Last Week at the Smithsonian: Cards and More Cards

This past week at the Natural History Museum has been a very productive and exciting one. After putting the finishing touches on the two databases I have been working on as described in my previous blog post, I have moved onto a new phase in my research. On the floor below where I am working at the Natural History Museum, there are many drawers filled with cards in a similar style to the Hopkins Cards that contain taxonomic information on insects. To my surprise, there were two full drawers of cards that relate to insect associations on American chestnuts that date back before blight. These cards can prove to be very useful, since they can help me gain an idea of what kind of biodiversity was occurring on American chestnuts before blight was introduced. Upon consultation with my adviser at the Smithsonian, it was determined that I should scan all pertinent cards into a PDF and will then enter their information onto another database. I have so far scanned over 1500 cards and have about half of a drawer left to scan. I hope to begin sifting through the scanned cards and gather important information to help further this project. It will be interesting to see what will happen this week based on what information is gathered from these new cards. Whatever course of action I plan to take, I will definitely have my work cut out for me!

On a side note, I want to take the time to briefly talk about some activities that the Natural History Museum has planned for the interns. About once a week, a department at the museum will host a tour specifically for interns to look at their collections not open to the public. So far, I have toured the botany, minerals/gems, and meteor/asteroids departments. This is a fun way to gain an appreciation for many aspects of science while I am conducting my research in D.C. For example, I was able to touch and hold meteors that were over 5 billion years old while the scientist was explaining the chemistry of meteors. When am I ever going to do that again? There will be a tour in a few weeks at the mummy collection which I will definitely sign up for and think will be my favorite tour of the summer. These tours are a nice break from my research and they are a great way to meet other interns throughout the museum. I can honestly say that I am having the time of my life this summer at the Natural History Museum!