​UWSP Museum of Natural History - Exhibits

The exhibit arm of the UW-Stevens Point Museum of Natural History is housed within the Albertson Learning Resource Center (also known as the university library, or LRC), on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The natural history exhibits are supported by 25,000 square feet of collections storage and research space containing over 400,000 specimens from eleven scientific disciplines.
 
Our permanent exhibits consist of a series of large biologic dioramas depicting environments from around North America as well as Africa, and an extensive display depicting the Menominee Nation’s Clan system, Origin Story and its associated anthropomorphic Creation Beings. More about this amazing exhibit created by renowned traditional Menominee artist James Frechette Junior, may be found at: www.uwsp.edu/museum/menomineeClans/.
 
The Museum also offers rotating displays with recent offerings focusing on paleontology, entomology, mammalogy, and Native American-related exhibits.
Feel free to visit us or read about the exhibits in our Self Guided Tour (PDF).

Permanent & Rotating Exhibits

 

 Geology/Mineral Exhibits

 
Look up inside the main entrance hall and you will find the Geologic time scale surrounding the geology exhibits. If this time scale were in the form of a 24-hour clock, modern humans would only exist in the last millisecond of the last second, minute, and hour!
Rocks are made of minerals. The types and amounts of minerals present and the amount of time they take to crystallize and cool determine the kind of rock. The display cases in this room contain many minerals, allowing you to see the great range of possibilities for rocks to form.

There are three main types of rocks:
Igneous rocks begin as liquid magma underneath the Earth’s surface. When a volcano erupts, the magma reaches the surface and becomes solid rock with crystals as it cools.  Examples are granite, basalt and obsidian.
 
Sedimentary rocks form on the surface of the earth on land or under water. Some are cemented together by chemicals and minerals while others are only loosely held together. Examples are sandstone, breccia, and gypsum.
 
Metamorphic rocks are Sedimentary and igneous rocks that have undergone changes from intense heat and/or pressure. They form deep under the Earth’s surface and they are not melted but just made more dense and compact.
 
Crystals form differently depending on how deep they are, if they are exposed to the atmosphere, and how quickly they cool down. If minerals in magma are trapped underground, they cool slowly and the crystals can become larger! If the lava comes to the surface, the minerals cool quickly and have little time to grow.
 
Fossils are evidence of ancient or prehistoric plants and animals. Fossils can be of bones, shells, or be an impression of soft life like plants of invertebrates They can also be trace fossils which is something an animal made when it was alive like footprints, burrows, or dung. Fossils can be formed a variety of ways but most dinosaur bones are created by permineralization. This is when the plant or animal decomposes but its structure stays intact. Minerals then fill the empty spaces and crystallize- forming rock.
 

 Dinosaur Alcove

 
Earth’s timeline continues within the dinosaur alcove. All of the animals displayed existed thousands to millions of years ago and most, if not all of them, are now extinct. Although these animals are no longer alive, they can still leave clues behind about where they lived, what they ate, movement, behavior and much more. As you look around the dinosaur alcove, try to think about what these animals were like by the way they look or the fossils they left behind!
 
Dinosaur Alcove PictureArchaeopteryx (Ar-kee-OP-ter-ix)- This dinosaur is similar to modern birds in that it has feathers, a wishbone and reduced finger but it is certainly not a bird because of its teeth, flat breastbone, bony tail and claws on its wings. This fossil is from the Jurassic period and preserved in fine-grained limestone that resulted in the impressions of feathers. It is unlikely Archaeopteryx was a strong flier but it might have been capable of short flights or gliding.
 
Allosaurus (Al-oh-SAWR-rus)- The cast of this Allosaurus is made up of casts of bones from about 20 individuals. Complete ‘articulated’ (hooked together} skeletons are extremely rare and this was one of the earliest skeletons assembled using this method. Allosaurus was the top of the food chain during its reign in the Jurassic period. These horned carnivores had sharp claws and large, carved teeth great for eating large portions of meat with their flexible lower jaws.
 
Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils are very rare, very few have ever been found that are close to complete. 40ft long and up to 20ft tall, these creatures towered in the late Cretaceous period, and were some of the largest land carnivores to exist. To compensate for their immense size, many bones are hollow and their skulls have large openings for air. Look below the T-rex skull to see how large its brain was! T-rex would use their sharp curved teeth to bite its prey and tear away pieces with their strong neck muscles.
 
Mammoth & Mastodon teeth. These giant elephant-related animals were found in Wisconsin around 12,000-7,000 years ago. On the teeth casts, you can see that the Mastodon had cone-shaped rounded teeth- good for chewing leaves and branches. The Mammoth’s teeth are flatter and ridged- good for grinding grasses. From the picture below, what other differences do you see? The Boaz Mastodon discovered in 1897 is the Wisconsin State Vertebrate (animals with backbones) fossil!
 

 African Diorama I

 

African Dry Savannah

This diorama depicts Africa during the dry season. In the U.S., our main seasons are summer and winter but in areas around the equator, there are dry and wet seasons. During the dry season, there is less humidity and rain. With many rivers and water holes drying up, animals travel great distances to gather at the few remaining places of water, including predators who benefit by having their meals come to them.
 
African Lion- Unique to cats, lions form close-knit social groups- living and hunting in prides. Within lion prides, the females are usually the hunters- working together to bring down large game animals. Hunting alone, Lions will also eat rodents, birds, and fish. Hunting can be demanding on any animal and sleeping up to 20 hours a day conserves their energy. Lions communicate to other lions by roaring, not to scare prey and they are incapable of purring. Like many predators, a lion’s eyes face forward giving them binocular vision so that they can better determine how far away their food is.
 
Burchell’s Zebra- Zebras are members of the horse family. They are herbivores eating mainly grasses and occasionally leaves or shrubs. The stripes on the zebra are used for protection from predators because when they are all grouped together in large herds, it’s hard to figure out where one zebra ends and another begins creating a confusing sight for a predator. Zebras have eyes on the side of their head that allow them to see almost completely around them without turning their heads.
 
Spotted hyena- Lions and Hyenas are bitter rivalsstealing food from each other and contrary to popular belief, lions scavenge more often. Hyenas eat fast, large amounts of food and don’t leave anything… even eating the skin and bones of an animal. The famous “Hyena laugh” is actually a signal of submissiveness to the alpha females. Females are the leaders in Hyena society.
 
Klipspringer- Klipspringers are perfectly adapted for living on rocky cliffs and areas… with  the ability to bound up rock hills that are nearly vertical! Their backs are curved upward so that they can bend to have all four feet together on the smallest patches of rock. Their hooves are blunt and rubbery like climbing boots.
 

 Almont Site Plant Fossils

 
Almont Site Paleocene Plant Fossils Picture
 
Paleocene Fossil Plant Exhibit. Display features Paleocene Era (35-55 Ma BP) plant fossils collected by UWSP near Almont South Dakota. The Almont site contained one of the world’s most diverse set of plant remains for the period, within Sentinelinal Butte Formation. UWSP houses largest collection of specimens for this now exhausted locale.
 

 Desert Biome

 
Exhibit includes a small case of plants and animals endemic to North American deserts, illustrating adaptation to extremes in temperature and seasonal weather/rainfall. Original artwork depicts south-western desert flora and fauna. Exhibit includes small interactive display where visitors push buttons to illuminate desert burrows and typical occupants.
 

 Grassland/Wetland

 
Grasslands PictureExhibit includes a small case of flora and fauna typical of North American prairie and wetlands areas containing mounts of endemic birds, mammals and flora. Exhibit includes a small original painting as a background depicting prairie habitats.
 

 Snow Glade

 
Snow Glade PictureExhibit includes a large diorama depicting Western North American high plains to mid-elevation montane display including mounts of Cougar, Grizzly Bear, Mule Deer, Bobcat, Canadian Lynx and Mountain Goat. Mounts are depicted in various biomes within the larger ecosystem.
 

 Fish Cases/Marine exhibits

 
Exhibit includes a live native fishes of Wisconsin aquarium and small cases displaying mounted examples of Wisconsin native fish species, birds and other fauna and flora associated with marshes and lakes. Several ceiling mounted Shark species (Hammerhead Shark and Bull Shark) typical of California and Gulf coast waters complete the display.
 

 Arctic Tundra

 
The arctic tundra circles the North Pole and is a place of extremely cold temperatures, little rainfall and no trees. Most of the species exhibited are current residents or once lived in Wisconsin during the last Ice age and are adapted for surviving harsh, freezing, conditions. The bird species shown here are migrants- flying south before the arrival of the long, Arctic winter.
 
Musk-ox live in herds and when threatened, they will form a protective circle/crescent around their young with their horns facing out.  Their hooves have sharp edges than give them traction when moving over frozen ground. Musk ox have two layers of fur. The outer fur is coarse and water-proof while the under fur is soft and traps heat.
 
Gray Wolf- Without wolves to prey on herbivores (plant-eaters), plants would be over-eaten causing decreased growth of new vegetation and soil erosion. Wolves live and hunt in packs lead by an alpha male and female.
 
Wolverines are members of the weasel and otter family. They have great endurance and strength for their size, having been known to take down caribou and moose- animals 20 times a wolverine’s weight! Their oversized paws act as snowshoes and their claws help them to dig out hibernating prey or buried carrion.
 
Caribou, also known as reindeer, use their impressive antlers to defend against predators like wolves.  They are the only deer in which both the male and female have antlers! In the spring, Caribou form large herds of hundreds of thousands of  individuals to migrate south and find food.
 

 Northern Forests

 

Upper Great Lakes biome

The forest of the Great Lakes region support many species of plants animals that must survive with the changing seasons. Some animals have adapted by migrating, hibernating, or changing their behavior to deal with the harsh conditions of a Northern winter.

Raccoons have omnivorous diets meaning they eat both animal and plant material. Raccoons are nocturnal (active at night) and during the day, they will sleep in tree cavities, burrows, and man-made structures.  Babies are born around April or May and remain with their mothers until the following spring. Raccoons have highly dexterous forepaws that can climb, dig, grip, and even work doorknobs! They can also rotate their back feet 180 degrees to help them climb and descend trees. Contrary to popular belief, Raccoons do not wash their food in water but are thought to be separating uneatable parts from parts they can digest.  Raccoons will readily eat food with dirt on it.

Red foxes eat small animals, carrion, fruit, and vegetables. Foxes are usually active at night and will spend it roaming their territory looking for food. Cubs are born in March or April in an earthen den or crevice and by fall the young foxes are off on their own to establish their own territory. The red fox has a thick fluffy tail so that when curled up, they can cover their face, paws and legs- allowing them to stay warm when it is cold outside! When a fox attempts to catch a meal, they will leap high into the air and plunge vertically with their front feat aimed at their prey. A startled rodent will jump upward, making the catch quicker for a fox.

Moose- a member of the deer family, Moose eat plants material and live in the northern U.S and Canada. They have two layers of fur, and long legs for wading through snow and water. They can’t sweat though so they will wade in water to cool off.
 
Blanding’s turtle- The species is lives around the great lakes with some isolated populations on the eastern coast of the U.S and Nova Scotia. The most distinguishing feature is the bright yellow undersides of their necks. They eat crayfish, worms, snails, fish and carrion. Blanding’s turtles have a partially hinged plastron (bottom part of shell, pictured left). This means that when they hide in their shell, a part of the plastron can pull up to protect their head and front legs. These turtles are an endangered species in areas of their native habitat! This is because marshes are under threat by development and pollution and their eggs are common victims to predation.
 
Bats displayed here are insect eaters but there are also bats that consume nectar, fruit, blood, and even fish! Bats are nocturnal and use echolocation for hunting food. They send out clicks in an extremely loud, high frequency that humans cannot hear. The sound vibrations bounce of objects and allow them to pinpoint where things are. Bats can eat thousands of insects each night so they are very useful in pest control!
 
Western Fox snake- Fox snakes use Mimicry, which is when an animal imitates another animal so that predators will be less likely to eat it. Fox snakes look very similar to a Massasauga- a venomous snake that is dangerous to humans. When scared, fox snakes will sometimes flick their tails quickly in grass or leaves, which can sound like a rattlesnake!
 
Porcupine- The quills of the Porcupine are modified hair which cover most of the back and are loosely attached to the skin for easy detachment. The quills also have tiny scales at the tips that work like a fishhook, catching whatever they pierce.

Hummingbirds are the smallest type of bird in the world. Their wings can beat up to 200 times a second and they must drink their own body weight in nectar every day.

Beavers- are very well adapted for swimming. They have webbed hind feet, transparent eyelids that work like goggles, waterproof fur, closable ear and nostril openings and they can utilize 75% of the oxygen in their lungs (compared with 15% in humans).  A beavers’ teeth never stop growing throughout their lives. They are important because, when they build their dams, they create marsh/wetland habitat for many other animals to live in. A beaver’s unusual tail helps it swim, store fat, sit up and make alarm noises.
 
American Black bear- are very adaptable animals, often coming in close proximity to humans. They are excellent tree climbers and although they are mostly herbivores (plant eating), Black bears will occasionally eat carrion- so don’t play dead if you encounter one!
 
American crows are extremely intelligent and have been known to make and use tools, work together, problem-solve, and recognize themselves in mirrors!
 

 Schoebeck Egg Collection

 
Schoenbeck Egg Collection imageThese cases contain selected examples from a large historically significant pan-North American egg collection displaying 768 specimens collected between 1880 and 1925. Collection also includes examples from Africa, Europe and Australia. This display consists of three newly constructed cases arranged by family. This display includes such rare or extinct varieties such as Passenger Pigeon, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, and Whooping Crane. Associated specimens collected in concert with the eggs include complete nests and multiple mounted examples of the bird species themselves. These specimens are curated for research within the Ornithological collection.
 

 Northern Raptors

 
This collection shows the Great Lakes region birds of prey (raptors) - all of which are currently found in Wisconsin. Birds of prey are distinct in their acute eyesight, carnivorous (meat-eating) diet, and their sharp beaks and talons. They mainly hunt by sight and can detect movement from long distances. Many of them are able to ride thermals (columns of warm, rising air) and stay aloft for hours by barely flapping their wings.  In the mid 1900’s, many birds of prey became victims of the pesticide DDT as it concentrated at the top of the food chain. Thankfully with important legislation and conservation, many of the raptors have made successful recoveries.
 
Peregrine Falcon- wings are noticeably pointed allowing them to fly fast and maneuver the skies with ease. This falcon usually hunts by circling high in the air and then diving downward to catch birds or bats midair with its talons. They are fastest animals in the world- reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour!
 
Turkey Vultures eat carrion. This vulture and its relatives are the only birds of prey with a good sense of smell, letting them smell food from long distances. The turkey vulture has a bald head so that when it reaches its head into a dead animal for food, bacteria and other unwanted material don’t get caught in its feathers.
 
Owls- Have large eyeballs that allow them to see in very little light. They cannot look around but with extra vertebrae in their spines, they turn their heads around 270 degrees. The feathers on the face of an owl channel sound into their un-level ears. The ears are not even to help an owl pinpoint where sound is coming from. They are carnivores (meat-eating) and after 6-7 hours of digesting its food, owls will regurgitate the indigestible parts of its meal that includes fur, feathers and bones in pellets.
 
Great horned owl- The largest of the American Owls, these birds can have a wingspan of 3-5ft. The horns on top of their heads are not actually horns or ears but just tufts of feathers. They are very territorial and are usually active between dusk and dawn. Their main prey includes small mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians, even other owls! Great horned owls do not have a great sense of smell and this makes them one of the few predators that will eat skunks!
 
Bald eagle- With a wingspan of nearly 9ft, the Bald eagle is the second largest bird in North America besides the California condor. This eagle can spot a rabbit from two miles away and will use its sharp talons to snatch animals and fish in flight.  Having no vocal chords- the sound usually accompanied with a bald eagle in modern media is actually that of a red-tailed hawk!
 

 Passenger Pigeon

 
Passenger Pigeon Exhibit imageThis Exhibit includes a male Passenger Pigeon collected in the late 1880’s in Central Wisconsin, along the Rock River. The specimen was anonymously donated and may represent one of the last of this species collected in Wisconsin. Exhibit details local historic habitats including a known nesting ground and theories surrounding this species extinction (Newcastle’s Disease, habitat loss, over-hunting etc.). An original diorama background painting depicting typical habitat and local landforms completes the exhibit and served as a model for the production of a museum exhibit-associated educational poster series.
 

 African Diorama II

 

African Wet Season

In contrast to the dry season depicted near the front of the museum, this exhibit portrays the African savannah during the wet season. This season is marked by an increase in rainfall resulting in an abundance of plants, water and food. Rivers and bodies of water flood and create critical new annual habitats for plant and animal species.

Warthog- The tusks of the warthog are elongated canine teeth. Males have two pairs of warts that work as pads to protect their faces when they tusk fight for status and mating rights. They have a very good sense of smell and will use their spade-like noses to dig for roots. While feeding on their diet of grasses, roots, fruit, and carrion, they often bend their front legs and walk around on their cushioned wrists.

Sitatunga are antelopes that live year-round in the marshes and swamps of west-central Africa. They have flexible, feet with widely splayed hooves for walking on muddy ground. When threatened, Sitatunga retreat to the water and will submerge themselves with only their nose and eyes exposed on the surface.

Nile Crocodile eyes are on the top of the head so that they can sneak up on animals with just the top of their heads on the surface of the water. They are ambush predators meaning that they wait for an animal to come along and then surprise it instead of chasing after it.  Despite their intimidating nature, they are also very good parents- guarding their nests, helping them hatch and responding to their baby croc cries.

Cape buffalo only sleep about an hour a day for their own safety. They wallow and roll in muddy pools to keep cool and to protect their skin from insects. Often times, they will also allow birds to land on their backs to pick off ticks and insects. This is an example of Mutualism because the bird benefits by getting food while the buffalo benefits from the removal of annoying pests.

Dwarf Mongoose- These animals live in large family groups led by a head female. Their territory usually includes a termite mound which they use as lookout towers to search for danger but also to eat the termites inside. They often feed with hornbills because the mongoose disturbs insects, which the hornbill eats, and the hornbill warns the mongoose when predators are near.
 

 Menominee Clans Story Exhibit

 
Menominee Clans Story imageThe Menominee Clans Story exhibit contains a display unique in North America. This large culturally significant diorama depicts a stunningly accurate assemblage of hand-carved figures by noted Menominee elder and traditional craftsman James Frechette Jr. The exhibit figures and extensive background canvas depict the traditional origin story and creation of the Menominee Clans system and location upon the shores of Lake Superior in prehistory. Each individual carving represents a single creation being endowed with specific powers and charged with clan-associated duties. Figures depict various tasks and material culture artifacts of traditional use in Menominee pre-contact culture. Menominee Clans Story imageThis exhibit and the carvings it contains are of great cultural value and significance to the Menominee Nation, and the carvings themselves are imbued with cultural agency. Each figure is viewed as the living physical manifestation of that particular original Clan ancestor and as such, are seen as sentient beings possessed of human characteristics and attributes, especially those attributes seen as positive models for dealing with personal, tribal and natural issues such as human and environmental ethics and resource conservation. For more information on this iconic exhibit visit the Menominee Clans Story website at: www.uwsp.edu/museum/menomineeclans/.
 

 Rotating Archaeological / Native American Exhibits

 
Rotating Exhibit imageThese displays present rotating examples of material culture objects associated with Native American use of the Central Wisconsin area. Examples include Ho-Chunk and Ojibwa basketry and a traditional Menominee dugout canoe constructed at the turn of the century and collected about 1920. This dugout represents one of the last traditionally constructed watercraft of this type in Wisconsin.
 

 Rotating Paleontological Exhibits

 
Three exhibit cases outside the museum proper within the LRC lobby currently hold Eocene fossils collected by UWSP students and faculty over the last 25 years. Fossil cases include Eocene fish and insect insect fossils recovered from the Green River Formation Laggerstatten (an extremely rich or well preserved fossil locale), a series of evaporative lakes formerly located within Wyoming and Utah.