones served as curator of mammals from 1959 through 1971, and trained several KU mammalogists including: David M. Armstrong, Elmer C. Birney, Jerry R. Choate, Hugh H. Genoways, G. Lawrence Forman, Timothy E. Lawlor, and Carleton J. Phillips.

Robert S. Hoffmann served as curator of mammals from 1968 through 1985, and produced a number of Masters and Ph.D. students including Fernando Cervantes, Lawrence R. Heaney, James W. Koeppl, Eric A. Rickart, Robert K. Rose, Barbara R. Stein, and Merlin D. Tuttle. In 1985, Hoffmann accepted the position of Director of the United States National Museum.

Robert M. Timm (Bob) served as curator of mammals and a faculty member in the Department of Systematics and Ecology (now Ecology and Evolutionary Biology). Under Timm's tenure, the collection increased from 126,000 (in 1986) to more than 180,000 specimens today. Bob remains an active research associate and Emeritus Curator of Mammalogy involved in student training and research.

Jocelyn P. Colella is the current curator of mammals, trained at the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico. With support from the National Science Foundation, in 2022 Colella updated storage capacities for the dry collections (skin and skeletal material) and is now focused on improving and expanding KU’s cryogenic capacities in mammalogy.