Building Burma's First Science Museum

Academy scientists are helping to house some of Burma's richest treasures - its scientific specimens.

Historically, Burma has valued its timber supply above all other natural resources. However, as one of the world's 25 designated "biodiversity hotspots," the country holds another rich, but rapidly diminishing, resource: a diverse concentration of plant and animal species, many of which can only be found within Burma's borders. Since 1997, Academy herpetologists have been traveling to Burma to document one component of this extraordinary biodiversity - the reptiles and amphibians. Now, they are working with colleagues from the Smithsonian and Burma's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division to create a permanent home for these specimens.

In March, the Myanmar Biodiversity Museum was little more than a building and a name, but now - after several shipments of museum supplies from the Academy and two visits from Academy herpetologists Jens Vindum and Guin Wogan - it is becoming a fully functional facility. During their most recent visit, Vindum and Wogan worked with the museum's new employees to organize and computerize the 4,000 herpetology specimens in their collections, using the recent shipments of shelving, specimen jars and computer equipment. VIndum also helped to set up what is now one of the biggest scientific libraries in the country.

While in Burma, Vindum saved time to collect about 75 species of reptiles and amphibians, of which a dozen represent new species. He and his Academy colleagues have now conducted surveys in 19 of Burma's 34 parks and reserves.

Map by Colleen Sudekum

 

Rhacophorus sp. is one of twelve new species of amphibians discovered on most recent Academy trip. Photo: Hla Tun
Xenophrys sp., a new frog species recently discovered in Burma. Photo: Dong Lin.
Amolops sp., a new frog species recently discovered in Burma. Photo: Hla Tun.

Some of the first specimens in the Myanmar Biodiversity Museum’s collections, these herps are housed in jars donated by the Academy.
Photo: Hla Tun
Academy herpetologist Guin Wogan teaches museum employees how to computerize their collections.
Photo: Hla Tun