New Tumbler Leaves Bird Specimens Hide and Dry

In partnership with the Ornithology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences, engineering students from Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, a leading career and technical education school in Bucks County, PA, have successfully designed and developed a foldable hide tumbler. 

A hide tumbler is a device that is used to process bird skins for the collections by gently tumbling them in sawdust to soften and dry the hides after they have been cleaned. Hide tumbling is a standard, yet vitally important part of the entire process of maintaining specimens well into the future for research — the goal of the Academy. 

The Academy maintains an ornithological collection of over 215,000 study skin specimens and 30,000 tissue samples. Specimens of historical importance in our collection predate the founding of the Academy in 1812 and include important early bird collections made by famous collectors such as Alexander Wilson and John Gould. The collection also contains a large, recently added series of data-rich specimens from North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.  

Since the Academy’s ornithology department is actively adding specimens, locally and internationally, at a rate of 1,500 specimens per year, a suitable hide tumbler was a definite priority. 

This specimen of a female grey partridge, or Perdix perdix robusta, was collected from Kazakhstan in the year 2000. It is one of more than 215,000 specimens that make up the Academy’s Ornithology Collection.

“A hide tumbler is a critical tool for preparing and preserving bird specimens at the Academy,” Nate Rice, ornithology collection manager who worked with the students, said. “But our challenge, as is the case with most labs and taxidermy shops, is that space is at a premium.” 

The Academy had very limited lab space and could not install a more traditional hide tumbler without sacrificing a significant portion of the lab. The engineering students took this on as a design challenge and invented a hide tumbler that was custom-built for the available space.  

After several meetings and design reviews with Academy ornithologists, the students created a machine that is collapsible, has very a small footprint, is simple and safe to operate and can be powered by a wall outlet, a battery or cranked manually. 

“The students did a great job of taking the time to learn about the problem and to come up with a viable solution. It was an honor to work with the students and their teacher Mr. Ostrow and I’ll look forward to more collaboration in the future.” 

The MBIT engineering students have since filed for a provisional patent for this wonderfully unique, innovative tumbling machine. 

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *