Last semester I was fortunate to be able to intern at the Georgia Museum of Natural History. It was a goal that I had since freshman year to work with the collections. When I decided to apply for the internship last semester, I knew exactly which collection I would want to work with. Luckily, I knew this due to both my current area of study and plans for my future career. I applied and was accepted to work with the Vertebrate Collection under the supervision of Nikki Castleberry. With 25,000 mammal specimens, including study skins, skeletal material, and alcohol preserved materials, there’s plenty to see and experience.
At the beginning of the semester, the interns with the vertebrate collection were assigned the projects and jobs that would hopefully keep us busy for the semester. This held true, as there are still tasks, I wish I could have continued with or completed. A project that I was assigned to personally was the coral-cleaning project. Under the direction of Nicole Pontzer, Curatorial Staff, and administrator of the ichthyology and coral collections, I was set up to help restore the corals that had been transferred to the annex under undesired conditions. This consisted of the processes of soaking marked corals in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water and allowing them to rest out in the sun to assist in the “bleaching.” This would be a cycle where until the corals reached the desired cleanliness, the water would be changed and then taken out into the sun again. Depending on the size of the coral and the level of cleaning necessary, the process would take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. Over the semester, I had gone through about 50 coral pieces, and there is plenty more to work on. This being one of the projects that will require more time than I had.
A job that all the interns were assigned to was top off fluids in the range of the annex. We were to check fluid levels of the alcohol preserved specimens and top off with 70% ethanol if low. We were also to check lids and containers and replace jars or seals if needed. This was a project to make that required little effort and was suitable for those days that I did not want to get into a new project. The range holds over 1 million specimens of fishes with an emphasis on the southeastern United States fauna. This project just perpetually flows over from semester to semester, as the project will never be indeed done, and there will always be more fish to the top.
My favorite project has been the work dedicated to the whale collection. The museum holds the most extensive Minke whale collection in the U.S., and that’s only a fraction of the whales that are housed here. A part of the project was moving marine mammals to mezzanine as we needed more space on the ground floor. We were also tasked with whale-cleaning, where we scrubbed skulls and allowed them to dry in the sun. A remarkable opportunity was to help with the shipment of whales from Northeastern University, which also include the skeleton of a blue whale. We spent the day moving boxes and bones inside the annex, and it was outstanding seeing the size and condition of these specimen. This was an experience that I will share with others to summarize my experience with the museum.
My time with the museum has yielded many great opportunities. It honed many skills that I believe are necessary for when I graduate. My time management, organizational style, and team cooperation skills improved through my time there. I am thankful for this experience and hope to continue work in natural history work in the future.
Cameron is a fourth-year wildlife sciences major