An agreement signed recently between the University of New Mexico's Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB), the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS), and the State of New Mexico, Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), has led to the creation of the New Mexico Biodiversity Research and Education Collaborative, a multidisciplinary effort designed to maximize the effectiveness and mission of each organization.

The Memo of Understanding (MOU) signed will help to:
• build capacity within the state to conduct important scientific research that will help preserve our state's natural heritage
• provide greater public understanding of important issues facing the state related to the preservation of species
• support the work of students and teachers by providing rich learning opportunities and resources that systemically support science learning in classrooms across the state.

The MOU was signed at the NMMNHS in Albuquerque between Veronica Gonzales, secretary, Department of Cultural Affairs, State of New Mexico; Charles H. Walter, director, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science; David J. Schmidly, president, UNM; and Joseph Cook, professor and director, UNM Museum of Southwestern Biology.

"New Mexico's rich natural heritage is one of our state's most precious resources," said Charles H. Walter, director, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. "This partnership will generate new research and educational programs that will ultimately lead to a greater awareness, understanding and stewardship of our natural world."

UNM's MSB is one of the top-three museums of its type building and conserving a globally significant bioscience collection used primarily for research and in achieving its academic mission. The NMMNHS and DCA conserves a New Mexico focused bioscience collection used primarily for research and in achieving its mission of developing exhibits, increasing educational programs and focusing on the understanding of science to the general public and the citizens of New Mexico.

"This MOU leverages the strengths of both museums. While UNM has the largest research collections in the Southwest, New Mexico Museum of Natural History has an excellent history of developing public exhibits to inform the public about science," said Joseph Cook, director, UNM Museum of Southwestern Biology.

Working together, the collaborative will provide each partner greater access to the university's and museum's collections to support research and education programs. The collaborative envisions creating a state-wide traveling museum exhibition focusing on the state's rich biodiversity. Internships will support rich learning experiences related to public outreach and informal learning.

"UNM's expertise and natural history collections span contemporary biodiversity: birds, insects, parasitic worms, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, plants, and fish, but we have had a limited ability to tell our research story directly to New Mexicans and visitors to our state because we don't have a public exhibit facility.

"The New Mexico Museum of Natural History has great expertise in developing public programs that allow folks to learn about the natural history of our incomparable fauna and flora, as well as the challenges we now face with rapidly changing environmental conditions. There also now are great opportunities to jointly train UNM students in biodiversity studies," added Cook.
One of the focus areas of the collaboration is for the NMMNHS and MSB to share faculty and staff, create adjunct and guest lecture relationships, and manage collections that complement and strengthen each institution. The collaboration is intended to make it easier to develop, share and inform the state's citizens through the efforts of these organizations.

"The MOU offers a unique opportunity to develop a partnership between the State of New Mexico, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Museum of Southwestern Biology," said UNM President David J. Schmidly. "The University is excited to be a part of this agreement that makes it easier for the organizations involved to work together and to share resources to benefit the citizens of the State of New Mexico."

Media Contact: Steve Carr (505) 277-1821; e-mail: