You see it posted at zoos and aquariums… Please do not tap on the glass. I have always wondered what it must be like to be an animal living in a zoo, but never did I think that I would be observed like a specimen through the glass myself. So what is it like to work as a scientist in a fishbowl? Well, it’s complicated. When I first started working in the Project Lab, I was concerned about distractions and about the possibility of screwing up my DNA extractions. DNA extractions take some concentration and it can be a little awkward and distracting to be doing an extraction with someone right in your face! However, after a little while, I became accustomed to being observed while working, and it’s really not so bad.
Here are a few things you should know when you observe us in the Project Lab…
1. We are real scientists and curatorial assistants, and we are actually working. We are not actors or robots (yes, I heard a rumor that during one Nightlife someone actually thought we were robots. I mean robot technology is good, but it’s not THAT good… yet). So please keep that in mind, and do not tap on the glass!
2. We can hear you from behind the glass. And we hear all kinds of things… including your jokes about me being on Facebook (and for the record, occasionally this is true! I post links to our blog on our Facebook Research page, whenever we have a new post). Most often, we hear a lot of parents making up answers to their children’s inquiries. Typically, children ask, “what are they doing in there?” and this brings me to the third thing you should know…
3. We usually have a sign posted describing what we are doing. Look for computer screens, sign placards, or signs projected up onto the glass screens, so you don’t have to guess what we are doing!
4. The doors are locked on the public side. In other words, you cannot get into the lab. Often, we have people who are unaware of this and they will yank on the doors (occasionally quite violently) to try to get into the lab. As much as we appreciate your enthusiasm for science, this is a working lab space, so we cannot let the public in. In fact, the only way for members of the public to get into the lab is to take our Behind-the-scenes Academy Tour, which at the end of the tour takes you through the Project Lab, and often allows you to talk to us about our research. Further, on the weekends and during peak times like the winter holidays, we actually come out and talk to you! You can ask us all about the work and science we do during our Science Discovery and Out of the Lab programs. So the next time you visit, check the program guide for program times and come talk to us!
5. The giant spider is not a real spider. It’s a puppet made from cloth, but I’ve already covered that in this blog post. Also, we recently gave it a nice top hat!
So hopefully this dispels some misunderstandings about the Project Lab. We love to share our science with you, so if we are out with a cart, come talk to us!
Project Lab Coordinator