Author: Erin Malsbury

Erin Malsbury

Erin Malsbury is an intern in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs. Her writing has appeared in Science, Eos, Mongabay and the Mercury News, among others. Erin recently graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with an MS in science communication. She also holds a BS in ecology and a BA in anthropology from the University of Georgia. You can find her at

A meteorite in the process of being recovered by volunteers in the Antarctic Search for Meteorites program. The shiny fusion crust on this meteorite suggests it may be an achondrite. (ANSMET)
Scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History sequenced the genomes of 363 bird species in 2020. (Brian Schmidt, Smithsonian)
Tens of millions of years of bird evolution guided some of the most important elements of human-powered flight. (Pixabay)

How We Lifted Flight from Bird Evolution

December 17th, 2020, 6:00AM
Sequencing entire genomes from ancient tissues helps researchers reveal the evolutionary and domestication histories of species. (Thomas Harper, The Pennsylvania State University)
Plants and animals around the globe use a wide variety of evolutionary strategies to survive harsh winters.
Scientists discovered a new species of odd-scaled burrowing snakes in northern Vietnam. (American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists)
The Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems working group combines expertise from paleontologists and ecologists to improve our understanding of ancient and modern ecosystems. (Mary Parrish, Smithsonian)
The Smithsonian’s Division of Birds provided about 40% of the tissue samples for the new bird genomes in a landmark study. (James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
From leaf-engineering to complex social circles, there’s more to bats than flying and echolocation. (Charles J Sharp)

Five Reasons to Love Bats

October 27th, 2020, 6:00AM
Cole had been using fossils in the National Museum of Natural History’s Springer collections for her research long before joining the museum as a curator. (Selina Cole, Smithsonian)
The Pacific bigfin squid (Magnapinna pacifica) in the Smithsonian collections that Mike Vecchione and Richard E. Young used to describe the deepest-known species of squid. (Richard E. Young)
An artistic representation of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (NIAID)
While digging through decaying carcasses, vultures expose themselves to dangerous pathogens. Gary Graves studies the unique microorganisms in the guts of these birds that help them resist infections. (Joyce Cory)
Smithsonian anthropologists hold up the world’s longest beard after it was donated to the National Museum of Natural History in 1967. (Smithsonian)
The Smithsonian’s National Mosquito Collection has about 1.9 million specimens from around the world that researchers use to study diseases like malaria. (Paul Fetters for the Smithsonian)
Scientists use a California condor specimen from 1835 — part of the Smithsonian’s very first collection of items — to study the critically endangered species. Pictured: a young California condor in Pinnacles National Park. (Gavin Emmons)
Scientists plan to piece together the genetic code of all plants, animals, fungi and protists within the next ten years as part of the Earth BioGenome Project.