The history of the Colorado
Plateau Biodiversity Center (CPBC) begins with the energy and vision of the
many Northern Arizona University faculty members in the Departments of
Biological Sciences, Geology, Environmental Sciences, and the School of
Forestry who in the 1920s started life sciences collections. Today, these
collections are the foundation
of CPBC’s seven divisions. Over time, the collections grew through the addition
of specimens by faculty members and their students as the result of teaching
and research activities as well as through donations.
2008, Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Board of Regents established the
CPBC to focus on biodiversity teaching and research. Specifically, the CPBC
- collect and document species of the Colorado
Plateau and comparative species from other regions;
- interpret the natural world through education,
research, and public programs;
- promote understanding of the evolution and
diversity of the Colorado Plateau; and
- inspire a respect for biodiversity and the
environment in all people.
larger importance of the collections was recognized by Laura Huenneke, Vice
President for Research, when the CPBC was established in 2008:
“In this era of rapid environmental changes,
well-documented collections of biological organisms represent invaluable
windows into the past ecosystems of our region. The university’s commitment to
sustaining these collections for research and teaching is another demonstration
of our deep connection to the Colorado Plateau.”
addition to advancing biodiversity teaching and research, the CPBC brings together
the various life sciences collections under one framework to improve
communication and collaboration. The CPBC’s primary objectives are to assist
individual collections with ongoing center-wide projects, including data
storage and website development, and to improve resources.
Today, 16 faculty curators oversee the CPBC’s seven
divisions, which include: quaternary paleoecology; botany; marine invertebrates
and mollusks; insects and arachnids; vertebrates; fungi; and environmental
genomics and genetics. CPBC serves the scientific community and the public
through its research, teaching, and outreach efforts.
The CPBC’s whole specimens, genetic material, digital
archives, and related data support bioinformatics and biodiversity research at regional, national, and
international levels. CPBC collections also are used as teaching tools in
almost 30 Northern Arizona University courses, to advance undergraduate and
graduate student research, and to create curatorial opportunities for students.
Some of the divisions also offer public programs such as the “The
Traveling Arthropod Show.”
The CPBC strives to
maintain its collections by all modern museum standards in order to keep them
in the public trust for future generations.
Perhaps the most immediate
challenge facing the CPBC, and many other repositories, is the need to make the
specimens and information housed in its collections more accessible to biologists,
policy makers, and the general public. As climate change, invasive species, and
other challenges threaten biodiversity, integrated and searchable online information
about species distribution and biological changes over time will be ever more
important. In the future, the CPBS will also increase its ability to address
scientific questions across a variety of disciplines. Of course, the CPBC will
continue to expand its collections as a means of supporting research,
education, and public outreach.