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Research is both expected and rewarded. Like a college faculty, the museum staff moves through ranks: assistants, associate curator, full curator; and like a college faculty, research and the publication of scientific papers aid promotion. Research takes the staff far afield. Rozen himself is a good example. A dapper young administrator, his workday is filled with countless details of supervising the faculty of the museum. He is also a respected entomologist, and keeps several large tarantulas in glass cases in his office. "Those are mostly to wow visitors," he says. "So are the scorpions over there."
Rozen's intense interest centers on bees. He will soon leave for South Africa to do work on certain species of African bees. And, lest anyone think that the museum is interested only in fossils and the past tense of active nature, Rozen's research is stingingly immediate.
"A few years ago an African honeybee was introduced into South America," he says. "Bees are, of course, good for honey, but their main value to man is pollination; bees are involved in the production of almost $5 billion worth of crops each year in the U.S. alone.
"About 30 queens of the African honeybees escaped in Brazil, and the hybrid bee that resulted from mating with the normal honeybee of South America is a problem. It is so aggressive that beekeepers have trouble handling it. Because it is an effective pollinator, we want to keep it. But it is dangerous. Most bees will chase you a few hundred feet from their hives, but this one often chases men and animals for half a mile. There have been several deaths in Brazil and a heavy toll among livestock. The bees are moving north at the rate of 200 miles a year. In eight or nine years they are expected to reach the U.S. Something must be done about them now."
The telephone interrupts Rozen. It is The New York Times calling to confirm a report about the Chinese "red-eyed" bee, which supposedly eats parasites from rice plants. "It's not a bee at all," says Rozen, relieved that it is not his problem. He has enough of his own.
HOW ABOUT A FISHSTICK?
The light goes on in the old coal bin of the museum. On an acre of metal shelving that extends out of sight are seemingly endless jars offish—all shapes, sizes and colors, some of which have been floating here for 100 years. "We keep the room dark because light bleaches specimens," says Dr. C. Lavett Smith, curator of ichthyology. Smith is more at home in underwater habitats in the Bahamas, where he studies the social intercourse among coral-reef fishes, and more comfortable in an Aqualung than in a swivel chair.
"We always keep our type specimens," Smith explains. "When a scientist publishes a paper describing a new species, he can't publish the fish he works with, so it goes on file here, and other scientists can come and study the actual specimen. They are so valuable to science we keep them locked up, safe from fire, atomic attack and other disasters." One cannot imagine what these might be. On the way out Smith is unable to locate his key to relock the door to the bin. "Now I've got to go through my pockets scientifically," he mutters.
EATEN OUT OF HOUSE AND BONE
The museum collections contain hundreds of thousands of skeletons. It would be tedious and demanding work to prepare them by hand, since the average-sized mammal is a rat.