Historical biological specimens contain a wealth of research opportunities. Foremost among these is the ability to compare how ecosystems and plant and animal populations have changed over time, especially with increased settlement and development.
For example, nearly all of Michigan used to be covered in forest, but now most of the Lower Peninsula has been cleared for agricultural, residential, and industrial use. In other regions, though, there is actually more dense vegetation than before the arrival of European settlers– this is the case in areas where fire suppression policies have allowed forests and shrub-land to emerge in place of savannas, grasslands, and barrens.
Once the project has progressed further, we will be able to create species distribution maps comparing the ranges and occurrences of different species before and after Michigan became heavily populated by Europeans.