Studying Biodiversity at the Field Museum

This past spring, the Sustainability Studies program offered its inaugural section of SUST 330 Biodiversity as a hands-on learning and research experience at the famed Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. One of the students in the class, Amanda Zeigler, offers these reflections on her experiences here:

SUST major Amanda Zeigler working at the Field Museum (Spring 2011)

As a Sustainability Studies major, every course I have taken in the program has been meaningful and rewarding, but none has matched the experiential aspect of SUST 330, better known as Biodiversity. This class met once a week at the Field Museum, and was taught by Julian Kerbis Peterhans, Professor of Natural Science at Roosevelt University and an Adjunct Curator in the museum’s Zoology Department. A typical class consisted of a lecture by a member of the museum’s renowned staff, followed by internship duties. These internships included work in invertebrate fossils, vertebrate paleontology, botany, small mammals, geology, insects, botany and lichens. 

Prof. Julian Kerbis Peterhans in his lab at the Field Museum (Spring 2011)

I had the pleasure of working in the small mammals division, along with three other students, and it was a blast. Getting the opportunity to work “back stage” at a world-class institution was informative and just plain cool. Our duties ranged from data entry, to manually cleaning various bones and skulls, cleaning, sexing and organizing specimens, and providing assistance in any way we could, to further the success of the department. Getting to spend a semester as part of the museum team was an exciting way to witness biodiversity firsthand, and learn how it relates to sustainability on a global level. I can honestly say that SUST 330 has changed the way I view the natural world around me, and has made me more conscious of the ecologically fragile world that both we, and all other living creatures, inhabit. 

Through this course, I got plugged into an internship in the Botany Department of the Field Museum, where I will be working this summer. I’m looking forward to returning to the museum, and helping in any way that I can, while all the while advancing the cause of sustainability.

Congratulations to Amanda on her upcoming summer internship at the Field Museum. She is one of many talented SUST majors in our program, which began in the spring of 2010 and is now in its fourth semester this summer. Next fall, Professor Kerbis Peterhans will again offer SUST 330 Biodiversity at the Field Museum on Friday mornings. If this kind of learning experience appeals to you, check out this listing of our upcoming Fall 2011 course offerings, or contact Profs. Mike Bryson or Carl Zimring to learn more.

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