UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | February 23, 2024

Hidden treasures lie within Dixie State campus

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The Dixie State University Natural Science Museum is teeming with curious and extraordinary specimens.

Located in Room 207 of the Science Building, the museum contains more than 100,000 neatly organized specimens in draws, shelves, cabinets, jars, aquariums and some are mounted on the walls. 

The museum’s curator and director is biology professor Andrew Barnum, who will turn 90 next year and is as much of a treasure as the museum itself.  

Barnum began working at Dixie in 1940 and became a professor in 1959. He has more than 70 years of experience and has nurtured the museum’s collection to what it is now after originally starting with only 50 specimens. 

Barnum said some of the museum’s original specimens include birds that are more than 100 years old, an armadillo, a bassariscus, and two iguanas.

One of the most interesting and extraordinary specimens tucked away in the museum is an albino porcupine. 

“As far as we know, it’s the only albino porcupine that’s ever been found on the face of the earth,” he said.

Additionally, the museum exhibits a two-headed calf, a two-headed wasp and an eight-legged pig.

“I have never seen another eight-legged animal in all my years,” Barnum said.

The museum also displays shelves of bottled snakes and other cold-blooded creatures, including a two-foot-long salamander, a starfish and a stingray. 

Also, some of the museum’s relics are still alive.

Forty years ago, Barnum purchased three Madagascar hissing cockroaches and has cared for them since. They’re called hissing roaches because the male roach makes a loud hissing sound when disturbed. 

“The roaches live for about three years and reach a maximum length of 3 1/2 inches long,” Barnum said. “They also give live birth.”

Insects are Barnum’s specialty. He said he is proud of the museum’s indexed collection of more than 75,000 insects from around the world, with most of them from Washington County.

Most of the specimens have been collected from the Moab Desert, the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range Province. The museum has attracted professionals from as far as the East Coast and students from everywhere, Barnum said. 

“The museum provides an invaluable record of the natural history of our unique ecological region,” said biology department chair David Jones. “As the region changes, the value of the DSU collection will continue to expand for future generations.” 

The museum is open to all students and the general public for tours.