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Title: Information Sheet, Ms. Nancy Adams

An Interview with Ms. Nancy Adams, Collections Unit Manager, U.S. National Museum of Natural History, August 2003.

Mr. Bao Chung interviewed Ms. Adams in August 2003.

[I added information (some within square brackets) to clarify the interview.]

E. M. B. 2004.

1. What inspired you to enter the field of entomology?

I guess it was an entomology class that I took in college. I enjoy entomology. I had never looked at insects before the class that closely. I was excited about how God created them, all of the different ways they moved, their different colors, different things they ate, the different things that ate them, and their different niches in the environment. Entomology was fun. I enjoyed making an insect collection. Then, I got a job working with an insect collection.

2. What specific kind of work do you do?

I work in collections management. I mainly organize insect inventories, database the inventories, send specimens out on loan, and host visitors. I work on projects throughout the Entomology Department, such as profiling the collection, looking at each insect unit, each slide box, each drawer, and telling the staff what kind of work needs to be done in particular drawers, jars, and slide boxes.

3. What taxonomic groups of arthropods are your assignments?

Mainly the neuropteroids (fleas, lice, and scarab beetles) and orthopteroids (praying mantids and roaches).

4. What is the most exciting project you have worked on?

There were two very recent exciting projects. One was when our department moved from one side of the Natural History Museum to the other. Other people and I had to organize the move, getting things to the right place and getting the collection better organized. With better organization, we can find things much more quickly. The other was, as part of the move, I dealt with the backlog of specimens. I didn’t really know how much backlog we had, but it was supposed to fit into a room the size of my office. How much backlog did we have? It was actually seven rooms, and I had to get it to fit into one room. So, it was a fun project for me to open all the boxes full of treasures. I had to do paper work on some boxes, figure out which specialists were in charge of the specimens, where the specimens went into the collection, what specimens were worth retaining in the Museum collection, and determine if an outside specialist should work on particular specimens. I enjoyed making the decisions, shipping specimens to the appropriate specialists, and putting specimens in the correct places in the collection.

5. What keeps you excited about your profession?

Being given big projects to improve the collections to make them more easily accessible to future generations. I like doing the big things like the moves or profiling the entire collection. I’m hoping that I shall leave the collection in better shape for the generations to come.

6. Would you like to work on any arthropod group that is currently outside your assignment? If yes, what is it? Why?

Yes, I have been in charge of all of the beetles, the Coleoptera. Recently I started working with other beetle families that no particular Museum researcher covered. I’ve enjoyed being able to host visitors and make collections accessible because they hadn’t been cared for decades and they were unorganized. Organizing the specimens and calling the current researchers to tell them that these specimens are now available for study was exciting. Researchers had given up working on inaccessible parts of the collection. I was working with about 120 beetle families, began getting them organized, and got researchers excited about them. Then I left that project, and I would like to return to it.

7. In retirement (if you ever feel like retiring), would you still continue work with arthropods ("bugs")?

I probably would. I have worked 20 years for our government, so retirement is looking closer and closer. I would work with Odonates. I would have to have proper permits to collect arthropods in many places. I could get in a lot of trouble for collecting in the wrong place. So, maybe I’ll start collecting arthropod images by photography instead of collecting them with my net, although it’s a heck of a lot of fun to have a big dragonfly in an insect net.

8. How often do you see changes occurring in species due to environmental changes that occur in your specialty arthropods?

That question is not really applicable to me, because I don’t really get to look at species differences. I work with putting species into a cabinet, a drawer, or in tray. And I don’t really get to examine the characters of the different species.

9. Is biotic conservation important to you? If yes, why?

Yes, but I’m not fanatical about conservation. I’m hoping that my generation doesn’t cause some species or environment to go extinct, but I suspect that it’s going to happen.

10. What’s your most remarkable bug encounter?

I’m guessing it was probably in the rainforests of Peru. I had gotten Montezuma’s or somebody’s revenge, and I was sick much of the day. By late afternoon, I felt better. I walked down to a creek with a net. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge dragonfly, and I just swung the net as fast as I could, (she explained as she make a net swishing noise), and there he was in the net. Then I walked back up to show a buddy, because I was so excited, and I came back, then came another dragonfly. I did the same thing (and she made the net noise again), and there he was in the net. So, I caught two dragonflies in a short period. I didn’t think I could swing fast enough to catch either one of them, but I did.

11. What was your most dangerous bug encounter?

I don’t think I . . . . Well, I have had one. When I was a kid, a Brown Recluse Spider went into my shoe, but my foot didn’t go in the shoe, so it wasn’t THAT close of an encounter. Frankly, I’ve seen the Black Widows and Brown Recluses before they saw me.

Did you see any poisonous bugs while in the tropics?

Not that I knew of. I mean, there were mosquitoes that could have carried malaria or other diseases. I certainly was bitten by mosquitoes and black flies, but thankfully by no sand flies with leishmaniasis or mosquitoes with malaria or dengue fever. So I’ve been spared so far from insects carrying diseases. The lice and fleas I’ve

played with so far have been dead before I got them.

13. If you had to choose between a vertebrate and arthropod for a pet, which would you choose. Why?

I’m afraid I would choose a vertebrate. I believe it would be a yellow Lab [Labrador Retriever]. It'’d be a dog because of unconditional love.

14. Have you ever had any arthropods as pets?

I’ve had an ant farm. I also had to keep fruit flies for my genetics class, but I wasn’t a very good mom. They mostly died. I don’t think I’ve reared any other arthropods. I'’ve kept some for short periods of times but mostly to show elementary-school kids.

Obituary for Nancy Adams (written by Nancy Adams herself)

Nancy Ellen Adams of Reston, Virginia went to serve her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in heaven on August 20, 2005 after a long battle with Lymphoma. Nancy was born in Pensacola, FL on April 21, 1958. She spent her first 20 years growing up on Beachview Drive in Fort Walton Beach, FL where she graduated from Choctawhatchee high school in 1976 and Oskaloosa-Walton Community College with an AA degree in 1978. From there she transferred to Covenant College, Lookout Mountain College, GA, graduating with a BA degree in biology in 1981. She was a teacher/naturalist at the Chattanooga Nature Center and the first teacher/naturalist at Landmark Park in Dothan, AL. In 1983, Nancy started her career in the Entomology Department at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History. During her years there, she enjoyed collecting trips to Canada, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago. On her own, she enjoyed visiting insect collection in London, Mexico, Hawaii and dozens of university collection in the continental US, learning from and sharing from colleagues techniques on insect collection management, data and transaction management. She also enjoyed having two catalogues published on parts of insect collection she managed and has at least eight insects named for her.

Nancy enjoyed serving her God on short-term mission trips to other cultures and as an active member of Reston Presbyterian Church. Other joys included canoeing, collecting insects, especially Dragonflies, birding and playing cards.

Nancy is preceded in death by her parents Henderson L. and Gladys M. Adams and brother Hugh M. Adams. Brother Roger H. and his wife Teri A. Adams and nephew, Michael R. Adams and brother Richard W. and his wife Sharon C. Adams and nephews Ryan C. and Travis W. Adams, all of Fort Walton Beach FL, survive her.

A memorial service will be held at Reston Presbyterian Church at 10610 Sunset Hills Road, Reston, VA 20190 on September 10, 2005 at 1 p.m.

Nancys remains will be cremated by Money and King Funeral Home and sprinkled in the Shenandoah River on a summer canoe trip. Memorial donations may be given to the Lymphoma Society, Reston Presbyterian Church, or The Department of Entomology's, Improvement of the Insect Collection Fund. (Smithsonian Institution, Entomology MRC105, Washington, DC 20013-7012).

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