Biological Teaching Collections

Biological Teaching Collections

NCTC maintains preserved collections of North American birds, freshwater fishes and freshwater mussels for use in training. The collections’ primary purposes are to support NCTC identification courses and to serve as a source of species information for the public through the National Digital Library (USFWS). So far, there are approximately 20,000 specimen records and the collection continues to grow.

Collection records include scientific and common names, collection locality, and a photograph of the specimen or a representative specimen of the lot (fish only).

We accept donations of specimens. For additional information and guidance, please contact the Science Lab Technician, Michele Atha at

Freshwater Mussels Collection

The National Conservation Training Center's Freshwater Mussels Collection focuses on the fauna of North America, north of Mexico, and comprises approximately 1,150 individual specimens from 160 species.

North America has the highest diversity of freshwater mussels in the world (about 300 species) and much of that diversity is concentrated in the southeastern United States.

Mussels are recovered dead specimens and shells are donated for educational purposes.

Freshwater Fishes Collection

The National Conservation Training Center's Freshwater Fishes Collection contains approximately 427 species and 18,500 specimens in 1,750 lots ("jars"), primarily adults and juveniles.

It is the largest fish collection in the state of West Virginia. the scope of the collection is North America, north of Mexico. Fish species richness in this geography is about 800 species.

Migratory Birds Collection

The National Conservation Training Center's Migratory Birds Collection focuses on North American species and will be used for species identification and comparative anatomy training. This collection was developed for education purposes to further bird conservation.

All bird specimens are donated from known mortality events (commonly, window strike casualties) and are prepared using a freeze-drying process.

Crayfish Collection

The National Conservation Training Center's Crayfish (crawfish, crawdad, mudbug) Collection contains approximately 30 species and 91 specimens in 30 lots ("jars").

The scope of the collection is North America, north of Mexico. Crayfish species richness in the United States and Canada is about 400 species across 11 genera, with the greatest diversity in the southeastern United States.  There is one genus of native crayfish in the Pacific Northwest.

Search Tips

Click on a collection link (e.g., 'Freshwater Mussels Collection'), to be taken directly to holdings listed within the National Digital Library.  All records within that specific collection will be displayed as images and corresponding metadata.

To make a query (order, family, genus, species, common name, or location), simply enter the information into the Search field.  Click on the 'Search' button, and all holdings for that taxon will be displayed. 

For searches that involve more than one species, sort by 'Title'.  For example, enter the genus Fusconaia in the Search field and leave the drop-down as 'within results'.  Click on the 'Search' button, and all collection holdings of Fusconaia will appear.  Sort by 'Title'. 

Click on any thumbnail image for an enlarged picture and the associated metadata.  Go back by clicking on the back arrow.  Now, run a new search for a particular species.  You MUST first delete 'Fusconaia' under the 'You’ve searched: Images' box, but leave 'fre