By Michelle Daniel, Winter Break Intern, Seeds of Success Project
Where are you from and what brings you to the Museum?
I come from Toronto, Canada, where I study Forest Conservation and Environmental Biology at the University of Toronto. Travelling to DC meant more than escaping the cold weather! I was drawn in by the excitement of the national museum environment and the opportunity to contribute to a project and an institution that is nationally and internationally meaningful. Interning at the Museum gave me the chance to combine what I have learned in my classes with participating in real research projects.
How did you get "Behind those Doors?"
I heard about the Winter Internship program a few months ago and kept a close watch on the website until the projects were posted in October. It was hard to choose just one! I applied to the Conservation of Bureau of Land Management's Botanical Voucher Collection project, which sounded exciting and likely a good fit for my interests. Once I contacted my staff sponsor, Andrew Clark, we were able to discuss the project further, and he and other NMNH staff made the rest of the process easy. Soon the paperwork was complete, my flight was booked, and I was on my way!
What is it you're doing back there, behind those doors?
I came to help with a project called Seeds of Success. Plant specimens and seed have been collected from all over the country to organize a seed bank (housed in Alaska) and a collection of the specimens as vouchers, which are joining the herbarium colelction at the Museum. While I was visiting, we started using the database that will enable us to organize the collection and the information we have about the specimens. This will allow scholars and land management professionals to study the specimens and to use them as vouchers to access seeds in the future for regeneration and other initiatives.
In addition to those directly associated with the Seeds of Success project, I had the opportunity to explore the collection and participate in many of the aspects and functions of the herbarium during my internship. I was amazed at how many specimens there are! It was important to learn how the collections and other herbaria are organized and maintained. One of the things that I enjoyed most was working in plant mounting. The staff and volunteers who do this are like artists, and many of the specimens they prepare are very beautiful. Watching this and other aspects meant that myself and the other interns on this project were able to learn about the journey that a plant makes after being collected in the field. It's exciting to know we worked with specimens that are now part of a historically significant collection that we expect will continue to be valued and protected for hundreds of years to come.
What's been the most amazing or unexpected thing you've seen, experienced or discovered while being part of the NMNH academic community?
I think everyone would agree with me that the Museum is a very exciting place to be! I could have happily spent much more time in the exhibits, on behind-the-scenes tours, and at nearby sites. A particular highlight of my time had to be the behind-the-scenes tour of the paleobiology collection. From the tiny specimens to the dinosaurs, everything was so cool, and it was awesome to be shown around by an expert! For me though, the most amazing part of my internship was the sense of commitment across the Museum community to making this a great experience for me. I encountered a wide range of scholars who made every effort to ensure that I learned as much as possible through the project and even beyond the Museum - making my visit to DC a wonderful experience.