Monday, March 26, 2007

Evolution Trumps Money at Smithsonian

Great News from the Smithsonian.

Not only is Lawrence Small finally out (after his issues with expense accounts finally caught up to him) but Cristián Samper is in as the Acting Director. Samper is the current Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and is an excellent evolutionary biologist / tropical ecologist. Here is hoping that he becomes the permanent director, although it will be a loss for the Museum of Natural History if he does.

If you want to blame Cristián for something, he was the Teaching Assistant for the course I took as an undergraduate at Harvard that finally convinced me to be a biologist. This was a Tropical Ecology course taught by Peter Ashton and Otto Solbrig that in addition to being a good lecture course, had a field trip to Venezuela for three weeks. On the trip we visited and studied all sorts of tropical ecosystems. The best part was getting advice on birding from Cristián, who pretty much knew every bird in every place we went.

In honor of Cristián I am posting a picture of him working hard in Venezuela as part of the course (that's him in red).


  1. In a typical comment of mine, this is where I would do the name dropping, saying that I knew the person of interest. But I don't know Cristián, and you've already name dropped him yourself :-)

    But seriously, I looked up this guy and he's really impressive -- particularly for his age -- only about 40. It's impressive enough that he's head of a major museum, but now acting director of the whole Smithsonian -- wow.

  2. Only after I came back from the field trip in Venezuela did I find out he was just a grad. student. He seemed like a senior professor in terms of his knowledge and ability to teach. I think he shoulf throw his hat in for the 2008 presidential election.

  3. "The best part was getting advice on birding from Cristián, who pretty much knew every bird in every place we went."

    Umm, how about meeting your future wife and mother of your two children?


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