By Kelsey Murrell
"Que es?" I asked as I held up a bright orange bead from the sea of beads poured in front of me for my choosing. The vender motioned to the necklaces and bracelets as if to say, "It's for making jewelry, duh."
"No, uh... Que material?" I tried again.
"Ah, son semillas." she answered.
"Oh, Que bonita." I pretended to understand and later discovered via my Mini Spanish-English Dictionary that semilla means seed.
I did not plan to continue my bead and jewelry collection in Peru. I had planned to write and learn about the biodiversity of the country. The problem was that I wasn't sure how I was going to relate to the biology part of the class. But when I found my favorite beads at the Indian Market in Lima, I discovered my 'in' to biology, a human connection and a connection to a personal hobby I've had since I was a child. I first saw these particular beads when I bought a necklace and bracelet in Costa Rica last winter. I had never seen any quite like them before. I loved the natural patterns on them, the grooves and holes, and i've been curious about them ever since.
I've always been fascinated by beads, especially those made of wood, clay or shells. Beads like these are like a way of adorning ourselves with the beauty of nature. Dr. Chaboo tells me people also use the shells of certain beetles for jewelry. Maybe she will convince me that bugs are beautiful before the trip is over. We are heading to the field station tomorrow where I hope to research, find and maybe even use seeds from the local plants for jewelry. I found my biology/art connection. Seeing the incredible pieces the Peruvians create makes me wonder how we could ever think they are separate.
The Biodiversity Institute is home to about 60 graduate students and 30 research scientists and curators. They participate in field expeditions to all seven continents and represent areas such as entomology, ornithology, paleontology, parasitology and herpetology. As the authors of this blog, they share their experiences and adventures in collections-based biological research all over the world.
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