The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History was originally founded as the Museum of Comparative Oology in 1916 by the well-recognized ornithologist, William Leon Dawson. This collection-based institution began as a repository of bird's eggs, nests, and skins. Tragically, the bird skin collection suffered a catastrophic loss in the April 1962 fire that claimed a major portion of the vertebrate collections.

Major Collection Donors
Since the fire, the bird skin collection has been rebuilt, such that it now contains more specimens than before the fire. With the noted collecting efforts of W. G. Abbott, E. Z. Rett, J. Cushing, I. K. Dunbar, D. H. Blanchard, and P. W. Collins, our collection consists of significant holdings of Channel Island specimens, as well as the largest collection of birds from this region. Many of the skins have accompanying osteological material as well as a small number of wing and tail preparations.

Our bird egg collection ranks 10th in the nation and houses W. L. Dawson's personal egg collection as well as sets from other notable oologists such as Sir C. Becher, Harry R. Caldwell, D. L. Garrett, E. Jacot, Lawrence T. Stevens, and F. C. Willard.

Geographic Coverage
With over 490 North American species our collections are primarily regionally focused, but with the recent addition of the Dean H. Blanchard collection we now have study skins from regions in Ecuador, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. Our 12,000 sets of eggs encompass over 1300 species worldwide.


The original core of the mammal skin collection was assembled between 1932 and 1962 through the collecting efforts of two past curators, Egmont Z. Rett and Waldo G. Abbott. However, in 1962 a catastrophic fire destroyed most of this original collection. Since then the collection has been rebuilt by the collecting efforts of Waldo G. Abbott, Elton Edge and Paul W. Collins, and through the acquisition of the Jack C. von Bloeker collection and several small voucher collections. The emphasis of this collection has been on native mammals of California, with a focus on central and southern California. A small number of specimens come from other states to help broaden the number of taxa represented for use in comparison to our regional fauna. This collection contains significant holdings from the Channel Islands as well as holdings of a number of species whose populations have declined throughout parts of central and southern California. It also represents the best regional collection of mammals for the central coast region.

Collection Highlights
This collection houses the largest worldwide holdings for the endangered Pacific Pocket Mouse, and the threatened Island Fox and Sea Otter. Also significant are our holdings of Deer Mice and Western Harvest Mice from the Channel Islands. The Jack C. von Bloeker material contains a significant number of specimens collected during the first half of this century from throughout southern California. Many of the localities from where this material was collected have been converted to urban, industrial or agricultural uses.

Geographic Coverage
This collection is very comprehensive regionally: approximately 78% of California species are represented. With most out of state holdings coming from Arizona localities, this collection is only moderately comprehensive for western North American species. We have limited foreign holdings.


This collection has been built in large part by the efforts of Waldo G. Abbott and Paul W. Collins between 1965 and the present. There are small lots from the Eyerdam and Jack von Bloeker collections.

Collection Highlights
Strong Channel Islands holdings. There is also a specimen of a rare (i.e., fewer than 100 specimens in collections world-wide) monotypic genus and species of earless monitor (Lanthanotus borneensis) represented in this collection.

Geographic Coverage
This is primarily a regional collection with most material from central and southern California and smaller holdings from Arizona and several other western states. About 75 percent of the taxa found in central and southern California are represented by one or more specimens in this collection


The fish collection consists of both marine and fresh water species from regional watersheds and ocean waters of the Southern California Bight. The collection originated through the efforts of a UCSB graduate student in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The general philosophy behind the collection was to maintain a regional reference collection since UCSB has a large collection and there seemed no need to duplicate the University's holdings. Notables over the years are the unusual marine fish donated by local commercial fisherman, Ralph Hazard. There is one voucher collection from a UCSB study of the Pt. Mugu Lagoon.

Collection Highlights
Among the unusual species are several Popeye Catalufa (Pseudopriacanthus serrula), a skeletonized Oarfish (Regalecus glesne), a Longnose Lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox) and a Green Sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris). The collection also includes a small comparative section of otoliths from common local species. These otoliths are very useful in determining stomach content analysis during marine mammal necropsies as well as during archaeological fauna analysis.

Geographic Coverage
This is a moderately comprehensive collection; mostly regional in focus with a good representation of more common neritic marine species and a few rare species.

Earth Sciences

History and Major Collection Donors

This collection has been built in large part by the early efforts of Phil Orr, Dr. Larry Agenbroad and staff from the National Parks System.

Collection Manager

Jonathan Hoffman, Dibblee Collection Manager