Museum Collections and Research

Specimen Preparation - Clearing and Staining

Diaphonized alligator limb

In the last section, you observed and learned about some of the preservation and storage techniques Museum collections staff use to keep specimens intact and ready for use in science and research.

In this activity, you'll explore another fascinating preparation technique known as clearing and staining or diaphonization.

Diaphonization is the process by which muscle and skin tissues are made clear and internal structures like bone and cartilage are stained with tissue-specific dyes.

Watch the video below to learn more about the process of diaphonization and why scientist might turn to this method when preparing a specimen for research. .

Based on Caleb's introduction in this video, for what purposes do scientists use diaphonization?
This specimen may resemble an alien, but in fact it is actually a cleared and stained alligator, similar (though much smaller) to the one below.
What advantages does clearing and staining provide scientists who are interested in looking at the bone structure of a particular specimen?

Once specimen are cleared and stained, they are stored in a solution of glycerin and kept in the collection for researchers to use in their research.

Finally, in the next activity we will look at one final technique used to preserve and store museum specimens: Herbarium or plant sheets!

In this image, you see a plant or herbarium sheet including a dried and pressed plant from the Museum's extensive plant collections. This is a common technique used to store and preserve plant specimens for scientists to use. Move onto the next activity to explore the anatomy of a plant sheet!