I never update my blog. Well not as much as I would like to. The past few months I've been able to work in multiple collections at the Field Museum. Last week I learned how to prepare 52 million year old fish fossils, and the week before that I got to preserve mammals, before that I was pinning crickets from Madagascar! I've been bouncing around but its been so much fun, and I'm learning so much. Here is pretty much an update of my camera roll...
The weekend of July 18th I took part in art show titled 'Field Works'. It was a show displaying artwork inspired by natural history collections. A lot of the other artist's were co-workers here at the Field Museum, and a few were other local Chicago based artists. The show turned out really great, it was PACKED. So, thank you to everyone who came out and supported us. Another show is being talked about, so keep checking back for those updates. In the meantime, there are a few photos of the opening night below. Thank you, Jacob Boll, for taking these.
I'm participating in an art show coming up, July 18th! It is just a weekend show, so be sure to come! I'm putting up all new work for this one, and all of the other artists in the show are incredible!!
There are a lot of different methods for preserving specimens. We have skeletons, skin specimens (which is what you see me post most often of birds.), slide specimens (specimens mounted on slides, then viewed under microscopes.), and wet specimens (often called "pickles", preserved in an ethanol solution) I don't think I've posted many wet specimens before, but there are a few below!
Previously I was an intern in the Bird Division (thus all the beautiful bird posts) at the Field Museum of Natural History. While I don't have a science background (art school....) I was incredibly drawn to these beautiful specimens (how could you not be?). I recently started a new position at the Field which allows me to explore the collections housed there. Eventually I will be able to bring museum guests behind the scenes and show them around. BUT, not quite yet. In the mean time I am getting acquainted and comfortable with everything I am finding inside these incredible vaults. I'm posting a few of my recent experiences on here to share with you, because some of these things are so incredibly magnificent that I just cannot keep quiet about them.
Also, what I am more excited about than anything.... I can still prepare birds for the collection!
I was able to dip my toes into the Insect and Invertebrates collection yesterday (more of an introductory to their collection to see exactly what goes on.) I wasn't able to get too hands on with anything (ie... pinning insects, photographing, storing, etc.) but I will be soon, so that's exciting! I was able to see everything that goes on in their division though, and wow! It is beautiful, they house over 17 million specimens!. They are working on digitizing some of their collection with state-of-the-art imaging systems for macro and micro photography. I was able to watch how they photograph a butterfly, and it isn't just as easy as taking an image and uploading it to the database. It takes about 30 images layered together to get a sharp image. they begin by taking the specimen and placing it under a camera, which then (in sync with a computer) finds the highest and lowest points on the butterfly (usually the wings/antennae are the highest and the legs are the lowest). It snaps an image starting at the highest point and then moves across the whole butterfly taking images until the lowest point is in focus. Then she has to layer them together to achieve an overall focused image. It can take around a half hour just to photograph one butterfly.
I also watched how microscopic insects (louse and fleas) are photographed. They are put into a chemical that in a way "flushes" them, so they are transparent. They are then mounted onto a glass slide and the slide is placed under a microscope. The base that they are placed on is a scanner. They are then photographed and scanned and uploaded to the database. You can view some of them on the Field Museum website. They are visually stunning, and I don't think I've ever thought of fleas and lice as so beautiful.
Among Louse type specimens, the Insect division is working on digitizing Ant specimens, Millipede specimens, Non-insect invertebrate specimens, Tropical butterflies, Land snails of eastern North America, Rove beetle specimens, and Marine gastropods of the Florida Keys.
You can search their online database here:
There was also a couple cases of insects out that interns and volunteers were working with. These are some African Grasshoppers (Orthoptera, Caelifera, Pyrgomorphidae.) that were "getting their labels checked" if you will. these date back to the 1880's and between then and now, some scientific names have changed. So, they're getting updated.
Another intern showed me some of the nests that they house in the collection
After I saw more of the insect collection, I went up to the Invertebrates collection to talk to Janet Voight, Associate Curator of Zoology, and a specialist in Cephalopod Mollusks, especially octopuses. She told me a little about her deep sea explorations and why she likes octopuses (they're nocturnal and aggressive, everything you don't want a study to be.) and then showed me a few specimens in the collection.
This second image is the same specimen, I just wanted to post a closer image so you can see the true color of it. From further away, it looks more yellowed, that is just because of the liquid it is stored in.
After she showed me a few more jars, she showed me a piece of wood. She had placed pieces of wood in deep sea environments for different lengths of time (6 months, 7 months, etc...) just to see what would happen. When she went back to retrieve the wood, she had discovered multiple new species that was thriving on their new ecosystem. My phone had died at this point and I wasn't able to take a picture of the wood that she retrieved, but I promise you that the next time I see her I will get an image!
I apologize for possibly getting you excited about that and then not having anything to show you! I need to start charging my phone at work!
Well, have a good rest of the day. Tomorrow Mark, Tom, and I are giving a taxidermy demonstration to the Women's Board here at the Field and discussing old techniques vs. new and the history of Carl Akeley! So that should be fun! I prepared a Peregrine Falcon for it, and I have to go finish it now so it is ready for tomorrow! I'll post some images of that once its done, now you have something to look forward to!