The Department of Vertebrate Zoology was created in 1964 by the separation of the Department of Zoology into vertebrate and invertebrate branches. Vertebrate Zoology is the study of animals with backbones. Research in the department covers fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The department holds the largest collection of vertebrate specimens in the world, including historically important collections from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Research in the department provides a solid foundation of understanding for government agencies, conservation organizations, and individuals involved in fish and wildlife management. Zoologists from two other federal agencies work so closely with colleagues and specimens at the Museum that they are permanently stationed in the building. Specialists from the National Marine Fisheries Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce focus primarily on commercially important fishes, while those from the Geological Survey of the U.S. Department of the Interior focus on amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Chairmen of the Department have included Philip Strong Humphrey, 1964-1968; George E. Watson, 1968-1972; Robert H. Gibbs, Jr., 1972-1978; George R. Zug, 1978-1983; W. Ronald Heyer, 1984-1987; Richard W. Thorington, 1987-1992; G. David Johnson, 1992-1999; and Lynne R. Parenti, 1999-2004; and Richard P. Vari, 2005- .
Smithsonian Institution Archives Field Book Project: CorporateBody : Description : rid_29_oid_EACO29