Derek S. Sikes

Curator of Insects
Assistant Professor of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960

email: ffdss 'at' uaf.edu


The ~462 ft2 Entomology Preparations laboratory has four workspaces. Three microscope benches and one computer work area. One microscope is attached to a computer for digital phography.

Floorplan of the research level of the museum.

An image of the lab (with Charlie and Lois O'Brien)


Museum & Associated Laboratories and Offices
The University of Alaska Museum moved into the new, environmentally controlled Otto Geist Building in 1980. The then-new Museum joined the University’s natural science complex on the West Ridge of the Fairbanks campus. A major renovation ($42M) to the museum was recently completed (2006) which provided the Alcohol Room described below, among many other major improvements.
The Insect Collection currently occupies a single compactor unit (114 ft2). There will be an expansion of the Insect Collection to encompass 300 ft2 of the Main Collection Range. All collections are housed in AAM-approved climatic conditions and under rigorous security (single access, badged entry only; alarms and guards after hours).
Adjoining the main Collection Range, are new laboratories for each collection (varying from 350-486 ft2; the Insect Collection prep lab is 462 ft2. These laboratories contain tables, benches, sinks, freezers, computers, shelving, wall cabinets for supplies, space for existing processing cases, and fume hoods. These labs are used for specimen study, preparation, cataloguing, and loan processing by UAM collection managers and students.
New shared labs provide facilities we’ve not had before the recent renovation (2006) and include: a high-grade fully outfitted PCR-free lab for ancient DNA work (359 ft2), a molecular lab (also PCR-free; 662 ft2), a ‘wet’ preparation lab (599 ft2), and a ‘dry’ preparation or ‘dirt’ lab (450 ft2). Tissue specimens are housed in the Genetic Resources Collection, which presently occupies four ultracold freezers; these now occupy a new freezer room in the expansion (527 ft2).
Curators and Collection Managers have now occupied their new offices after the expansion. These offices are furnished with desks, chairs, networked computers and printers, filing cabinets, and shelf space. In general, the Museum facilities dedicated to these collections are excellent with the completion of the expansion.

Alcohol Room
All specimens stored in alcohol are soon to be move to our new Alcohol Room (fall 2007). Shelving in the new 1,331 ft2 room meets fire, earthquake, and floor-loading codes. Ease and degree of shelf relocation (no tools required, 1" variable-height bracketing) further enhance the utility of this shelving. The amount of shelving installed will meet our short- and medium-term needs for both accommodating existing fluid specimens (which are currently improperly housed) and absorbing new specimens over the next 5-10 years. Requiring a blow-out wall, the Alcohol Room is located on the first floor. Because it is not on a slab on grade the University Dept. of Design & Construction did not allow installation of compactors. The live load bearing rating of 100 lbs./ft2 was specifically designed to hold the mass of a room full of static shelving and fluid specimens (to a capacity of 133,100 lbs., or 66.5 tons). Review of blueprints and shelving designs assures that we are well within these tolerances.

Research Facilities
Curators of biological collections also hold appointments in the Institute of Arctic Biology (IAB), a research institute housed on West Ridge, close to the Museum. Nearly all members of IAB hold faculty appointments in the Department of Biology and Wildlife, causing it to be well integrated with the University and with student research and education. Curators in Biology & Wildlife have close ties with IAB faculty and graduate students, and the open-door, can-do policy of both department and institute ensure that needs are met for research space and equipment. The research infrastructure of the Institute ranges from a Spatial Analysis/GIS laboratory, to live animal holding facilities, to physiological laboratories, to a newly-built DNA sequencing facility (core lab; http://www.core.uaf.edu/). The Curators of Insects, Plants, Birds, and Mammals each have a double bench aisle in the molecular lab of the recently constructed West Ridge Research Building (WRRB), a state-of-the-art facility close to the Museum with a large open lab shared by 10 IAB faculty and their students, technicians, and postdocs. IAB's Core Facility for Nucleic Acid Analysis, immediately adjacent to the WRRB labs, includes two ABI 3100 automated sequencers, an ABI 377 automated sequencer, an ABI 9600 thermal cycler, an ABI 7900 Real-Time PCR machine, computers, and other equipment. It is staffed by two technicians and is used by at least 13 faculty and members of their labs.

Computer Facilities
The UA Museum is part of a sophisticated University network of computing facilities and is on the fiber-optic backbone network. In addition, the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center, housed in a building across the street from the Museum, has been generous in supporting biological research projects requiring substantial computing power. Curators have been working with them to enable complex, time-consuming phylogenetic analyses. These clusters now can run a variety of phylogenetic software packages such as MrBayes, and Bayesphylogenies.
UAM is one of a few museums to explore the potential of deep relational systems by adopting the comprehensive data model first put forth by the Association of Systematics Collections (ASC now Natural Science Collections Alliance) in 1993. Working closely with UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ), UAM has generalized MVZ's implementation of the ASC model for vertebrates to include invertebrates and plants (See Project Description, UAM Database – Arctos).

Academic Resources
UAF is the only PhD-granting institution in the state of Alaska. Curators in the Museum hold faculty appointments and tenure lines within an academic department of the University. The curators of Mammals, Insects, the Herbarium, and Birds hold their appointments with the Department of Biology and Wildlife, a department in the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. This Department has approximately 40 faculty members engaged in animal, plant, microbial, physiological, behavioral, ecological, biochemical, genetic, medical, wildlife biology, and evolutionary education and research. It is one of the strongest academic departments at the University. The new Curator of Earth Sciences (P. Druckenmiller) holds his appointment in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, which is also administered by the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.