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Science Shorts

From city girl to naturalist

Concept: Scientists are influenced by their personal experiences and cultures.

As a paleontologist, Anna Holden's job is to study nature with a carefully observant eye, a practice that growing up as an artistically inclined city girl prepped her for. Anna explains,"I'm someone who always had an interest in nature. Growing up in Baltimore, when I got a chance to go out to the Chesapeake Bay or any naturalized area, I could feel a calmness, contentment, and engagement that I just didn't feel in the city. I was really interested in life forms that are different from humans, and I was fortunate that my parents took me to many natural history museums so that I could pursue this curiosity. Seeing animals like trilobites — seeing that life used to be different — absolutely blew my mind. I realized that the world wasn't limited to my urban surroundings. The natural world outside the city and the prehistoric one before humans captured my imagination. However, I did notice that one could find nature in an urban landscape: insects! I also loved art. I ended up doing a double major in comprehensive biology and fine arts as an undergraduate, and I think that background definitely helped me. Two things that connect the arts to science are observation and thinking outside the box, and I got to practice these studying art. Since I work with morphology — the study of organisms' physical structures — observation is particularly important to my research today."

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