Whirl has worked at the Field Museum for fifteen years. And every year for the past 62 years, the museum hosts a special event for its members. The research floors and special exhibits are opened up. Scientists and exhibitors volunteer their time to meet with the public and discuss their work. For the last five years, Whirl has been one of those scientists in attendence, supporting research in birds and insects. This year she put together a demonstration of her microphotography work in insects.
This year, I invited my friend and colleague, Will, to bring his two daughters to the museum. I met up with them and the four of us spent the evening assisting the girls completing the biodiversity scavenger hunt. It’s a good list. You should try it the next time you’re at the museum.
- Find an organism that has claws.
- Find an organism that lives in trees.
- Find an organism that uses camouflage.
- Find an organism that is venomous.
- Find an organism that lives in caves.
- Find an organism that is green.
- Find an organism that is nocturnal.
- Find an organism that lives in a symbiotic relationship.
- Find an organism that is being dissected!
- Find a female scientist and ask her to name her favorite species.
What I particularly liked about the scavenger hunt is that it gave clear and meaningful openings to guests to engage with the researchers and vice versa. Larry Heaney, Curator of Mammals, used the item about animals living in trees to tell several fascinating stories about the unprecedented biodiversity of mice in the Philippines. Margaret Thayer, Curator of Insects, explained the symbiosis between the appropriately named ant plants of southeast Asia and the ant colonies who live in them. Mary Hennen, Collections Assistant, Birds, contrasted nocturnal great horned owls with diurnal peregrine falcons– her favorite species.
Will asked me to serve as tour guide for the evening. I took the girls to see the dissections being performed by Mammals. This year it was an anteater, a beaver and a porcupine. We visited Birds and Insects for some time. We were on our way to Reptiles to check out snakes, but along the way attention shifted to the Underground Adventure exhibit. When we completed the unshrinking process, the evening had come to a close.
It was fun to watch the girls take turns recoiling from the things they encountered, and then changing their minds and becoming fully engaged with what they were experiencing. We all had a lot of fun. I brought along the camera and took a few pictures, but I admit most of my attention was on the event itself and experiencing it with Will and his girls.