Catching the bug

If anything has been impressed upon me about CalDay it is that kids are smarter than we think and that they are excited about science. My greatest joy participating in CalDay is answering questions from curious would be scientists. This innate curiosity is usually a trait among the researchers I’ve been lucky enough to work with. I often ask curators how they got involved in their work. What drew them to their discipline? Their stories are similar and generally woven around the ages of 6-9. This is when children go to open fields and collect butterflies, visit creeks to look for frogs, this is when kids really begin to understand the natural world. So when I meet these young kids at CalDay, I often think to myself, “This child could very well grow up to be a biologist.”

Alden Miller field notes, age 7

Alden Miller field notes, age 7

This was on my mind when I came across some oddly typed field notes from Alden Miller. The date caught me by surprise. They were dated 1913 and I realized that these were Miller’s childhood field notes. They were undoubtedly taken under the watchful eye of his father, Loye H. Miller, who at the time was the head of the Department of Natural Sciences at the Los Angeles Normal School (later to become UCLA).

I’ve shared my favorite of his notes. It is typical of the series. What strikes me most about the story he tells is that it could be from any time period. It is a story we are all familiar with. And again, it speaks to how curiosity of the natural world is hardwired in some children.  Alden Miller went on to be the MVZ’s second director but it is interesting to think that his career can be traced back to these sunny days in southern California, chasing lizards.

I look forward to the next CalDay when I’ll have the opportunity to meet more young budding scientists.

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