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Meet the Curators

From the American Museum of Natural History:

Neil H. Landman, Curator, Division of Paleontology, and Lead Curator for Pearls

Dr. Neil Landman is a specialist on living and fossil mollusks (the animal group that produces pearls). His main focus is the class of mollusks known as cephalopods such as the giant squid, pearly nautilus, and their extinct relatives, the ammonites. He has studied these animals on expeditions to the southwest Pacific, Morocco, and Montana. Currently, he is describing the evolution and systematics of Cretaceous cephalopods from North America, particularly studying the microstructure of their shells, which is similar to that of most modern and fossil pearls. Dr. Landman received his B.S. in mathematics from Polytechnic Institute of New York, his M.S. in earth sciences from Adelphi University, and his M.Phil. and Ph.D. in geology from Yale University in 1982. He joined the Museum in 1982 as an assistant curator and was named Curator in 1993. He served as chair of the Department of Invertebrates from 1992 to 1999, and is currently an adjunct professor at CUNY. Dr. Landman co-authored Pearls: A Natural History (American Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001). Dr. Landman has also co-edited and contributed to two scholarly books: Nautilus: The Biology and Paleobiology of a Living Fossil (Plenum Press, New York, 1987) and Ammonoid Paleobiology (Plenum Press, New York, 1996).


Paula M. Mikkelsen, Assistant Curator, Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Co-Curator for Pearls

Dr. Paula Mikkelsen studies the systematics and biodiversity of marine mollusks, known collectively as "seashells." She specializes in two groups: shelled opisthobranch snails (or "bubble snails") and bivalves (including clams, scallops, mussels, and pearl oysters). One of her primary interests is describing the soft anatomy of mollusks, many of which are only known, even in these days of molecular biology, from the empty shells they leave behind. Characteristics discovered through photography, dissection, and histology are then subjected to phylogenetic analysis to shed light on the evolutionary relationships of living mollusks. Dr. Mikkelsen has also conducted systematics-based biotic inventories in the Indian River Lagoon along eastern Florida, the Bahamas, and most extensively the Florida Keys. Dr. Mikkelsen received her B.S. in biology from Bates College and her Ph.D. from Florida Institute of Technology in 1994. She was Assistant Curator of Malacology at the Delaware Museum of Natural History and joined the American Museum of Natural History in 1997. A member of several professional Editorial Boards and a council member of the international malacological society, Unitas Malacologica, Dr. Mikkelsen is Co-Curator of the upcoming renovation of the Museum's Hall of Ocean Life. She co-authored Pearls: A Natural History (American Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001).

Read an interview with Dr. Paula Mikkelsen about Pearls


From The Field Museum, Chicago:

Dr. Rudiger Bieler, Associate Curator & Chair, Department of Zoology, and Co-Curator for Pearls

Dr. Rudiger Bieler is an evolutionary biologist, specializing in Malacology (the science of mollusks), particularly the study of the comparative morphology, biodiversity, and interrelationships of marine gastropods (snails) and bivalves (clams and relatives). For his research, he is using a wide range of laboratory techniques, from 3-D reconstructions of histological sections to electron microscopy and DNA sequencing. A very active field researcher, he has made collections and observations by scuba diving and offshore dredging in many regions of the world. Dr. Bieler received his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg, Germany. After postdoctoral appointments with the Smithsonian Institution, he held curatorial and administrative positions at the Delaware Museum of Natural History and joined the Field Museum staff in 1990. He is on the faculty of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, was elected president for both the International Society of Malacology (Unitas Malacologica) and the American Malacological Society, and serves on numerous professional editorial boards. He has published extensively in his chosen field of research and co-authored Pearls: A Natural History (American Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001).


Dr. Bennet Bronson, Curator, Asian Archaeology and Ethnology, Department of Anthropology, Field Museum; Co-Curator for Pearls

Bennet Bronson, Ph.D., specializes in the economic and social evolution of human society, with special reference to early technology and trade. As he points out, the ancient world had surprising similarities to our own in terms of the importance of commercial competition, the effects of technological progress, and the causes of economic development and decline. In line with these interests he has been involved for a number of years in a program of archaeological and ethnographic work in Southeast and East Asia: in Thailand, Indonesia, China and Sri Lanka, combined with research on the Asian collections of the Field Museum. He has worked in close collaboration with other specialists in ancient metallurgy, ceramics and textiles. Born in Connecticut in 1938, Dr. Bronson graduated from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire in 1956, from Harvard University (with a B.A.) in 1960, from the Army Language School in Monterey in 1962, and from the University of Pennsylvania (with a Ph.D.) in 1976. He has been working at the Field Museum as Curator of Asian Archaeology and Ethnology since 1971. Since 1988, he has also been an Adjunct Professor in the Anthropology Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a co-author of Pearls: A Natural History (American Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001).

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