Texas Tech University

Natural Science Research Laboratory


Bat from the NSRL Mammal CollectionVoucher Birds from the NSRL Bird CollectionA try of butterflies and mothsInside a Liquid Nitrogen FreezerPicture Showing Standard Collecting SuppliesPacking a Loan

The Natural Science Research Laboratory (NSRL) is a division of the Museum of Texas Tech University committed to the mission of building and preserving a library of our planet's natural heritage for education and research purposes. The NSRL has been recognized as a leader in the development and use of innovative methodologies for biological collections care and data management.

The NSRL maintains four major natural history collections:  Mammals, Birds, Invertebrates, and Genetic Resources.  These collections are available to researchers at academic, scientific, and government institutions around the world for scientific investigation, discovery, and problem-solving in the natural sciences.  The causes and impacts of animal-borne diseases, parasites, climate change, habitat loss, geographic isolation, and natural evolutionary processes and speciation are just a few examples of the investigations that can be conducted utilizing specimens and tissues archived in the NSRL's collections.  Further, the resources of the NSRL are utilized by the academic and scientific communities to train and educate students at the undergraduate and graduate levels for careers in the natural sciences as well as museum science.  


January 2023  On January 11, the NSRL marked its 50-year anniversary (1973–2023) with a celebration at the Museum.  The event included presentations by Dr. Robert D. Bradley, Director of the NSRL, and guest speaker Dr. Rodney L. Honeycutt, Professor Emeritus, Pepperdine University.  A report about the NSRL's 50 years of contributions in research, education, scholarship, collections growth and management, and engagement also was produced, as well as a timeline of the history of the NSRL.  Photos from the event will be available soon!  The NSRL extends a warm thank you to those who attended, and to all of our additional friends, supporters, and colleagues who have helped make the NSRL a successful and productive program.  We look forward to the next 50 years and beyond!

December 2022  Collaborative research by Dr. Robert D. Bradley, Director of the NSRL, Dr. Daniel M. Hardy of the Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry at TTUHSC, two of Bradley's graduate students (Emma Roberts, now a post-doc in Dr. Bradley's lab and Emily Wright, PhD candidate), and Steve Tardif, a post-doc in Hardy's lab, was recently featured in the TTUHSC "Daily Dose", https://dailydose.ttuhsc.edu/2022/november/gene-evolution-research-genome-biology.aspx.  The article highlights the recent publication by Roberts et al. in Genome Biology https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-022-02721-y about their discovery of the first known prezygotic speciation gene (zonadhesin) in mammals. This research investigates the origin of a speciation gene across vertebrates, integrating a wide breadth of tissues from the NSRL. The team is also characterizing zonadhesin's role in speciation among mammals at different stages of divergence (older species, sister taxa, and hybrid individuals).

December 2022 On 9 December, during the Third (Virtual) Symposium and Annual General Meeting of The Coleopterists Society, undergraduate student Shelby Hernandez and Acting Collections Manager Dr. Jennifer Girón presented talks about their beetle-related projects. The talks are available for viewing:


September 2022 On 13 September, the Museum and Texas Tech University Press hosted a book signing and presentation, open to the public, to celebrate the release of Texas Natural History in the 21st Century, authored by alumni and former TTU President Dr. David J. Schmidly, NSRL Director Dr. Robert D. Bradley, and NSRL Research Associate Lisa C. Bradley.  This book is a second, significantly updated, edition of Texas Natural History: A Century of Change (2002), and tells the story of Texas' biodiversity, current conservation challenges, and potential solutions to those challenges.  The well-attended event included a presentation by Dr. Schmidly and Dr. Bradley and a tour of the Museum's exhibit hall, "Biodiversity of the Llano Estacado."  Books were available for sale by TTU Press, and can be purchased online here.  


July 2022 Research Associates of the Natural Science Research Laboratory (NSRL) at the Museum of Texas Tech published new research on carpenter ants and their endosymbionts. Endosymbionts are microorganisms that live inside other organisms, and in many cases helping their hosts obtain nutrients. The team studied the effect of the demography and evolutionary history of the host ants on the molecular evolution of their endosymbionts. Representative specimens from the ant colonies used in this study are now housed at the Invertebrate Zoology Collection of the Museum of Texas Tech. The paper was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution and authored by Dr. Joseph Manthey, professor of the Biology Department at TTU, Jack Hruska, doctoral candidate of the Biology Department at TTU, and Dr. Jennifer Girón, acting collections manager of the Invertebrate Zoology Collection of the Museum of Texas Tech. The complete paper is available open access at: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9026 

Camponotus laevissimus, TTU-Z_268553 in lateral view    Camponotus laevissimus, TTU-Z_268553 head view    Carpenter ant tray


May 2022  On-going research by Emily Wright, PhD candidate in Biological Sciences and student of NSRL Director Dr. Robert Bradley, was featured on the website of The Wildlife Society.  The article discusses the results of a recent publication by Wright et al. in Ecology and Evolution pertaining to the genetic profile of aoudad in Texas. This research was supported in part by the Texas Bighorn Society and the Wild Sheep Foundation, who donated funds for a liquid nitrogen freezer for the GRC in 2017.

May 2022  The NSRL and Lubbock Lake Landmark were assisted by Warren CAT https://www.warrencat.com/ in digging up the skeleton of a rhinoceros that had been buried on LLL property.  Read all about it and see more photographs here!  Also see the KCBD news story and videos here and here!

rhino dig

April 2022  Six undergraduate students associated with the NSRL recently presented posters at the TTU Undergraduate Research Conference, March 28–April 1.  Five students are working in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Bradley and are using NSRL tissues in their research: Vivienne Lacy, Emma McDonald, Madison Reddock, Anjali Aaluri, and Zoe Bixler.  The sixth student presenter, Shelby Hernandez, is a Plant and Soil Science major who is working at the NSRL with Dr. Jennifer Girón to curate and digitize the leaf beetles of the Invertebrate Zoology Collection.

March 2022  A new display of insect specimens from the NSRL's Invertebrate Zoology collection, entitled “Tiny and Mighty Creatures,” is now available for viewing in the Museum.  The display includes a QR code that directs visitors to photographs and fascinating information about insects, available here!

Tiny and Mighty Creatures