The Health Sciences Department serves Museum visitors through the exploration of the biological principles of modern human biology

The focus of the Health Sciences Department is three-fold. They create new knowledge in the field of human biology by utilizing community-based research methods to study how genetic variation influences the everyday experience of modern humans. They engage the community in human sciences by serving over 10,000 people a year through outreach in the community-based Genetics of Taste laboratory, Museum programs and events, and invited lectures and panels. Finally, the Health Sciences team cares for a collection dedicated to the preservation of modern human biology, including DNA, tissues, and gross anatomy specimens.

Featured Projects

Health Sciences Staff

Tiffany Nuessle, MA

Research Manager in the Genetics Lab

John R. Demboski, PhD

Senior Curator of Mammals and Director of Zoology and Health Sciences

Melissa Bechhoefer, MS

Director of Integrative Collections

Courtney J. Scheskie, MA

Business Support Specialist


Health sciences at the Museum began with the opening of the exhibition Hall of Life, in 1987. The exhibition used hand-on exhibits and complementary education programs to engage visitors and schools in the health sciences. Building on this success, a Health Sciences Initiative was developed as part of the Museum 20/20 strategic plan , and a Health Sciences Department was established, with Dr. Bridget Coughlin hired as the first PhD-level scientist for the department. The Hall of Life exhibition area was renovated and reopened as Expedition Health in 2009, with a renewed focus on human biology using a Rocky Mountain region theme. In October 2009, the Museum hired Dr. Nicole Garneau as a second curator in the Health Sciences Department and launched the Genetics of Taste Lab, the first community-based participatory laboratory that studies molecular genetics. More than 10,000 members of the public participated in six research projects during the Taste Lab’s first 10 years.

2019 celebrated the 10th year anniversary of the Genetics of Taste Lab!

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