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Uploaded:2015-10-21
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WASSAP YOUTUBE comin' at you with some answers to your FAQ's! Got another query?! Leave it in the comments!

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Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera, Graphics:
Brandon Brungard
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Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL
(http://www.fieldmuseum.org)

[Brain Scoop theme music playing]

[Emily] Hey!  I'm hanging out in a lab in the fishes collection.  We just filmed an episode here.  Now we're gonna film another one.  

Guess what it is?  It's Ask Emily - spoiler alert, you already read the title.

Okay, here we go!

Hannah Schwab @schwabduckling asked, "What's the coolest thing you've learned this week?"

In 2008, scientists from the European Space Agency attached some samples of the Orange Sunburst Lichen to the outside of the International Space Station and exposed it to solar UV radiation, cosmic rays, and general space vacuum.

Once the lichen arrived back on Earth more than 18 months later, researchers discovered the Lichen kept on growing.  That's because some Lichens are able to go into a complete state of dormancy to prevent their cells from entirely breaking down and dying off.  

And during such a space exposure marathon puts those Lichens right up there with Tardigrades and Brine Shrimp for top contenders of most likely to survive Earth's next apocalypse.  

Kevin T. Houle @kevinhoule asked, "What percentage of items from collections or storage are put on public display?  How often are things rotated from one to the other?"

The Field Museum has more than 27 million objects and specimens, and honestly, less than one percent end up on display.  Big institutions like The Field Museum have a few different things going on when it comes to exhibits.

We've got permanent exhibits like our diorama halls, the evolving planet exhibit with the dinosaurs and the non-dinosaurs and that kind of thing.  Most specimens in these permanent halls are, in general, permanent.

Specimens are removed from display when a researcher comes to study them or sometimes when we'd like to feature one on The Brain Scoop.  In some cases, like with our new permanent hall on China, certain objects and artifacts will need to be changed out every few years or so to prevent damage caused by exposure to light and air.

But the reality is most objects will never make it on display.  Some because they're too fragile, some because they're not what you would deem aesthetically pleasing, but mostly because the majority of the specimens that scientists at The Field Museum have collected over the last hundred years were never destined for display.  They're ultimate purpose is to be used in research.

Voronyzimoy asked, "Have you thought of incorporating your art degree in your current work?"

I use my art degree everyday!  Art school teaches you how to communicate and share narratives and concepts using imagery, color, and design.  Those are visual stories.  

Now, I just use the English language to share information and throw in an odd assortment of noises when appropriate or not appropriate...meh.

Never-seen-a-nevergreen asked, "What remote location do you want to go next on a field adventure and what specimens do you want to go looking for?"

I don't think there's any particular specimen or species I would go searching for, but I do think it would be fantastic to recreate historic expeditions, like visiting the same regions and ecosystems that naturalists and biologists from 100 years ago researched.  To see how things have changed over the last century.

In some cases, the scientists on those trips brought back not only specimens but also photographs of where the plant or animal was collected.  Imagine comparing that to what the landscape looks like today.

Besides that, Madagascar might be pretty cool.

Holyhuckleberry asked, "Why do people believe in Bigfoot and aliens?  It seems like hogwash to me...you?"

I am totally okay with entertaining the thought of both because even if Bigfoot exists, which is unlikely, or aliens, which is vastly more likely, there's still so much life on our planet we've got no clue about.  Bigfoot and aliens are like the ultimate symbols for untold discovery.  

And anyway, how boring would it be if it turns out that human life is the most complex in the universe?  Snoozefest!  I want telepathy.

Rollingwithmyohms asked, "Has your job ever produced bizarre dreams?"

While I've never had a dream about a bazaar, I have had bizarre dreams that involved the museum getting attacked by dragons from Skyrim, and then I start dissecting the dragon because I wanna know if it's a diapsid or a synapsid.

I honestly have a theory that they're actually basal synapsids, but more on that later.

Amutheemu asked, "Question for you: how can I get over the worry that my contributions to science will never end up being useful or important?"

The great thing about scientific research is that there's no finality to it.  We'll never reach a point where we've figured everything out.  There's literally no moment where somebody stands up, hangs up their proverbial lab coat, and says, "Well, we're done.  We know everything."

New discoveries and advancements are stepping stones as we map out our world and all of its complexities.  Not every researcher is going to have monumental contributions to the world at large, but that shouldn't be your ultimate motivation pursuing a career in science anyway.

Instead, I'd be encouraged in thinking your contributions to science continue this long legacy of discovery and realize that we might not know the extent of your impact until hundreds of years from now.

14crobison asked, "What do you envision natural history collections looking like in 100 years?"  

The wonderful thing about natural history museums is that their importance increases over time.  As habitats shrink and more species decline in numbers, natural history museums will be the only place to see remnants of what used to be and to learn about the world as it continues to change physically and environmentally.

But think about it.  Natural history collections as institutions really only go back about 200 years.  The world has changed a lot in the last two centuries, and it's destined to be changed even more.

But as long as natural history collections continue to act as repositories of the physical world, they will remain valuable to our planet.  

Ben Cammett @bencammett137 asked, "For videos, how do you know what topic to do or make next?  Does The Field Museum have input?"

I work closely with the research and science staff at The Field Museum to figure out topics for episodes.  One major goal of The Brain Scoop is to help scientists share their stories and work with a wide audience.

Sometimes people approach me directly.  Like one of our paleontologists asked if I would create a series about Dimetrodon locomotion and help them secure a National Science Foundation Grant.  
I did, and we got it!  So, that's coming up soon.

And sometimes randomly people stop me in the hall, like the other day Jim Holstein from geology just looked at me and said, "Death rocks - an episode all about deadly rocks."  

And then he walked away.  I think it'll be a good one.  

[The Brain Scoop theme music playing]