Most professional herpetologists have had a course in college or graduate school that required some form of field collection. The collected specimens were often expected to be of “museum quality” and handed in to the professor as part of the evaluation for the course. The resulting collections were then routinely retained at the institution (or in some cases in the personal collection of the professor) as a teaching resource and record of the vertebrate fauna of the region. This tradition of the past century has resulted in hundreds of smaller collections at institutions of higher education and regional museums around the United States. When combined with the vertebrate collections at major research museums, the specimens held in these repositories provide an extremely important resource for teaching and research in vertebrate and conservation biology. This chapter reviews the relationship of museum collections (and those of amphibians in particular) to the study of current conservation issues. It considers both the benefits and costs of collections to scientific institutions and society, and suggests future directions for these efforts.
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