Volunteer Opportunities

Student with taxidermy

The Hefner Museum at Upham Hall offers many exciting and practical opportunities for students to apply their developing skills. Several of these projects could become capstones while others may provide a way to fulfill a class assignment. Below are short descriptions of some of our more prominent projects. Most include opportunities for students to be involved in writing, exhibit design, construction, graphic art, computer programming, computer engineering, databases, literature research, survey design and administration, digital imaging, lesson creation, marketing, social networking, cost and process analysis, group tours, and more.

We accept volunteers from any major who can dedicate at least one 2 hour block each week.

Priority, Interdisciplinary Projects

Francis Gallery interactives

Using universal design principles, we will make exhibit components accessible to people of all abilities using skulls, furs, smells, and more.

The power and utility of scientific tools

Often seen by the public as little more than magical plastic boxes, tools ranging from PCR machines to cell sorters are the basic engine of research in modern cellular and genetic research.  This exhibit seeks to demystify the tools used in this work and show how the results they help generate apply to daily life.

Cat Mountain

The Museum is developing a rare kind of exhibit, one featuring life-size mounts of big cats. Snow leopard, tiger, leopard, jaguar, and lion all have potential for inclusion.

Ohio’s connection to the Ocean

Through economic and hydrological connections, our actions in Ohio can impact places we’ve never visited. We aim to create a small traveling exhibit that uses seahorses to highlight these connections and show people how they can reduce their impact on often unseen, but beautiful and functional parts of the world.

Discovery Trunks

One way Miami University and the Museum reach beyond Oxford is through object-centric, standards-based, inquiry learning kits called Discovery Trunks. These are filled with 3D scanned and printed objects, skulls processed in our dermestid colony, new taxidermy mounts, lesson plans and other tools that make teaching natural history easy, even for those who don’t know the subject matter, and fun for everyone.

Art and Biology Focused Exhibition Projects

Ephemeral Pond in the Floor

Using 3D Scanning, model making, and painting, create models of salamanders and frogs to be encased in polyester resin.

Donation box

A dynamic donation box can increase revenues and add to the visitor experience. We would like to work with art students to design and create a mission-centric, interactive donation box.

Ephemeral Pond in the Wall

Building on techniques used in the floor, add amphibian diversity as well as arthropods, crustaceans, mammals, birds, soil, trees, and other features to replicate an actual place at Salamander Run. Develop new messaging for this diorama.

Manatee articulation

Using metalworking techniques, create armatures and mounts of sufficient strength the present a manatee skeleton in a dynamic pose.

Grand Canyon Kaibab Trail Exhibit

We are exploring opportunities to work with the National Park Service to develop small exhibits for visitor’s centers and trails.

Ungulate legs

Add tone-on-tone legs to select mounts in the Francis Gallery.

Goat Mountain

Mold, cast, sculpt, and construct a small display “mountain” for life-size goat mounts.

Arthropod Displays

Design and construct realistic, safe, and easily accessible enclosures for a range of exhibit arthropods including roaches, millipedes, honey pot ants, and tailless whip scorpions.

Exhibit Maintenance

Working under the guidance of Museum staff, using basic construction techniques, ensure that exhibits are in safe working order.

Please Touch/Don’t Touch interactive

Using silk, silver and other materials, create a touchable exhibit that shows the damage that touching specimens can cause.

Snapping Turtle Mount

Using traditional and novel taxidermy techniques, mount a large turtle for display.

Technical Projects

Integrated Pest Management

IPM is a method of monitoring pest populations using sticky traps and other methods. Determine placement of traps, map them, develop a spreadsheet or database and data recording codes.

Social Media and Marketing

Consolidate social media platforms, link posting methods, and add contact and donation capabilities .

Web site design

Work with the Director to conduct a review and re-design of the Museum website.

3D scanning

Develop and document methodologies to scan fossils, fungi, wet-preserved amphibians, and insects. Determine best practices to enlarge insect heads.

GIS Mapping

Map all of the trees on Miami campus using student-developed GIS-based databases. Develop user interfaces that make this effort available to the public.

Egg ID app

Working with the digitization group, create an app that securely allows digital access to the egg collection so that it can function as an online catalog and identification mechanism.


Museum Beyond the Walls

Input exhibit labels, photos, and other content to a student-created app that allows the creation and self-curation of virtual exhibits for users of all ages.


Create lesson plans centered on the features of the Imaginarium including costumes and live animals.

Collections Management

Specify Data input

Participate in the inventory of collections materials and digitization of catalogs.

Insect and Plant Collection and Preparation

Help develop the specimen processing methods for these two collections and work in the field to expand the collections.

Historical Egg Collection

Catalog and image an important bird egg collection.  Develop procedures for collections digitization for use in molluscs and other collections.

Animal Husbandry

Dermestid Care

There are two positions available, one at Pearson with low volume, and one at the ERC with high volume.  Duties include monitoring humidity and temperature levels, ensure the beetles do not escape and have sufficient food as part of processing skulls and removing tissues from bones.

Exhibit Arthropod Care

The Museum’s collection of live, non-vertebrate animals in expanding.  These animals need regular and diverse care.

Experimental Projects for Development

  • Arsenic testing
  • Testing the effects of freezing on specimens
  • Plant taxidermy
  • XRF analysis of heavy metals on specimens
  • Using activated charcoal to remove naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene from historical specimens

Meet Some of our Great Volunteers

our student volunteer, Erin DoddMy name is Erin Dodd and I am a sophomore majoring in Biology at Miami. I volunteer at the Hefner Museum, because I enjoy learning about animals and their habitats. I also care about conservation and helping the environment, so I am involved in Green Oxford on campus.

our student volunteer, Carly HamiltonMy name is Carly Hamilton and I am a Zoology major and an Interdisciplinary Studies (Western) major here at Miami. With my Western major, I want to focus on conservation and wildlife education. I have a deep interest in birdlife of all kinds, and when I am not at the Hefner Museum, I can be found volunteering at the Hueston Woods Nature Center, or helping at the Hueston Woods bird banding station.

our student volunteer, Jenna SandersMy name is Jenna Sanders and I intend to graduate in the spring of 2016 with a Zoology major and a Management and Leadership minor. I am also a pre-vet student. As of now, I would like to practice small-animal medicine. I am in the marching band where I am in the color guard, and I also volunteer at the Hueston Woods Nature Center on those weekends when band doesn't take over my life!