Profile of a Collection Manager of Fishes
What is your name? Gabriela M. Hogue
What is your position called? Collections Manager of Fishes
Where do you work? North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM)
How many years have you been working in this capacity? 15 years
When did you join SPNHC? 2008
What drew you to the natural history field? I will never forget the day that I went to my undergraduate advisor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and told him that even though all of the other biology majors that I knew were pre-med, I was just not going to do that. For some reason, I felt that I really needed to state my case or else he was going to make me! He laughed and began to ask me what I was interested in. I told him that I had always been interested in aquatic organisms, especially fishes. He suggested that I talk to Dr. Larry Page at the Illinois Natural History Survey about an undergraduate research project. Larry opened the door to research and introduced me to the amazing collection at the Survey. I was hooked and have never looked back!
Describe the nature of the collections you work with. I work with a large and very diverse research collection of fishes stored in various mediums (ethanol, formalin, frozen, and dry).
What are your responsibilities for them? I handle all aspects of collections management, care, and conservation.
Describe some of your activities. My duties include: sorting, identifying, databasing and database management, geo-referencing, labeling, shelving, tagging, prepping skeletal specimens, prepping tissue specimens, handling loan requests and collection-related inquiries, managing technicians and volunteers, leading tours and workshops, and dealing with budgets, grants, and purchasing. I also get to go collecting!
What do you find most interesting about your work? The most interesting thing about my work is both the diversity within the management of the collection and the specimens themselves. I can work on completely different things every day of the week. For example, one day I can be databasing minnows from North Carolina and the next tagging sharks from Florida or prepping tissue specimens from Puerto Rico. That really makes it fun!
What accomplishments are you most proud of? I am really proud of getting the collection to the state of organization and accessibility that it is in today. When I first started working for the Museum, the Fishes Collection was not databased at all and was being stored in various locations, none of which were suited for collections storage (one of the buildings was called “The Mouse House”—that says it all). We moved into a newly built collections facility and began furiously organizing and databasing. We started with the core NCSM collection, which had been ledger cataloged, and then began incorporating all of the orphaned collections which we had and continue to acquire. In 2007, we launched the collections website and linked ourselves to various global portals. In the years since we moved, it has been fantastic to see the tremendous increase in the use of the collection. That has been my greatest reward.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work? There are two things that I find very fulfilling about my work. One is seeing tour groups and students in a workshop grasp the importance of natural history collections by making them understand that each specimen is a snapshot in time that can never be repeated and has its own story to tell. The other is taking a collection from disorder to a full state of utility. This aspect of stewardship of my work affords me the ability to ensure the longevity of each specimen which may help us to answer future questions about our natural world.
What have you learned from SPNHC to be particularly helpful? How has SPNHC helped you? SPNHC has been a wonderful tool that has helped me to stay abreast of all of the latest and greatest collections management tools and techniques. I have been able to get answers to all of my questions (especially shipping regulations!) from other SPNHC members. After every annual meeting, I return to the collection invigorated and ready to tackle new and difficult projects.