card
152

Paula Mikkelsen

OLogy Series
ologist
card
152

Paula Mikkelsen

OLogy Series
ologist

When Paula Mikkelsen moved to Florida, she turned a fun hobby into an exciting career. She enjoyed walking along Florida's beaches in search of beautiful shells. Eventually her hobby became so strong that she decided to study the animals that make shells. Today, Paula is a scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, where she studies mollusks and other soft bodied animals of the sea.

When Paula was a child, she liked to:

collect things

eat lots of seafood

go fishing with her friends

Are you right?

Correct!

Paula loved to collect things. She collected everything from postage stamps to matchbook covers. Collecting things is good preparation for becoming a scientist. Scientists collect objects and compare them as part of their jobs.

Paula is a malacologist. This means that she studies:

vertebrates

invertebrates

mammals

Are you right?

Correct!

Paula studies invertebrates -- more specifically, mollusks. Mollusks include animals like clams, snails, and octopuses. Mollusks don't have backbones like humans do. Paula studies the anatomy of these diverse animals of the sea.

Mollusks are not only beautiful to look at, they are fascinating animals that occupy just about every habitat on Earth, including land, sea, and freshwater. They do everything but fly!

Living animals make shells.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Shells are created by living animals. Mollusks do this by releasing chemicals from their mantles that harden into shells. A shell is a protective place for the soft bodied mollusk.

As a college student, Paula really wanted to become an animal doctor.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

In college, Paula really wanted to become a veterinarian. She discovered her interest in mollusks when she moved to tropical Florida.

Paula Mikkelsen
Date of Birth: November 17, 1953
Position: Assistant Curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History
Education: B.S., Bates College; Ph.D., Florida Institute of Technology
Known for: research about the biology and biodiversity of mollusks

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; Paula Mikkelsen: courtesy of AMNH.