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Duration:08:22
Uploaded:2014-01-08
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Emily answers your questions on ocean exploration, poop, and butterfly memories!

Check out the paper by Douglas Blackiston about butterfly memories:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001736


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The Brain Scoop is written and hosted by:
Emily Graslie

Created By:
Hank Green

Directed, Edited, Animated, and Scored by:
Michael Aranda

Production Assistant:
Katie Kirby

Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL
(http://www.fieldmuseum.org)

Thanks to Leigh Pfeffer, Matt Wood, monstersshesays, Laura Hutfilz ‏@comicallylaura, 120lbsofconfused, pwisva, CGP Grey, Rachael Dye ‏@nerdycrochet, Derek Hennen ‏@derekhennen, kittyreads, and rooks-and-ravens for the questions!

Many many thanks to Susy Hovland, Evan Liao, Martina Šafusová, Andrés García Molero, and Seth Bergenholtz for translating this episode!
(opening credits followed by Emily typing on typewriter)

It says "welcome to The Brain Scoop," but you can't see that.

Lee Pfeffer asks, "What advice do you have for someone looking for an entry-level job in a museum? What beyond volunteering can you do?

I'll say a million times because it is still the best answer to this question: volunteering, besides volunteering or interning, is the best way to get your foot in the door in a museum. Everybody I know and work with at the Field Museum, with very few exceptions, volunteered or interned to get to the position where they are today. Museum jobs are incredibly rare and fiercely competitive, so really the best way to get your foot in the door is to volunteer. 

Matt Wood asks, "What do you spend the majority of your time doing at the museum when not filming The Brain Scoop?"

Researching and planning for future episodes, pick up dead zebras with Anna Goldman, talking with curators, I do the Facebook and the Tumblr and the Twitter, speaking with researchers, attend events, touring different collections, get access to specimens for the episodes, plan new merchandise, talk to classes, talk about marketing and media strategies, go to other museums, go to meetings, talk about how we can be better science communicators, I talk to donors, give group presentations, I Instagram all the time, I go to talks, I give talks, talk to newspapers and magazines and radio people and tv people, and I answer emails. 

monstersshesays asks, "Why has so little of the ocean been explored? It floors me that we know more about the universe than our own planet"

Part of the reason is because in the 1960's the United States prioritized space exploration and moon landing. In addition to being a great morale booster, it was a huge source of national pride; it also raised a ton of money. The appeal of space exploration is that it's kind of a universal one in that we can all hypothetically lay underneath the stars and gaze into the skies at night, but not really everybody can get a change to look into the deep churning waters of our ocean and contemplate our collective origins. 

Deep sea exploration also requires really sophisticated technologies, at any one time you can maybe only see between fifteen and twenty feet ahead of you in those waters; and so you could have a new species swimming thirty feet out in front of the window of your submersible and you would never know. Additionally, NASA tends to support research projects that benefit a group whereas deep sea explorers have to kind of rely on National Science Foundation funding. This means that they're really competitive about who gets grants and they're not as willing to share their research. It's an unfortunate truth and definitely not an ideal way to share new discoveries about our planet, but we're kind of stuck until the politics of grant-supported funding changes.

Laura Hutfilz @comicallylaura asks, "How did you tell your friends and family that you were changing career paths?"

I definitely remember telling my mom during a really tearful phone conversation at work one day that I really wanted to quit my job as a baker and if I could just have one chance to go to graduate school and work for a museum that I wouldn't mess it up.

I also remember as an undergraduate running into a co-worker, and I must have had some kind of weird expression on my face, because he asked what was wrong and I said, "Bryce, I think I want to skin animals for the rest of my life"

120lbsofconfused asks, "If you're pickling the guts and the colon do you have to remove the fecal matter or does it get pickled with everything else? Love the show!"

No, it all stays with the specimen. In addition to being able to tell us possibly what the animal was eating, the ecology of bacteria is a fascinating insight on the species itself. Poop!

pwivsa asks, "What's the most fascinating thing you've found, but didn't expect to find, so far at the Field Museum?"

A few weeks ago I saw the first evidence of a fire that burned on the planet. You guys, it was like a tiny little vial full of little-bitty pieces of charcoal that was dated to about 419 million years ago. In order for there to be a fire there has to be biomass. But before there were any plants we were all just like swimming around in a mat of photosynthetic bacteria, and then these teeny tiny plants began to form and then they caught on fire. And we have that: we have the charcoal, we have the ash from that. 

CGP Grey asks, "When a caterpillar liquefies in its chrysalis how liquid are we talking? Does metamorphosis kill the caterpillar?"

We're talking pretty gooey here, puberty's kind of a messy business. During metamorphosis many of the cells shrink while others will grow and stretch in their place so it's kind of like an elastic give and take. There are cells in a caterpillar that can retain memory; they're called imaginal cells or discs and they aren't restricted to a specific shape or form. Think of a leg cell remembering that it's a leg on an individual cellular level. These imaginal discs remain resilient while the other cells around them kind of turn into jelly. And once all the other cells are gooey enough, the imaginal cells can begin to amass and take shape.

To go from a chubby caterpillar leg to a long slender butterfly leg, it can't just grow itself out like a Stretch Armstrong, but it can amass with other leg imaginal cells. These bond together and gain strength in their numbers, clustering and creating strong enough ties until eventually they begin to form the proper leg shape. These imaginal cells essentially rebuild themselves in order to fit their new roles. So it really is a metamorphosis, a structured rebuilding, rather than a restoration or a revival from death to life. And perhaps more alarmingly, in a recent study by Douglas Blackiston he revealed that butterflies as adults can even recall memories from their previous lives as caterpillars.

Rachael Dye @nerdycrochet asks, "What is the weirdest question you've been asked while working in a museum?"

I had somebody ask who my coach was once. I was really confused 'cause I haven't played soccer since I was like thirteen. And then they kept asking me some more questions and I finally realized that they thought I was an actress. Guys, I'm not good at playing anybody except for Emily Graslie. But admittedly, I do play her pretty well.

Derek Hennen ‏asks, "What's the most useful class you've ever taken?"

I would probably have to say it was my independent study internship practicing scientific illustration while I was still and undergraduate. That's when I got involved in the University of Montana Zoological Museum in the first place. It was the first chance for me to kind of form my own curriculum, set my own deadlines, and overall be completely responsible for everything that I learned out of the class. And it's a really good way to prepare yourself for the real world when your boss might not give out gold stars for good jobs and you've got to learn how to be gratified with your own accomplishments. 

kittyreads asks, "Hypothetically speaking, if I wanted to see the whole Field Museum how long should I plan on spending there?"

I'm gong to assume you mean the public portion of the museum, in which case I would give yourself a solid day or two to make it through each exhibit. If you're the kind of person to want to read every label on everything, you might want to give yourself a week. Better yet, you can become a member of the Field Museum and then you can come as many times as you need to over the course of a year. If you're talking about the entire museum in general, like every single collections hall and everything in every room you might be out of luck 'cause I recently talked to somebody who had been here for thirty years and even he wasn't sure he'd seen everything yet. 

rooks-and-ravens asks, "Would you be interested in meeting a group of your fans at the Field Museum?"

Yes! We've had meet-ups here at the Field Museum in the past and, you know, from my personal opinion I'd like to think they were wildly successful. It's a chance for you guys to meet me and I answer a bunch of questions, we get together, you get to meet other people with similar interests, we start a dialogue about natural history museums, I emphatically tell lots of stories and wave my arms around, Soon Raccoon makes a creepy appearance, sometimes we have special guests, and in general it's just a really good time. 

If you want to know more about these future events and check for any upcoming ones be sure to like the Facebook page and stay tuned for more!

(outro)