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Showing blog posts tagged with Richard Gilder Graduate School

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Museum Researcher Names Lizard Genus After Tolkien’s Dragon Smaug

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The villain of J. R. R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit–the fearsome dragon Smaug–dwells deep in a cavern with a massive hoard of treasure and terrorizes nearby villages.

His real-world namesakes aren’t quite as fearsome. Smaug is the new name given to a genus of girdled lizards from South Africa by Ed Stanley, a doctoral candidate at the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History, who reclassified the genus in a in a paper published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution in January 2011. Stanley’s work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

Smaug lizards live in tunnels in the highlands, including the appropriately named Drakensberg (Dragon Mountain) mountain range of southern Africa. But the inspiration for the name came from a connection to the author rather than the fictional character. “Tolkien was born in the Free State, South Africa, where this lizard was found,” says Stanley.

Tags: Our Research, Richard Gilder Graduate School

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Going to Graduate School at the Museum

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For an extraordinary group of New York City students, going to class means passing a Neanderthal skeleton, a 94-foot-long model of a blue whale, and a family of brown bears — and that’s just on the first floor.

These are the 13 students now enrolled in the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History, which in 2006 became the only American museum—and the first museum in the Western Hemisphere—with the authority to grant the Ph.D. degree. In 2008, the Museum made history by enrolling its first class. Just last year, the New York State Board of Regents granted full institutional accreditation to the Richard Gilder Graduate School, a landmark decision that recognized the strength of the new program and the Museum’s long track record of training graduate students in partnership with leading institutions that include Columbia University, New York University, Cornell University, City University of New York, and Stony Brook University.

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