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  5. Get to Know our Experts through "Ask Me Anything"

Get to Know our Experts through "Ask Me Anything"

Our scientists and curators work diligently behind the scenes in labs and collection rooms at our Natural Heritage Campus in Gatineau, Quebec. To get to know them better, we have brought them out into the public – specifically, onto Instagram through our “Ask Me Anything” campaign.

We’re inviting inquiring minds to formulate questions. It can be anything from what’s your favourite specimen to what did you study in school to why are you wearing so much orange?! 

Since our April 22 launch, four of the museum’s experts have taken part, sharing insights into their work, educational background and passion for their area of expertise. If you haven’t checked it out yet on Instagram, here’s a little synopsis.

Mammal researcher, Dominique Fauteux, Ph. D., was first up to bat. He studies lemmings and other small mammals in tundra environments such as the Arctic. When asked if he’s seen lemmings go off a cliff (as legend has it), he informs us that this myth was started in 1958 with the Walt Disney documentary, White Wilderness, in which the audience saw lemmings falling down a cliff into the sea. The 1982 CBC documentary, Cruel Camera, revealed that lemmings had actually been pushed down the cliff for the Disney production. (Learn more about lemmings in this Nature Scoop with Dominique).

And why wear orange clothing on the tundra? Dominique explains that it helps makes him visible to Indigenous hunters passing through, or for air rescue teams to spot him if he gets lost or needs help!

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Our curator of botany, Jennifer Doubt, is also a moss specialist. When asked to name her favourite plant or plant story, she replied: “Well, the mighty moss, of course! They can grow on bare rock, don’t need roots, and revive within seconds after being dried to a crisp. What’s not to love?”

The museum has a gallery of live animals that includes beetles, cockroaches, a scorpion, a tarantula and more. But you’ve likely never encountered the behind-the-scenes staff who take care of these animals.

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Stuart Baatnes, who leads our animal care team, has a trove of great stories regarding about managing these critters, from adventures in bringing back harvester ants from Arizona to catching the occasional “escapee” bug. When asked which animal was the hardest to keep alive, he replied: “The moon jellyfish because they required a special aquarium and correct water flow so they don’t get damaged by bumping into the walls of the aquarium.”

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If you ever wondered which fish lives the longest, ichthyologist Noel Alfonso, promptly pronounced it to be the Greenland Shark, with its maximum lifespan of … wait for it … 400 years!!

Noel’s answer to why he studies fishes reveals a lot about their diversity: “Fishes are the most successful of all the vertebrates with around 30 000 species. There are flying fish, fishes that walk on land, fishes that dry out in mud (hibernate) for years and fishes that can live in below zero-degree sea water. They can be beautiful to look at, and almost forty percent of humans get most of their protein from eating fish.

“Ask Me Anything” reveals a small but fascinating glimpse into the dedicated, meticulous and varied work done by our museum staff. We encourage you to hop over to Instagram, find us at museumofnature and get ready to meet our next expert in the coming weeks.