Working in the FossiLab was an exciting experience because it put me in a room where the public can watch me work and see all kinds of cool objects. During my time there, I saw scientists work on a 5 million year-old whale skull, the cast of a 36,000 year old Gray Whale jaw, Mammoth leg bones, million year-old camel bones, a brontothere jaw, prehistoric owl pellets and many more. I loved being able to work beside such kind and knowledgeable people of whom I could ask questions; I learned a lot just from our conversations.
I also learned a lot by investigating evidence from prehistoric ecosystems as part of my overall project, which was to find and measure charcoal in 73 million year old fossil soils to get an estimate of the presence of wildfire. Undertaking this kind of work can tell scientists a lot about what these prehistoric ecosystems were like and being a part of this real world scientific process was a key part of being a Y.E.S.! intern. As part of this program, myself and others worked on projects with actual scientists who wanted our assistance and were figuring out things on the way, rather than already having an outcome in mind. With my scientist, we went through many trials and errors; the vacuum wasn´t working as we thought, the rocks weren´t dissolving, some samples had huge chunks...but that´s what made it real, the fact that we had to put our heads together and actually figure out something that would work better.
Another aspect of my internship, and one of my favorites, was having the chance to talk to visitors while working alongside staff and volunteers from the Office of Education and Outreach. One day, I displayed a Discovery Station with a whole bunch of fossils that people were drawn to like a magnet. After learning about everything on the cart, I enjoyed answering questions and interacting with these visitors. Another time, I was able to help out at the Insect Zoo, where I held Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, Australian Stick Insects, Lubber Grasshoppers from Georgia, and Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillars. It was so interesting to see the range of reactions the bugs sparked among people, and I loved trying to encourage the public to hold them. The insects themselves were fascinating and holding and talking about them was a great way of learning. Finally, in the Forensic Anthropology Lab, I enjoyed the many cool facts about the way Forensic Anthropologists can use bones to figure out information about people’s lives. For example, hipbone structure can help determine sex and teeth can lend clues as to age. With this information, I sat at one of the lab tables with real human jaws and was able to answer everybody’s questions. l liked how passing on the information to others really engraved it into my mind. All three of these experiences were exciting and taught me about different areas of science, as well as helped me communicate better with people. I feel like I’m a lot more confident and have a lot of fun when I talk to people.
Overall my internship with the Smithsonian was amazing, educational and so far has been the best method for developing my science skills. I am thankful the Y.E.S.! program selected me as one of their fifteen high school interns and was able to work six weeks at one of the greatest science research institutions in the world. The program encouraged us to learn, and in the Museum you discover for yourself how amazing it is and it develops an excitement within you for the subject. This internship not only exposed me to different fields, but it solidified my interest in science. I would like to focus on environmental science to help solve many of the issues we have today and have a career that would take me to different places in the world like the scientists at the Smithsonian. I excited to continue with the Y.E.S.! program in the fall for 12 weeks of college preparation. I’m also very excited to be part of the museum’s one hundred year anniversary and feel so grateful to have had this inspirational opportunity. I hope to continue to be a part of this community in the future by volunteering my time at the museum.
Camila Moscoso, Intern, YES! Program