“Biology major not required”

At first glance, an undergraduate program at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology doesn’t seem like the best fit for a political science and geography double major. Upon closer examination, the MVZ’s focus on evolutionary biology and museum science appears even less suitable for the non-scientifically inclined.  Still, when I stumbled upon the MVZ
website purely by accident and saw the words, “biology major not required,” it seemed like it couldn’t hurt to apply. At the group interview, I began to suspect I’d made a terrible mistake when I realized that every other applicant was either an MCB or IB major; realizing I was the sole humanities major and hopelessly out of place, I nearly fled right there, but decided to stick out the interview just to see what would happen. Surprisingly, they found a place for me in the museum; unsurprisingly it was in the MVZ Archives.

Darren Lu working through Alden H. Miller's papers.

Darren Lu working through Alden H. Miller’s papers.

Working in the Archives is like turning over a stone and discovering a whole new world. The Archives contain field notes and other historical material from over a hundred years of fieldwork. Reading through the journals of bygone researchers and recording geographic locations in the Archive Database seems like a straightforward responsibility at first, but can prove simultaneously perplexing and absorbing. One of my first tasks involved reading James Hepburn’s field notes from the 1850’s. Deciphering his handwriting was hard enough, but  Hepburn explored California before there were even counties—determining specific localities based on rivers, mountain ranges, and other landmarks was a unique geographic challenge. As a geographer, I appreciate the opportunity to gain access to firsthand accounts of early California and other regions. Personally, working at the MVZ Archives has exposed to me to the entire discipline of archival research. While I don’t yet have any definitive plans for the future, I appreciate the skills and experiences I gained this semester and have no doubt that working in the Archives is a fully worthwhile experience for students of any background.

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This entry was posted in Field notes, The Hidden Collections Project, URAPs. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “Biology major not required”

  1. Prayerna says:

    This is really great. I am happy to hear that it is in fact possible to attain a balance between being a non-science major involved in the sciences!

  2. Michelle says:

    Wonderful write-up! I really appreciate you non-Biology major perspective. You should know that MVZ has been particularly fond of Geography majors! Thanks again.

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