It was a while ago but Erin took me to the American Museum of Natural History for my birthday when we first got to New York. I’m not used to spending much time in large cities and I’ve never been to New York but visiting AMNH was a long time ambition of mine and I was thrilled to go. I was following in the footsteps of the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and closer to my heart Roy Chapman Andrews who started as a janitor at the museum (with a degree in biology) and ended his career as director (and indirect inspiration for Indiana Jones). The museum wasn’t just a place to relive my dreams of being the Indiana Jones of dinosaurs either.
While at the museum, we also encountered an exhibit that had reconstructed models of giant tardigrades. Tardigrades (Phylum tardigrada) or “water bears” or my favorite “moss piglets” indeed look like microscopic, six-legged bears, tardigrades even have a bear-like waddle. Water bears aren’t all cuteness though, they’re also damned tough little animals. In the vacuum of space, in boiling alcohol, completely dehydrated for decades, moss piglets find a way to survive. Tardigrades have the ability to go dormant, in which state they’re nearly indestructible and can remain that way for far longer than their normal non-dormant life span. After years of dormancy, a few drops of water bring them back to normal life. Water bears are everywhere too, as I learned as an undergraduate when I collected them from desert moss for research. Tardigrades can also be found in the ocean, in fresh water, possibly in your backyard. Remembering my times collecting these guys in the desert and the hours spent looking at them with a dissection scope and preparing them for electron microscopy (pain in the ass) I had to get my picture taken with a giant water bear.
While we were in the Big Apple, besides visiting the museum, Erin also took me through Central Park and to Time Square. The park was impressive in it’s size and beauty, Time Square was just impressive in the crush of humanity. When were leaving the sidewalk was so crowded we were shuffling along in a crowd, Time Square crowds aren’t exactly something to make me happy but it was an interesting experience anyway. I’m very happy I got to see NYC, the opposite end of the American spectrum from perhaps a national park in Utah but if you want to understand the world, a very important place indeed. Also, you just can’t beat AMNH in it’s collection of natural history which will always enthrall me. I also tried New York pizza, which was good but definitely not life changing as New Yorkers seem to feel it should be.