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Career Shadowing Information

Career Shadowing Day is on April 21, 2023, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Shadowing Experience Descriptions 

Botany Experience I

Shadow Leader: Erika Gardner 


Description: Have you ever wondered how the museum prepares its botany specimens? This workshop begins by addressing some of the basic botanical questions of taking fresh plant materials and turning them into archival museum specimens, then you’ll have a chance to mount a specimen for the collection.



Botany Experience II

Shadow Leader: Meghann Toner


Description: Come spend the afternoon learning about botanical collections. Participants will visit the US National Herbarium and help to sort pressed mounted plant specimens that are ready for filing. Sorting is a great way to observe various species of plants worldwide. These flat sheets will ultimately be placed alongside 5 million other specimens documenting plant diversity over the last 200 years. If you would like to see what a herbarium specimen look like, visit our website



Freshwater Mussels Experience

Shadow Leader: John Pfieffer


Description: Freshwater mussels are often considered one of the most endangered groups of animals in the United States. The specimens located at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) are foundational to understanding how mussel diversity and distribution has changed across time and space. However, some of the mussel specimens at the NMNH have been misidentified which complicates our understanding of their decline. In this activity, we will use simple bioinformatics tools (R programing and database queries) to isolate potentially problematic specimens and work towards correctly identifying them. No specialized experience necessary, come improve the collections and help save the mussels!



Marine Crab Experience

Shadow Leader: Bill Moser

Description: Students will learn about Brachyurans (Crabs) and how to sort/identify various families of crabs from a mixed lot (multiple taxa in the same jar). They will also learn about specimen curation and the associated collections data with museum objects.



Marine Fishes Experience I

Shadow Leader: Kate Bemis

Museums prepare and house skeletons of fishes for comparative anatomy. In this experience, we will study a large marine fish to learn about how its anatomy relates to its ecology and evolutionary history. We will then dissect the fish as the first step in processing it to be accessioned into the NMNH skeletal collection. 



Marine Fishes Experience II

Shadow Leader: Miguel Montalvo 

Description: Students will examine ichthyoplankton specimens under the microscope and sort larval-stage fishes. They will then view adult-stage fishes and be challenged to match the larval specimen with its corresponding adult. Some fishes go through extensive transformations while growing up that makes them better adapted to their environments, participants in this activity may be surprised at differences in the appearance of larval and adult fishes of the same species!


Fossil Lab and Museum Archives


These two experiences are shorter, so will be combined during the workshop! 



Shadow Leader: Myria Perez, Michelle Pinsdorf, Abby Telfer

Description: Paleontologists who study ancient ecosystems want to learn about the marine animals that lived alongside the dinosaurs. They collected sediments from Angola dating back to the Cretaceous period that contain fossil bones and teeth from marine reptiles and fish. Students will sort through the ​sediments to find the tiny fossils, using microscopes. They will learn to identify the fossils from the surrounding rock.


Museum Archives

Shadow Leader: Celia Emmelhainz and Molly Kamph

Description: We will introduce students to working in museum archives, starting with a hands-on activity selecting between various archival collections, moving to sorting through a box of materials, and ending with answering researcher questions about archives.

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