Dissections? Will any be happening soon? I miss them. The wolf episodes are still among my favorites.
I know - I hear you.
So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and since I appreciate transparency I thought it time I just be straight up with all of you - because there’s not a day that goes by where someone doesn’t lament the lack of prep lab videos on our channel, and it kinda tears me up inside.
There are a few realities here: the primary reality being, it’s not up to me. Not because it’s something I don’t want to do - guys. You know me. I’d jump head-first into a dead whale if I could. But the prep lab is not my lab. And those who used to welcome me in there are no longer with the Field; Anna’s pursuing graduate school in Hong Kong, and Bill Stanley passed away last year. So I’ve lost two of the strongest advocates for this cause. I have to respect the decisions of those in charge because, to be completely honest, I am not special. I don’t get to wave subscriber numbers or view counts or tumblr requests over anyone’s head. And that’s okay.
Secondly, I understand why, on the behalf of others, why there’s some hesitation to do prep videos, and this is my fault. The dissection videos we have done are not truly indicative of what museums do, or the main function of (at least) mammal collections. Giant ant-eaters, two-faced calfs, random zebra bits… these are all one-off anomalous acquisitions. The reality is, most mammals coming through prep labs are small rodents preserved in alcohol. Not a lot of blood.. not a lot of gore. Lots of tedious skeleton cleaning and skull measurements. (I’d be totally okay filming a video of that, too, for the record.)
And I say this because I’m still fully aware of and sympathetic to a bigger problem, which is that museums struggle to survive and find relevance in the public eye, and with those private and public individuals and organizations which fund them. I can’t help but sympathize with the mammalogist who feels we are giving the wrong impression for why natural history collections exist: it’s not to dissect two-faced calfs. It’s not to poke at squirrels with gross abscesses. Do I love that stuff? Am I totally engrossed and inspired and intrigued by that? Yes. YES. But what doesn’t come across in those videos are the numbers of voucher research specimens which are being studied for everything from their evolutionary lineages, to their ectoparasites and how those may transmit diseases to other mammals, including people. Those videos share nothing of the research being done in the broader field of mammalogy… and for that, I feel guilty in more ways than one.
The wolf video is an honest series about how a single individual went from roadkill, to a processed research specimen. But I failed to tell the whole story of the importance of these collections. I can’t help that my understanding of museums and their importance deepens the longer I’m embedded within one… I’m sorry if that makes our content boring or unappealing. I get that’s maybe not what you subscribed for. But I can’t ignore the ever-present feeling of obligation that I have to tell true and honest stories about the role of museum collections in our world today. That’s not to say I was deliberately dishonest before - only that I didn’t know, and yet wasn’t able to see the bigger picture. I still don’t, still can’t. I probably had better clarity of all of this before I ever was a part of it, to be honest.
I just hope that you know, not a day goes by that I don’t hear you.. that I don’t listen to these requests. My success is because of your support. I’m not ignoring you… I’m trying to figure out compromises. And I don’t see compromises as a bad thing as much as a fundamental thing for growth.
Some day I’ll dive head first into a dead whale. In the meantime.. thank you for sticking around.