Critters make their way to Olin: Biology department hosts animals and plants

Axoltls are just some of the many different types of wildlife found in the biology department office. Photo by Hannah Snidman
Axoltls are just some of the many different types of wildlife found in the biology department office.
Photo by Hannah Snidman

Bradleys biology department does not have a cookie-cutter cubicle office layout. Instead, they decorate their space with plants, artifacts and animals.

One of the departments first creatures was a fish donated four years ago by a student going to medical school who could no longer take care of his pet. Other office creatures were provided by Peoria community members, as well as some that were relocated from research labs.

They did not do any experiments on any of these animals, biology administrative assistant Vicki Hencey said. We thought that we should bring them here because all of the tours go right by the office, and we just thought it would be fun for everybody to see the animals.

The group includes Tony Stark the sucker-mouth catfish, axolotls, salamander-like creatures, named Leuci and Hulk, Geo the gecko, Rosie the tarantula and other nameless fish. The axolotls have proven to be a department favorite.

I always look at the fish tank, junior nursing major Kendall Prislinger said. I like the axolotls because they just look like little aliens. I think theyre funny-looking.

Some pets have clever reasons behind their names. For example, Rosie, the tarantula presented to Dr. Jost, is a rose-colored tarantula. For Hulk, Hency said his name is appropriate for his unique physical trait.

I dont know how they [genetically altered Hulk] when he was in the pet store, but if you put a blacklight on him, he glows green, Hencey said. Thats why his name is Hulk. [The female axolotl is named] Leuci because shes lucid.

Department members said they hope having these unique pets will attract students and make science majors of all kinds feel more comfortable in an interesting office.

We want students to come in and visit with us, and we think the best way to do that is by making it an inviting space, biology chairperson Sherri Morris said. I know that it can be stressful for students to come into a faculty department office, and we think that the animals and plants not only show that we are a biology department, but it also should make it a nice place for them to feel welcome.

Animals and plants are not the only special feature of the office. To represent all aspects of biology, the space also holds artifacts and plant photos.

Were biology, and we need plants and animals, Hencey said. The doors always open.