Biodiversity Counts (American Museum of Natural History)


Doing Science: Researchers and Exhibition Staff Talk
About Their Work

Selecting a Site

How do working scientists pick a site for study? We asked a number of scientists what they think about when looking for a site. Here's what they all said: It depends what you want to know. Everyone we talked to emphasized that all research starts with questions. What those questions are helps determine where you look for answers.

For example, Eric Quinter, Senior Scientific Assistant in the Entomology Department at the American Museum of Natural History, told us: "I have to know what my project is, what question I'm trying to answer. Am I looking for a particular insect, or am I studying a habitat? If I'm looking for a particular insect, I have to know what it eats, and then I go looking for that plant. … (read more)

Keeping a Field Journal 1

All scientists who work in the field keep a field journal….To find out how, and why, to keep a field journal, we asked an expert: Eleanor Sterling, an anthropologist who has done fieldwork and kept field journals in Africa, from the rain forests of Madagascar to the savannas of Tanzania.

"Field journals are incredibly important," she told us. "Basically you can't do science without them."… "When I first went out into the field, I thought it wasn't very important to take notes, because I wasn't collecting data, I was just looking for a site. I wrote down things occasionally but not rigorously. Besides, the things I was seeing were so amazing that I was convinced that I would remember them for the rest of my life. But the truth is that so many things crowded my brain that I couldn't remember them all, and some of what I couldn't remember turned out to be very important. … (read more)

How to Design an Exhibit with Passion

Niles Eldredge is passionate about his science. An evolutionary biologist and research paleontologist who is a Curator in the Department of Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History, he has been focusing some of that passion toward the Museum's new Hall of Biodiversity. He is the chief curator of the Hall, so he struck us as a good person to ask for advice about putting together an exhibit on biodiversity.

Obviously, a school exhibit will be smaller and less complex than a permanent exhibit hall in one of the biggest natural history museums in the world. "That does not mean there aren't a lot of possibilities," Niles said. … (read more)


AMNH Scientist Profiles

Profile: Joyce Cloughly

The seeds of Joyce Cloughly's career as a natural history museum preparator were planted on a day she got hopping mad.

"There was a place near my home where I used to go birding. It was part of the Great Swamp, just west of the National Wildlife Refuge near Basking Ridge, New Jersey. One day I went there, and they were bulldozing a field that was a particular favorite of mine. I marched over to a trailer parked there and demanded to know why there was construction going on in this beautiful wetlands area. … (read more)

Profile: Barrett Klein

Barrett Klein was five years old when he realized that he wanted to combine art and insects as his life's work. "The greatest inspirational moment in my life came as an abstract flurry when I was five years old: I saw a painted lady butterfly lying dead on the driveway. I had never been struck greatly by insects in particular, but when I found this and I looked at the form, I felt a great, inexplicable potential in my hands. And then I realized that I could keep, examine, and draw it, and suddenly everything seemed possible."… (read more)

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