Madison Willert is a Peter Buck predoctoral fellow in Vertebrate Zoology at the National Museum of Natural History. Her fellowship project is entitled “Anthropogenic-Mediated Shifts in the Trophic Structure of Reef Fishes.” Her research focuses on how human activity has simplified coral reef food webs and communities through time. She is currently completing her PhD in Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a BA in Biology from Carleton College.
Museums have a lot of stuff. Wandering through the collection “pods,” as we call them at the Smithsonian, you can find mummies, ancient textiles, and taxidermized polar bears. You can even find jars of fish caught in the 1800s by some of the first documented naturalists. These fishes can tell us what coral reefs were like in the past and can help us figure out how we have changed these vibrant ecosystems over the past two centuries.