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Field Museum researchers themselves now on display

The Field Museum's newest permanent exhibition, "Restoring Earth," opens to the public November 4, 2011 in the Abbott Hall of Conservation. One of many large-scale photographs exhibiting the beauty of nature. Herpetologist, Pablo Venegas examines a lizard during a rapid inventory in Peru. Photo by Alvaro del Campo © The Field Museum ECCo

The Field Museum’s best-kept secret is out.

For decades, museum staff have worked on research projects around the world, from tracking the biodiversity of mollusks in the Florida Keys to working toward preserving millions of acres of forest in the Andes and Amazon region.

Though central to the museum’s mission, the work went largely unnoticed, hidden behind the dinosaurs and centuries-old artifacts more familiar to museum visitors.

On Friday, the Field opens a new permanent exhibit, “Restoring Earth,” which aims to tell the story of modern-day conservation efforts through the story of Field scientists.

“This is a celebration of diversity on earth and the work that can be done,” said Debra Moskovits, Field’s senior vice president for environment, culture and conservation (ECCo), and one of several researchers featured in the exhibit. “We really wanted people to know what is going on behind the scenes.”

Many of the researchers, including Moskovits, were more comfortable quietly working in the Peruvian jungle or Amazon rainforest than with being part of a museum display, but agreed to participate because they wanted the story of their work told.

“It’s hard to tell the story about what the scientists are doing,” said Alaka Wali, applied cultural research director for ECCo. “It’s difficult to really convey the science. A lot of it is mundane.”

To spice up the science, the Field researchers are presented as modern-day action heroes, dropping from helicopters into the jungle or getting up close and personal with wild animals.

“The advantage of seeing this [in the museum] is that you are not being bitten by mosquitoes or feeling sweat in your eyes,” said Moskovits.