Cowan Tetrapod Collection Timeline and History

Since its founding in 1943, the Cowan Tetrapod Collection has been housed in three UBC buildings and has been known by a variety of names. Learn more about the history of the Cowan Tetrapod Collection and its curators.


The Cowan Tetrapod Collection contains specimens which date back to the mid-1800s. Some important historical accessions include:

  • K. Racey collection of birds and mammals
  • H.R. Macmillan ornithological collection
  • W.S. Maguire and J. Wynne zoological collections


Tetrapod Timeline


Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan, for whom the collection is named, joined the faculty of the University of British Columbia in 1940. He had an impressive academic background that included a PhD from the University of California, Doctor of Science degrees from the Universities of British Columbia and Victoria, Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Alberta and Simon Fraser University, and a Doctor of Environmental Studies from Waterloo. During his 35 years at UBC, he established an enviable reputation, travelling widely in his studies and publishing an impressive body of work. He was also involved in the production of 110 television documentaries and 12 teaching films.

Dr. McTaggart-Cowan devoted a lifetime to studying, teaching, and conserving the natural resources of British Columbia. His involvement extended far beyond the UBC campus, right around the world. Naturalist groups around British Columbia frequently called upon his knowledge and enthusiasm to inspire members; many of those who listened would pursue careers in biology and involve themselves in environmental conservation.

Dr. McTaggart-Cowan was himself heavily involved as chairman or member of many of the lead organizations concerned with the environment, such as the National Research Council’s Advisory Committee on Wildlife Research and the Environmental Council of Canada, to name only two in a long list. He has been an internationally recognized conservationist and world-wide environmental emissary for British Columbia and Canada.Through his retirement, he continued to serve on many committees, boards, and organizations dedicated to ensuring the environmental integrity of British Columbia’s natural resources. Dr. McTaggart-Cowan passed away in 2010 after a lifetime of distinguished service to the people of British Columbia and the natural world.