UTC’s Specimen Museum and the Reason Behind It | News

Dr. Stylianos Chatzimanolis and Dr. Timothy Guadin are two of many professors who have what they call a “museum”, a room that holds wet and dry specimens that have been preserved for a multitude of reasons.

UTC has multiple “museums” in Holt Hall; there is a room for insects, mushrooms, birds, plants, fishes, amphibians and reptiles, and mammals. Each of these used to be in the same room before Holt was renovated to be larger, and these museums became separated.

Dr. Chatzimanolis, also known as Dr. C by his students, is known as the Entomology professor at UTC. He specializes in beetles, but he teaches a variety of classes that cover parasites, evolution, insect systematics, and the general course of entomology.

When asked why he preserves insects for these classes, he said, “We preserve specimens for the same reason museums preserve cultural artifacts for humanities. It’s so we have baseline data of what was once here, so that we can compare with the past and the future.”

Another fact to consider with capturing insects for his students and for research, is that in the Thin Rove Beetles family alone, there are over 65,000 different species. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the orders of mammals, birds, fishes, and amphibians put together.

A display of different beetle species used by Dr. Chatzimanolis to teach his students. Thursday, October 6, 2022.

Unless Dr. Chatzimanolis’ students study these insects in-person rather than on a diagram, accurately identifying these insects will be near impossible. It’s an exchange for information, it’s not a hunting game.

Dr. Guadin is known as the Mammalogy professor at UTC. He specializes in sloths, armadillos, anteaters, even pangolins, and his expertise is paleontology and systematics of mammals. He teaches human anatomy, as well as comparative vertebrate zoology, mammalogy, and evolution, as well.

He has an estimated 2,500 specimens in the mammalogy museum. The focus of this collection is on mammals from Southeast Tennessee and surrounding areas. In total, there are about 30 orders of mammals, and he has all of the specimens except for 3 orders of mammals.

Dr. Guadin says, “There was virtually nothing when I got here, so my students and I essentially built it from scratch. It’s something that’s valuable long after I’m gone from here, and I’m proud of it. I’ve had well over 100 students work on this, well, probably more than that, hundreds of students and probably thousands of man hours. It’s something to be proud of because it’s a lot of work that’s gone into putting this all together.”

When Dr. Guadin first came to UTC almost 30 years ago, he tried to figure out a way to teach his class how to identify all the major groups of animals with pictures and diagrams he had cut out and put on the table, and he says it didn’t go that well.

“There are unique problems we face with trying to study mammals. Which is that they’re all brown, they’re very difficult to tell apart from one another unless you know what you’re doing. They’re nocturnal, mostly. They’re secretive. They have really good senses, so they tend to avoid people, most of them. They’re also smart. They’re very difficult to discover.” Dr Guadin commented.

“I get really good feedback from my students every year, and most of them are interested in this type of study. How many opportunities do you get to sit down and spend time with sloth skulls and such?” Dr. Guadin laughed after he vocalized his students’ feelings about him on preserving animals.


UTC senior, Teagan Murphy, studies for Dr. Guadin’s upcoming exam in his mammalogy class. Thursday, October 6, 2022.

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