With 65,000 specimens, the Moore Lab provides a snapshot in time of Mexico's birdlife before its landscape was dramatically altered in the mid-20th Century
The Moore Lab collection's location at a small liberal arts college makes it unique among large natural history collections. This high "bird-to-student ratio" means that undergraduates have unparalleled access to research opportunities with a world-class research collection that is a destination for researchers around the world.
The Moore Lab is renowned for its Mexican bird collection numbering over 50,000 specimens. Some 40,000 of these were collected from 1933-1955 by Chester C. Lamb working under the employ of Robert T. Moore. The purpose was to describe the birdlife of Mexico in detail for The Distributional Check-list of Mexican Birds (1950 and 1957). The specimens were originally housed in Moore’s private home in Pasadena (now La Cañada) before being moved, along with Moore’s personal library of ornithological books, to Occidental College in 1951 with the completion of the Moore Laboratory of Zoology building.
The MLZ’s collection contains nearly 63,000 birds and over 2,000 mammals, placing it among the world’s largest research natural history collections. In addition to its Mexican holdings, Moore made collecting expeditions to Ecuador in 1929 and 1931, amassing nearly 6,000 specimens from Ecuador. The collection is especially strong in hummingbirds (6,957 specimens), as Moore made special effort to obtain exemplars from nearly every species. Nearly 75% of the world's hummingbird species are represented in Moore Lab holdings by at least one specimen.
The vast majority of Moore Lab specimens are whole study skins (~61,000), with a small collection of skeletons (~1,200) and nests and eggs (~600 sets). The collection also contains important artwork by Allan Brooks and Louis Agassiz Fuertes, as well as copies of Lamb’s field catalogues and notes (1933 – 1955). There are 81 bird holotypes (i.e., the original specimens upon which a new species or subspecies was described), most collected by Lamb and described by Robert T. Moore. These species new to science include the spectacular Tufted Jay of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
Curators: Robert T. Moore (1951-1958), Raymond M. Selle (1959-1960), John W. (Bill) Hardy (1961-1973), Luis F. Baptista (1973-1979), Martin L. Morton (1979-1980), Walter D. Koenig (1980-1981), John C. Hafner (1981-2010), Dan Pondella (2010-2012), John McCormack (2010-present).