My Life With Bugs

I realized that I’ve been asked quite a bit about my job recently and have sent out many an email explaining what it is I actually do, that this would make an excellent post. I often feel I get the strangest reactions to this, I do have an odd job.

I am knackered. With just a few weeks of my working full time under my belt, I’m starting to get used to the commute. It is rough though. I’ll be able to last, I think, to the end of the year doing this…

I am excited about the new job though, it’s going to be a lot more challenging than what I was doing. In recent weeks I’ve been training someone new as a preparator. It really is an art pinning and pointing insects for a collection. It takes patience and a good eye. We recently had an open house with heaps of artistically arranged spectacular collections on display. That is all well and good to ogle and “Ooooh!” and “Aaaaah!” at. However, in active scientific collections used for research, specimens need to be prepared in a way that helps best preserve and conserve them. It’s an art, but with a practical side to it. I’ll still be involved in the insect preparation on the side.

The rest of my time, I’ll be involved with curation activities. I’ll be in charge of getting beetles that have been “accessioned” by the museum, which are housed separately and are unorganized, and putting them in order. These are collections of beetles that have either been donated, are from staff field work, or from research projects that haven’t been integrated into the main collection. I’m a generalist. I’ll be making sense of them and getting them into the main collection so that they are somewhere accessible where they can be identified, used and studied by the experts.

Museum collections, whether it’s bugs, plants or dinosaur bones, are like libraries. If the books are not where they’re supposed to be, organized in a rational manner, no one can find them to read them and get information from them. The characters used to identify the family, genus and species are chapters, pages and individual words in these books. So, basically, I’ll be cleaning up old stacks of beetles (identifying to family, etc.) and putting them where they belong in the drawers in the right order (curation) or putting certain groups in front of the eyes of specialists. It’s a much more challenging job than it sounds, I’ll be learning quite a lot about beetles in the process (as most of my training is in lepidoptera).

The commute is going to be rough, but I’m excited about the work. It’s all about the right trade offs. I feel they have been working so hard to get me hired full time, it’s hard to say no to the job, I’m really quite flattered. And it’s set for 6-9 months, depending if we’re here beyond the end of the year. They know about our situation and are being very accommodating with my contract.

And paid time off! This is such a novel idea for me! I have a pile of days of pto (if it were a one year contract I would *start* with 27 pto days). All those years of working at my former position, I never had any sort of benefits. I am almost beside myself with the idea :) This example really driving home the stereotype of stingy benefits for Americans in the US. In fact, this coming Friday I’ll be taking off for a holiday, it feels so strange. I wonder how many of my coworkers will get it.