MRAP 288


MRAP 288, Museum Research Apprenticeship I, Fall or Spring semester

1 or 2 credits (3 or 6 hrs/week, Pass/Fail)

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor (see areas of current opportunities below). Some apprenticeship opportunities may include preferred prior experience. Students must contact one or more of the faculty members listed below and apply for consideration to be included; opportunities and space are both limited. Areas presently offering opportunities and contact information to request instructor permission:

Birds (Kevin Winker,

Mammals (Link Olson,

Plants (Stefanie Ickert-Bond,

Insects (Derek Sikes,

Earth Sciences (Patrick Druckenmiller,

Fishes (Andres Lopez,

Archaeology (Josh Reuther,

Ethnology/History (Angela Linn,

Fine Art (Mareca Guthrie,

Location: University of Alaska Museum of the North, specific rooms to be determined.

Meeting times: Flexible, depending on apprenticeship opportunities.

Instructors: Co-taught by UAM faculty curators, who may include Kevin Winker (, Link Olson (, Stefanie Ickert-Bond (, Derek Sikes (, Patrick Druckenmiller (, Andres Lopez (, Josh Reuther, (, and/or Mareca Guthrie (

Readings/materials: None required overall, but some apprenticeship opportunities will require lab safety training and/or opportunity-specific readings (e.g., preparation or protocol literature). Read and sign appropriate safety and museum security documents, which will be provided to the student.

Course description: This is a once- or twice-weekly laboratory/collections-based course for undergraduate students eager to obtain hands-on training and experience in museum science. The University of Alaska Museum of the North is the State’s de facto repository of natural history specimens and cultural objects, and we house multiple world-class research collections. Processing incoming specimens or objects and their associated data is a critical ongoing set of highly specialized tasks. Some of these tasks, for example, turn organisms into scientific specimens that are useful for a broad array of questions in areas as diverse as evolution, ecology, genetics, conservation, and the changing environment. Others process objects of historic or contemporary culture or art for preservation and study of myriad questions about humans, past and present. Careful documentation and preservation are key parts of these processes, and this course involves hands-on training and working experience with specimens and objects and their associated data. For example, some students will prepare museum-quality skins, skeletons, and sometimes fluid specimens, or dry mounts following standard procedures. During some of these preparations, students will perform a dissection/necropsy and record observational data in a catalog. They will take measurements, tissue samples, and other parts to preserve as specimens. Students will be encouraged to explore questions about species’ morphology, distributional patterns, diets, parasite loads, molting patterns, and other potential research questions. Other students will learn preventive conservation methods to prepare cultural objects for curation. Students will analyze objects and record data such as measurements, materials, function, typology, and design elements. Students will have the opportunity to research questions about human culture such as prehistoric trade and technology, human environmental interaction, and cultural meanings as reflected in art and artifact. Students will also participate in discovery science and in practical aspects of research resource infrastructure.

A various array of apprenticeship opportunities will be available each semester. Students may repeat the course to improve or expand their knowledge and skills and gain new experiences, and students with these skills are preferred when advanced opportunities such as paid positions and field work arise. Students will gain an understanding of a critical aspect of museum science (e.g., preparing skins or skeletons, fluid-preserved specimens, botanical specimens, tissue samples, studying or documenting and cataloguing archaeological, ethnological, and art objects, etc.). They will also learn the importance of accurately recording detailed data associated with museum specimens and objects. Such detailed focus on organisms and objects serves as an important complement to the social and natural sciences or to art at multiple levels.

Catalogue description: MRAP 288 (1 or 2 credits, Pass-Fail). Museum Research Apprentice I. Provides opportunities for undergraduate student research or scholarship in museum-based subjects not available in typical undergraduate courses. Students are required to perform research tasks associated with specimens or objects and their associated data and to turn in a final report. Opportunities range across several museum-based disciplines. Opportunities range across several museum-based disciplines (archaeology, botany, earth science, entomology, ethnology & history, film, fine art, ichthyology, mammalogy, informal science education, and ornithology). This course may be repeated (up to 4 credits).

Course goals: Students will attain proficiency in aspects of museum science associated with specimens, objects, and data.

Student Learning Outcomes: Students will learn, through direct research experience, how discipline-specific specimens, samples, and objects are processed and preserved and how associated knowledge is created, archived, and disseminated. Associated activities may include, but are not limited to: specimen preparation, subsampling, comparative age- and sex-related anatomy, species identification, georeferencing, databasing, labeling/barcoding, DNA/tissue archiving, automontage specimen photography, preventive conservation, and other procedures. The tools, skills, and techniques associated with these activities, which are unique to each discipline, will become familiar, as will the critical thinking skills necessary to effectively and safely use them. Writing skills will also be improved through recording data, weekly note-taking, and a final report.

Instructional methods: Will vary somewhat with instructor and discipline but will be mostly one-on-one or small group laboratory and/or collections practicum. Brief lectures may also be given in some disciplines.

Grading: This course is Pass/Fail. Grading will be based on attendance, laboratory and/or collection-based activities, keeping up a notebook (90% for these), and a final report (10%). The final report shall be no longer than 3 pages and will provide a restrospective of the laboratory and/or collection-based activities performed and include an assessment of concepts or skills covered and possible future directions.

Course policies: Students must attend each week for the full hours committed (1 credit = 3 hr/week; 2 credits = 6 hr/week). Missed time must be made up. Coordinate with your instructor. Safety training will be required if you are working in a laboratory. Safety tips: safety coordinators will review safety issues, and you will hopefully have some safety knowledge from previous courses. We suggest that any work be carried out with appropriate caution. Wear safety gear as required. Do not rush. Do not attempt a procedure without the necessary training. Familiarize yourself with the potential hazards of materials you are using. Use common sense. This is a learning experience, so do not be shy about asking for assistance. BE SURE THAT YOUR WORKSPACE IS CLEAN UPON LEAVING. Per academic policy, plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and may result in failure. The purpose of participation in this course is to acquire useful skills through learning. To submit another person’s work as your own is to lose the opportunity to learn these skills. Honesty is a primary responsibility of you and every other UAF student. Withdrawal: Students are expected to formally withdraw from the course if they cannot complete it; they will not be automatically withdrawn by the instructor or their research mentor if they do not attend or fall behind. Students who do not successfully complete the class and do not withdraw will receive a grade of “F”.

Course calendar: This is an outline; discipline-specific activities may vary.

Course week Course Topic Course Assignment
1  Introduction to disciplines and activities; lab safety (if needed); initiate individual research, lesson planning/lecture  notes.
2 Individual research Begin weekly lab notebook
3 Individual research Notebook Entries
4 Individual research; discuss progress with supervisor, review notebook, and/or lesson prep. Notebook Entries
5 Individual research Notebook Entries
6 Individual research Notebook Entries
7 Individual research; discuss progress with supervisor, review notebook and/or lesson prep. Notebook Entries
8 Individual research Notebook Entries
9 Individual research Notebook Entries
10 Individual research; discuss progress with supervisor, review notebook, mid-term progress. Notebook Entries
11 Individual research Notebook Entries
12 Individual research Notebook Entries
13 Individual research; discuss progress with supervisor, review project report requirements. Notebook Entries
14 Individual research Notebook Entries
15 Complete semester’s project Complete lab notebook
Finals week Project Report

UAF policies: As a UAF student, you are subject to the Student Code of Conduct ( In accordance with Board of Regents’ Policy 09.02.01, UAF will maintain an academic environment in which the freedom to teach, conduct research, learn, and administer the university is protected. Students will enjoy maximum benefit from this environment by accepting responsibilities commensurate with their role in the academic community. The principles of the Code are designed to facilitate communication, foster academic integrity, and defend freedoms of inquiry, discussion, and expression among members of the university community. You should become familiar with campus policies and regulations as published in the student handbook.

UAF requires students to conduct themselves honestly and responsibly, and to respect the rights of others. Conduct that unreasonably interferes with the learning environment or that violates the rights of others is prohibited.  Students and student organizations will be responsible for ensuring that they and their guests comply with the Code while on property owned or controlled by the university or at activities authorized by the university.

Disciplinary action may be initiated by the university and disciplinary sanctions imposed against any student or student organization found responsible for committing, attempting to commit, or intentionally assisting in the commission of any of the following prohibited forms of conduct:

A. cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty;
B. forgery, falsification, alteration, or misuse of documents, funds, or property;
C. damage or destruction of property;
D. theft of property or services;
E. harassment;
F. endangerment, assault, or infliction of physical harm;
G. disruptive or obstructive actions;
H. misuse of firearms, explosives, weapons, dangerous devices, or dangerous chemicals;
I. failure to comply with university directives;
J. misuse of alcohol or other intoxicants or drugs;
K. violation of published university policies, regulations, rules, or procedures; or
L. any other actions that result in unreasonable interference with the learning environment or the rights of others.

This list is not intended to define prohibited conduct in exhaustive terms, but rather to set forth examples to serve as guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Honesty is a primary responsibility of you and every other UAF student.  The following are common guidelines regarding academic integrity:

1.         Students will not collaborate on any quizzes or exams that will contribute to their grade in a course, unless permission is granted by the instructor of the course.  Only those materials permitted by the instructor may be used to assist in quizzes and exams.

2.         Students will not represent the work of others as their own.  A student will attribute the source of information not original with himself or herself (direct quotes or paraphrases) in compositions, theses and other reports.

3.         No work submitted for one course may be submitted for credit in another course without the explicit approval of both instructors.

Alleged violations of the Code of Conduct will be reviewed in accordance with procedures specified in regent’s policy, university regulations and UAF rules and procedures.  For additional information and details about the Student Code of Conduct, contact the Dean of Student Services or web or refer to the student handbook that is printed in the back of the class schedule for each semester.  Students are encouraged to review the entire code.

A Few Words on Plagiarism:  In general, DO NOT present someone else’s ideas or data as your own: you are expected and required to give credit where credit is due.   Plagiarism is a violation of the law and may lead to serious repercussions!  Please follow the following guidelines: for any written assignments, if you use someone else’s ideas, data, or other information, write it in your own words and include the reference in parentheses directly following that information.  Avoid copying someone else’s text.  If, however, you feel you have to include an exact copy of that text, put it in quotation marks followed by the reference in parentheses.  Of course, include all cited references in the Literature Cited section.  During oral presentations, please acknowledge the sources by mentioning their name(s) and year of publication or by printing them on overheads, slides, or handouts.  Also be aware that you need to cite earlier work by yourself.  Any substantial use of any written or other materials that was used for another course or that was generated in any other circumstances will not be accepted for credit in this course.  Only minor contributions from earlier work with appropriate citation(s) will be accepted.

Disabilities Services: The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. We will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (208 WHITAKER BLDG, 474-5655) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.