American Museum of Natural History Internship
Two girls taught me everything I know about the migration patterns of panther chameleons.
If you haven’t been to the in New York City, it’s a really phenomenal place with dioramas, dinosaurs, ancient pottery, and everything in between. I grew up a few blocks away and spent hours there as a child, daydreaming about what wonders might be hidden behind locked doors.
As it turns out, there are thousands, catalogued with precision, and sometimes examined by teenagers. It took a few email exchanges to discover the museum’s Student Research Mentoring Program (affectionately referred to as “Shrimp”), a two-year long internship for New York City high school students. The students spend the first year learning all about science and the museum, coming twice a week to take four hours of classes on subjects ranging from genetics to conservation biology—and this is after they’ve already finished school for the day. In the second year, the students get paired up with a mentor at the museum—in Paleontology, Anthropology, and many other departments—and then spend those same after-school hours doing actual research that will eventually be published in journals, with their name alongside their mentor’s byline. I was lucky enough to speak with Arica Wyche and Christy Rajcoomar, two 17-year-old high school seniors, who are working with their mentor, Dr. Colleen Ingram, in the Herpetology department, which is not what it sounds like. They are studying the migration patterns of panther chameleons from Madagascar to neighboring islands.
Dr. Ingram and the girls gave me a tour of their offices, and then we sat down and chatted for a few minutes. As you might expect, Arica and Christy are smart and driven and wonderful, and we all geeked out together when Dr. Ingram took us into the basement and showed us jars of chameleons that had been bottled in 1927.
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Planetarium in the museum of natural history?
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