Friday, September 5, 2014

Prey Taxidermy

I ran into Allis Markham of Prey Taxidermy on Instagram because of the @taxidermybabes feed (which is awesome). I was immediately struck by the fact that she is living my dream. She works for the Los Angeles Natural History Museum doing taxidermy work and works with Tim Bovard (Master Taxidermist). I was in awe. Her Instagram feed is absolutely amazing as well (@allis) I sent her a message hoping that I'd get some of my questions answered, and, after a few days, I got back the most wonderfully detailed email from her. Every interaction with her has been absolutely amazing and she is just wonderful.

In an article recently written by Lauren Herstik for the LA Weekly, the importance of museums in preserving history is called to attention, "...The Natural History Museum itself plays a crucial role in preserving taxidermy. Museums are the only place where practitioners have the opportunity to work on most specimens; as employees of a public institution, museum taxidermists are exempt from laws restricting the sale, trade and possession of endangered and protected species. The complex regulations include the Migratory Birds Treaty of 1918, which restricts the "taking" of wild birds, criminalizing the whole pursuit all the way down to being in possession of a feather."

Tim Bovard goes on to explain how taxidermy has changed so much in the past century. "The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is unique among its peers in that it's the only such museum in the country with a full-time taxidermist on its payroll. "No other institution that started building dioramas in the '20s has continuously had diorama people on staff."

I am so excited to meet the both of them in the coming months. It's been my dream since I was a child staring up at the Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops fighting in the main entry way to get a tour of the museum from those who work there. 

The whole article can be found here

Monday, September 1, 2014

Taxidermy + Why It's Important

If you've been following my Instagram feed for a long time (iseegodinbirds_) you know that I've been a taxidermy apprentice for nearly six months now. Taxidermy is slowly coming back into the mainstream, and it's good to see that it is. For a long time, it was very controversial. Many museums were looked down upon for having extensive taxidermy halls on display and many of them took much of it down in order to appease the public.

I want to work in a museum as a curator or preparator one day, and I can tell you exactly why taxidermy is one of the most important things to a museum. It is not about having the biggest collection anymore. The days of having thousands of the same birds in one museum is gone. What is not gone is the need for different samples in genetic variation and the ability to see slight, wonderful evolutionary shifts over time. Darwin's Finches, but more importantly his mockingbirds, showed how birds evolved to fit their environments. By taking specimens back to England, it allowed him to really look into what these animals were specialized for.

Both of the above pictures are samples of Charles Darwin's original specimens that he collected while in the Galapagos Islands. That means these birds are from between 1831 and 1836, making them between 178-183 years old. These animals whose lives were taken nearly 200 years ago have revolutionized science in so many ways.

"Extinction is a different kind of death. It's bigger..." -Steward Brand

Another great example is extinction within the Holocene, or modern, era. Human beings have been such a destructive force in the world, and we have had a role in wiping certain animals off of the face of the planet. Here's a list of a few examples:

  • the Dodo Bird
  • the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger
  • the Passenger Pigeon
  • the Great Auk
  • the Quagga
  • the Moa
  • the Falkland Island Wolf
  • the Zanzibar Leopard
  • the Caribbean Monk Seal
  • the Carolina Parakeet
  • the Atlas Bear
  • the Toolache Wallaby
  • the Sea Mink
  • the Bubal Hartebeest
  • the Stellar's Sea Cow
The thing about most of these animals is that they are alive still. Not in a sense that we can think of them up and moving around, but their lives live on in taxidermy. And using taxidermy and genetic sequencing, they very well may be brought back to life one day.
Thylacine skull, and skinned head via

Taxidermied thylacine- source unknown

Taxidermied Great Auk, via

Passenger Pigeon, source unknown
Quagga mare and foal, via
These animals still have pieces of their genetics locked up inside of them. Through gene sequencing, these animals may one day again walk the earth.

Here's a really great TED talk by the aforementioned Steward Brand on what they're doing to bring back the Passenger Pigeon.

Wander-full: Red Rock Canyon's First Creek Trail

Happy Labor Day, everyone! I was one of the lucky people that had both school + work off today and I chose to spend it outside adventuring with one of my very favorite people and my wonderful dog, Ivy. Today we hiked First Creek Trail, which is a fantastic hike to do that is right outside of the Red Rock Conservation Area in Las Vegas. This hike is super easy, and is really good for kids.

  • Bring water- it's a desert out there! I know you're going to go to some falls, but even at 100 degrees today the hike felt strenuous (especially for Ivy) at times. She needed a few breaks to make it here with all of that fur she has.
  • Bring sunblock! Skin cancer is no joke and the sun in the Las Vegas valley is crazy.
  • DO NOT hike this if you think there is a flash flood possible. This trail does have some pretty steep areas when you're getting into the grotto, so it's best to stay out if there's a warning about fast moving water.

The trail to the little grotto is not clearly marked, and Bird and Hike has a fantastic explanation for what to look for when you're on the trail to get there.

We saw tons of little fish, tadpoles of  California Tree Frogs, water spiders, water fleas, and crayfish in the pool. It was still deep in the middle of summer, but it can get extremely flooded in the spring and be an even better treat. I'm sure I'll be heading back down there when it's a bit colder and Ivy can handle it better.

Total Distance: ~1.5 miles
Rating: Easy

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Passion before stability.

I want to say thank you to everyone that reached out to me after my post about depression. Thank you for your emails, your concern, and for checking on me to make sure I am okay. I think it's pretty wonderful that strangers took time out of their lives to make sure I was okay. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For years I've played it safe having jobs that had little to do with what I want to do in the future. Last summer I had the wonderful opportunity of being a biological intern for the state, and I loved it. I was so happy. I spent a ton of time hiking outside and watching early morning sunrises (my shift was from 5 AM to 1 PM). That job convinced me that I could never sit at a desk again.

Then, I got a job where I was working outside in gardens with kids. I was so happy. So excited. But suddenly I got to see the political side of the organization I was working for and it made me really sad. It was very full of political nonsense and who you know, not what you know. I soon had to sit behind a desk more and more, and felt my soul slowly dying.

So I made the biggest decision in my life so far. I did something for myself and left. I understood the financial safety of having a steady job, but I cannot be cooped up and told how to think for that long. I also cannot continue to put what I am passionate about second in my life.

I am now (officially) the lead skeleton articulator and European mount specialist at the Taxidermy shop I am apprenticing at. This does not mean that I will have a 100% steady paycheck, but it does allow me to continue working towards what I want for the rest of my life.

Passion needs to come before anything else on your life. If it makes you happy, do it! You only have so much time.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I have been battling depression for years. I would like to say that my older sister's death triggered it when I was 12, but really, it was something that was always there. It was just magnified. Lots of people like to say that children cannot be depressed, and I'd like to take this time to call them on their bullshit. There are plenty of kids that are depressed and have no way to explain the way they are feeling because they are constantly told they can't feel that way. When you're 10 years old and you feel like you're constantly out of place for liking the things you do or not understanding why everything feels so bad constantly, it's hard to tell people. And when you're told by adults that you're just upset or sad or that you shouldn't even be feeling these things at this age, you don't get answers- you just get more frustrated and upset. So you shut down and you don't talk about the things that are affecting you.

Throughout my teenage years I acted out, thinking that what I was doing- what I was seeking in other people- was what I needed to feel okay. Love is not love in high school. It's sexual experiences construed with these false ideas of what you should be doing for someone to care about you. I was a mess. And all I ever got out of it was getting hurt by the people I thought cared and my family looking at me and telling me that I was way too promiscuous. I was looking for the acceptance and love that I was not getting anywhere else. Chalk it up to daddy issues. Chalk it up to being a teenager. What ever it was, I was screaming for help and the world just told me that I need to sit down and shut up.

The only person I know truly ever cared about me that I was with almost got married to me. We were together for 3.5 years, and life was great. Then, suddenly, I was blindsided by depression and didn't know how to function. I was lashing out at everyone around me hoping that someone would recognize the signs and try to help me. I was an emotional wreck. I had lost my job and hurt the person that I cared the most about. We split, and things haven't been easy since. I still think about him. I still think about how bad I messed up. It haunts me and it is terrible. I began drinking and partying in hopes of numbing what I was feeling, but it never worked. It never, ever does.

This past year, I have tried dating people after him. I have tried feeling things for people again, and the minute I got close to someone, I was hurt in a way that I had never felt before. He ruined me. I was an emotional wreck for so many different reasons. Sexual assault changes people in ways I can't even explain. I was unable to even think about being in a relationship, let alone be close to someone. I kept trying, and started hurting people so they couldn't get close to me. Now I'm alone and accepting that I should probably be this way for a while.

Depression takes the happiness out of every situation that you can be in. It is the worst thing to say, "Well, I mean, you're smiling. I don't understand how you can say you're depressed and still laughing." It's easy. Everything is tinged with this soft grey outline and feel. You feel like everything and everyone around you would be okay without you there, and you're not really affecting anyone's life in a positive manor.

The next worst thing you can say to someone is that they should "just get over it". If I could pull myself out of the emotional pit I feel every day of my life, I would do it in a second. I would make this feeling go away and suddenly feel like I am 100% myself again, I would. I can't turn this feeling on or off. It comes in waves and usually hits me like an 18 wheeler out of no where. I went a year without it really hitting me. All it took was one trigger to pull me back down.

I would never actually hurt myself. It's not something that has ever crossed my mind. I just wish that I had a button that could make me disappear some days so that the world didn't seem so heavy. I want to live. I just don't want everything to feel so heavy all the time either.

I think Erika Moen said it best in her recent post about Robin Williams' passing, which can be found here.

If you know anyone dealing with depression, please be kind to them. They are fighting an invisible battle that can be extremely tough.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

23 Before 24

So, I am really, really bad about finishing things or sticking to goals. So, even though my birthday is in January, I figured I'd make a little list of things I'd like to do before I'm 24!

  1. hike Zion again
  2. learn to relax more
  3. start planning for my graduation
  4. hike Yosemite
  5. start doing more articulations
  6. live simply-experiences, not things!
  7. spend more time with Ivy
  8. hike Turtlehead Peak
  9. hike to the top of Mt. Charleston
  10. get ready for taxidermy licensing
  11. take more pictures with my actual camera (I neglect that thing so much...)
  12. exercise more
  13. go rollerskating/ice skating
  14. organize my life better
  15. more tattoos
  16. get better at design work
  17. work on branding for my articulations
  18. learn more about dermestid beetles and how to best take care of them
  19. grow my colony even bigger than they are now
  20. learn more about the history of taxidermy
  21. learn to focus better (I may have made some of this list at work...)
  22. do more yoga
  23. sign up for a P.O. Box so I can have pen pals
Bonus: Make macarons!

Does anyone else do lists like this? I'm going to try and see how many I can cross of in 6 months instead of a year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wander-full: Sequoia

Last week I hinted on Instagram (username: iseegodinbirds_) that I was going on a huge adventure this past weekend. This place has been on my bucket list for years and seeing it in person was amazing. I can't believe that this place even exists. It was so much more than pictures can say or that I can properly put into words.
 The trees were even bigger than I could have ever imagined. The duder and I spent 4 days hiking all over the park. We saw the world's largest tree (by volume!), bears, fat squirrels, other tiny friends,and hiked to the highest point in the park. I can't wait to go back. That place was magical.

Advice for visiting the park + nifty spots to visit:

  • Plan extra time for getting around the park! It's a huge park and driving up the narrow, windy roads was pretty intense.
  • 4 wheel drive is your friend! Especially if you camp at Atwell or Cold Springs. We camped at Atwell and it's a 20 mile drive up the side of two mountains on a partially paved road. I'm still surprised my little car made it (such a trooper!)
  • Bring mosquito repellent. I forgot that mosquitos existed because I live in the desert and we don't have any here. Now I'm covered in 18+ bites.
  • Pack light for day hikes! I had my bag full of clothes, and left that at the tent the entire time. Just bring a Camelbak or a Nalgene bottle for a day hike and you should be okay.
  • Bring quarters! I caved after the third day and needed a shower. We went to Lodgepole and their quarter machines were busted. It's $3/person for a 10 minute shower, so be sure to bring spare change if you want to get clean!

Nifty Spots:

I cannot recommend Crescent Meadow enough. That spot was magical, and if you follow me on Instagram, that was where the bird video was from. Just be quiet while you're hiking and you'll here 20+ different species of birds. If you take the bus from the Giant Forest Museum, you'll pass Tunnel Log on your way up to Crescent Meadow. I also suggest this stop, even though thr duder and I didn't go. Also be sure to stop by Tharp's Log and Huckleberry Meadows on this trail!

From Crescent Meadow, you have the option to get back on the bus and go to Moro Rock or to hike a 1.5 mile trail. Take the trail! The hike is gorgeous and well worth it! We found some Indian Mortars on the way too!

And, of course, at the end of that trail is Moro Rock. The highest point within the park. Go to the top! The stairs are pretty steep, but look at this view!

Go see Crystal Cave! It's $15/person and absolutely worth it. If you're sensitive to the cold, bring a pullover. It felt great in there (approximately 50 degrees) compared to the 85 it was outside!

This one isn't my picture. NO flash photography is allowed in the cave.

And of course, go see General Sherman!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Introductions are always tough for me because I don't really know where to start... I've been picking up "weird" things since I was little. Dead sharks on the beach is only one of the highlights on that list. I've been interested in taxidermy and skeletons for as long as I can remember. My mother would take me to museums all the time when I was little and I would spend hours staring into the dioramas at the still life residing inside of them. I also loved dinosaur skeletons and would spend far too much time staring up at them and questioning how they were put back together and being amazed that animals that walked the earth were really that big. One of her favorite stories to tell about me is how we were at the Roy Rogers Museum when I was 6 years old and came running down one of the long taxidermy display halls screaming, "Mom, quick! There's more dead stuff over here!"

My background is in geology, and my focus is in paleontology. I'm currently an undergraduate student on the west coast that is taking her time getting a degree so that I can work full time and apprentice as much as possible under a local taxidermist. I also work as a gardener who teaches kids about gardening and healthy eating. I wholeheartedly believe that we should move more towards growing and harvesting our own food.

I started seriously collecting bones around my 21st birthday and I collected my dermestid colony around my 22nd birthday. I've been cleaning and articulating skeletons ever since. I would eventually like to end up working as a preparator or curator at a museum, and I have recently decided to get my master's in Museum Studies.

I believe that taxidermy is an art form and I am exceptionally interested in both the history and the art. I strive to breathe life back into every piece of taxidermy or skeleton that I work on. Above all, I try to respect the animal that I am working on as much as possible.

This blog is going to be used to write down my experiences in taxidermy as well as my adventures and small snippets of my life that involves gardening, hiking, exploring, and a million things in between.

Nice to meet you!