Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Curator of Birds and Mammals
I spent much of my childhood roaming the halls of the Burke Museum, staring at bird specimens from around the world. The collection captured my imagination. As I grew, I became more involved in museum activities learning how to prepare scientific specimens and participating in research expeditions. Soon, I started using some of the very specimens I collected to address questions about life-history evolution and feather replacement in birds. After completing my PhD, I became Curator of the bird and mammal collection at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates. I view natural history collections as exciting, dynamic places that inspire new ideas and help us understand how organisms change over time. Working in collections has impressed upon me the value of museum specimens--we simply cannot anticipate how organisms will respond to changes in their environment, what questions we will ask tomorrow, or what technologies we will have to address those questions. But, we can use museum specimens in creative ways to gain insights into the past. This project on diets nicely illustrates how specimens can be used for addressing unanticipated conservation questions.