Last month, SEFS grad students Laurel Peelle and Jack DeLap volunteered in the annual “Meet the Mammals” event held at the Burke Museum on Saturday, November 14. It’s the only day of the year when the museum brings out hundreds of specimens from its extensive mammalogy collection for visitors to see and touch, and this year more than 1,100 people—a record high—joined the fun.
Led by Mammalogy Collection Manager and SEFS alumnus Jeff Bradley (’00, M.S.) and Curator of Mammals Sharlene Santana, the Burke Museum organizes Meet the Mammals for guests of all ages to explore species from tigers and bats to sea otters and even a live llama. Mammal experts were on hand all day to answer questions about their particular specimens, and other activities ranged from live music played on instruments made from mammals, to putting together a 16-foot whale skeleton.
DeLap has volunteered four of the last five years, and this time he helped out with the “Limbs & Locomotion” table, which featured museum specimens (skins, skeletons, print infographics, video) illustrating mammalian adaptations for walking/running, flying, swimming and digging. The leader of his table was Tamlyn Sapp, a former SEFS undergrad (’13) and student of ESRM 351 who is pursuing a career in zoo keeping.
Over at Peelle’s table, she was showcasing some of her research involving Canada lynx and snowshoe hares. Her display featured two hare pelts (one winter and one summer), along with a stuffed bobcat and lynx, for folks to touch—and the steady stream of visitors kept her busy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “I was hoarse by the end of the day, literally talking for six hours straight,” she says. “It was crazy but really, really awesome!”
It’s a much different kind of outreach than a public talk, says Peelle. Instead of standing up at a podium and fielding a few questions afterward, she got to spend six hours engaged in back-and-forth discussions about her research, and she learned a great deal through those wide-ranging—and often eye-opening—conversations. “For one thing, I realized that 99 percent of people in Washington don’t even know that we have Canada lynx as a native species here,” says Peelle. “It was cool to see people take pride in learning something new about their state.”
The crowd included lots of families with young children, as well, and Peelle loved hearing insights from budding scientists. One girl came through and looked at the stuffed lynx specimen on the table. She was feeling the paws and spreading out the toes with her hands, and she asked whether that adaptation made it easier for the lynx to walk on snow—like natural snowshoes. “She was so observant,” says Peelle. “It was really inspiring.”
Photos © Jeff Bradley/Burke Museum.