From the Cataloger's Desk - Meet Margaret “Peggy” McKelvy Bird

by Iris Lee on

Gottesman Research Library News

Women in science, however peripheral, are not given enough credit for the observations they make alongside their more esteemed husbands. When I saw Through Her Eyes: Adventures of Margaret McKelvy Bird cross my desk I was excited to take a closer look.
Margaret McKelvy (later Margaret McKelvy Bird) in the Bryn Mawr College Yearbook, Class of 1931
Margaret McKelvy (later Margaret McKelvy Bird) in the Bryn Mawr College Yearbook, Class of 1931
Image taken from Wikipedia (

Margaret “Peggy” McKelvy Bird was married to Junius Bird, former Curator of South American Archaeology at the AMNH. Peggy, herself, volunteered for the Museum for over 60 years. She accompanied Junius Bird on archaeological expeditions, often contributing in various ways such as running the base camp, keeping field records, and managing labeling and packaging (as reported in the Preceramic Excavations at the Huaca Prieta Chicama Valley, Peru, AMNH Anthropological Papers volume 62). 
The couple traveled together from the time they were married, and Peggy had been a partner in adventure and scientific discovery right alongside her husband, and eventually, their children. In a charming family film posted by the Birds’s grandson, Matthew Bird (greenuptime), you can see a child sitting on a blanket in between Junius and Peggy taking inventory of, what appears to be, freshly excavated artifacts in Peru. After working in the field, a meal break in the tent. The films capture a life where work and family intertwine in a natural rhythm of events. 
Through Her Eyes is a collection of Peggy’s letters to family from the field. Though the nature and tone of her writing is more casual and forthright, like the films, the letters offer a glimpse into both the personal and professional activities of a beautiful partnership in exploration.

Front cover image of Through her eyes: adventures of Margaret McKelvy Bird
Front cover image of Through her eyes: adventures of Margaret McKelvy Bird
Image taken from AMNH OCLC catalog record (

Through her eyes : adventures of Margaret McKelvy Bird
collected letters by Margaret Bird, assembled and edited by her son, Harry Bird
Follow the adventures of newly-married Margaret McKelvy and Junius Bird as they travel down the coast of Chile in a small open sailboat. The year is 1934, and they have been sent by the Museum of Natural History to search out traces of early man along the coast. They lived on this small boat for five months with their dog, Muneca, emerging more in love than when they started out. When the boat trip was over, they bought a 1917 Model T truck and proceeded overland in their quest. The frequent breakdowns were met with extraordinary ingenuity. They made several important discoveries and many friends along the way.

Adaptation and the brain
by Susan D. Healy
Why does brain size vary so widely among vertebrate animal species? What role has natural selection played in shaping the structure and function of the vertebrate brain? This accessible book unravels the myriad adaptive explanations that have built up over decades, providing both a review and a critique of the work that has sought to explain which natural selection pressures have led to changes in brain size. Debate over the causes of variation in brain size, especially within extant humans and during the course of hominid evolution, has persisted for at least a couple of centuries. However, it was not until relatively recently that there has been sufficient data to allow a coherent (and taxonomically widespread) evolutionary perspective to emerge. The comparative approach employed by evolutionary biologists and behavioural ecologists has been particularly enlightening with regard to addressing variation in brain size. However, the extent to which correlational data - currently generated in some profusion - can provide a suitable explanation is not yet clear, and a constructively critical analysis of the relevant data is now timely. Five classes of selection pressure have formed the majority of explanations: ecology, technology, innovation, sex, and sociality. The book starts with a brief description of the difficulties of measuring both brain size and intelligence (cognition), before addressing the evidence for each of these five factors in turn. It argues that although ecology currently provides the most convincing explanation for variation in the size of brain regions, none of the factors yet offers a robust and compelling explanation for variation in whole brain size. The book concludes by looking forwards, suggesting the future steps necessary to reach such an explanation; steps that are challenging but now within reach. Adaptation and the Brain is suitable for graduate level students taking courses in animal behaviour and cognition, behavioural ecology, evolutionary ecology, psychology, and neuroscience as well as academics and professional researchers in these fields. The reader will not require a specific understanding of neuroscience, nor of the function of any particular brain region.

The archaeology of the North American Great Plains
by Douglas B. Bamforth
In this volume, Douglas Bamforth offers an archaeological overview of the Great Plains, the vast, open grassland bordered by forests and mountain ranges situated in the heart of North America. Synthesizing a century of scholarship and new archaeological evidence, he focuses on changes in resource use, continental trade connections, social formations, and warfare over a period of 15,000 years. Bamforth investigates how foragers harvested the grasslands more intensively over time, ultimately turning to maize farming, and examines the persistence of industrial mobile bison hunters in much of the region as farmers lived in communities ranging from hamlets to towns with thousands of occupants. He also explores how social groups formed and changed, migrations of peoples in and out of the Plains, and the conflicts that occurred over time and space. Significantly, Bamforth's volume demonstrates how archaeology can be used as the basis for telling long-term, problem-oriented human history.

The Cambridge handbook of material culture studies
edited by Lu Ann De Cunzo and Catharine Dann Roeber
Material culture studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the relationships between people and their things: the production, history, preservation, and interpretation of objects. It draws on theory and practice from disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, such as anthropology, archaeology, history, and museum studies. Written by leading international scholars, this Handbook provides a comprehensive view of developments, methodologies and theories. It is divided into five broad themes, embracing both classic and emerging areas of research in the field. Chapters outline transformative moments in material culture scholarship, and present research from around the world, focusing on multiple material and digital media that show the scope and breadth of this exciting field. Written in an easy-to-read style, it is essential reading for students, researchers and professionals with an interest in material culture.

Cold-water corals : the biology and geology of deep-sea coral habitats
by J. Murray Roberts, Andrew J. Wheeler, André Freiwald and Stephen Douglas Cairns
There are more coral species in deep, cold-waters than in tropical coral reefs. This broad-ranging treatment is the first to synthesise current understanding of all types of cold-water coral, covering their ecology, biology, palaeontology and geology. Beginning with a history of research in the field, the authors describe the approaches needed to study corals in the deep sea. They consider coral habitats created by stony scleractinian as well as octocoral species. The importance of corals as long-lived geological structures and palaeoclimate archives is discussed, in addition to ways in which they can be conserved. Topic boxes explain unfamiliar concepts, and case studies summarise significant studies, coral habitats or particular conservation measures. Written for professionals and students of marine science, this text is enhanced by an extensive glossary, online resources, and a unique collection of colour photographs and illustrations of corals and the habitats they form.

Colonial and decolonial linguistics : knowledges and epistemes
edited by Ana Deumert, Anne Storch, and Nick Shepherd
This wide-ranging volume offers a detailed exploration of coloniality in the discipline of linguistics, with case studies drawn from Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. Colonial meanings and legacies have returned to the forefront of many academic fields in recent years and linguistics, like several other disciplines, has had an ambivalent relationship with its own histories of practice in colonial and postcolonial worlds. The implications of these histories are still felt today, as colonial paradigms of knowledge production continue to shape both academic linguistic practices and non-specialist discussion of language and culture. The chapters in this volume adopt a range of different conceptual frameworks - including postcolonial theory, southern theory, and decolonial thinking - to provide a nuanced account of the coloniality of linguistics at the level of knowledge and disciplinary practice; crucially, the contributors also expand their investigations beyond this ambivalent inheritance to imagine a decolonial linguistics. The volume will be of interest to all linguists looking to critically assess their own practices and to engage with debates at the cutting-edge of their discipline, particularly in the areas of sociolinguistics, field linguistics, typology, and linguistic anthropology, as well as to those outside the discipline engaging with questions of coloniality.

Computational thinking for life scientists
by Benny Chor and Amir Rubinstein
Computational thinking is increasingly gaining importance in modern biology, due to the unprecedented scale at which data is nowadays produced. Bridging the cultural gap between the biological and computational sciences, this book serves as an accessible introduction to computational concepts for students in the life sciences. It focuses on teaching algorithmic and logical thinking, rather than just the use of existing bioinformatics tools or programming. Topics are presented from a biological point of view, to demonstrate how computational approaches can be used to solve problems in biology such as biological image processing, regulatory networks, and sequence analysis. The book contains a range of pedagogical features to aid understanding, including real-world examples, in-text exercises, end-of-chapter problems, colour-coded Python code, and 'code explained' boxes. User-friendly throughout, Computational Thinking for Life Scientists promotes the thinking skills and self-efficacy required for any modern biologist to adopt computational approaches in their research with confidence.

Conservation translocations
edited by Martin J. Gaywood, John G. Ewen, Peter M. Hollingsworth and Axel Moehrenschlager
Conservation translocation - the movement of species for conservation benefit - includes reintroducing species into the wild, reinforcing dwindling populations, helping species shift ranges in the face of environmental change, and moving species to enhance ecosystem function. Conservation translocation can lead to clear conservation benefits and can excite and engage a broad spectrum of people. However, these projects are often complex and involve careful consideration and planning of biological and socio-economic issues. This volume draws on the latest research and experience of specialists from around the world to help provide guidance on best practice and to promote thinking on how conservation translocations can continue to be developed. The key concepts cover project planning, biological and social factors influencing the efficacy of translocations, and how to deal with complex decision-making. This book aims to inspire, inform and help practitioners maximise their chances of success and minimise the risks of failure.

Decolonizing African knowledge : autoethnography and African epistemologies
by Toyin Falola
Addressing the consequences of European slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism on African history, knowledge, and its institutions, this innovative book applies autoethnography to the understanding of African knowledge systems. Considering the "self" and Yoruba Being (the individual and the collective) in the context of the African decolonial project, Falola strips away Eurocentric influences and interruptions from African epistemology. Avoiding colonial archival sources, it grounds itself in alternative archives created by memory, spoken words, images, and photographs to look at the themes of politics, culture, nation, ethnicity, satire, poetics, magic, myth, metaphor, sculpture, textiles, hair, and gender. Vividly illustrated in color, it uses diverse and novel methods to access an African way of knowing. Exploring the different ways that a society understands and presents itself, this book highlights convergence, enmeshing private and public data to provide a comprehensive understanding of society, public consciousness, and cultural identity.

Gender, property and politics in the Pacific : who speaks for land?
by Rebecca Monson
Through close engagement with Solomon Islands, Rebecca Monson outlines how land disputes are multiscalar and entangled with gender, with implications for public authority and state formation. Drawing insights from law, geography and anthropology, Monson enriches debates about land tenure, gender inequality, ethno-territoriality and legal pluralism.

Gibbon conservation in the Anthropocene
edited by Susan M. Cheyne, Carolyn Thompson, Peng-Fei Fan and Helen J. Chatterjee
Gibbons are the most speciose of the apes. Despite being highly threatened, they receive less research and conservation attention compared to the great apes. This book presents cutting-edge research and conservation actions for hylobatids aimed at researchers, students and conservation practitioners within primatology and conservation ecology.

Impacts of human population on wildlife : a British perspective 
by Trevor J.C. Beebee
Wildlife and the countryside are highly valued by people in the UK, and for good reason. Healthy habitats are invaluable assets and promote human well being. However, they are under increasing threat from, among other things, relentless urban expansion and intensive modern agriculture. These pressures largely stem from a major underlying cause - the high and growing population of humans living in the UK. This book provides an overview of wildlife in the UK and its recent status; factors contributing to wildlife declines, trends in human numbers, international deliberations about the impacts of human population growth, and the implications for the future of wildlife conservation in the UK. The evidence-based text includes comparisons of wildlife declines and their causes in other countries, providing a global perspective. This book is for ecologists, naturalists and conservation biologists studying and working in academia or in consultancies, as well as all those interested in wildlife conservation.

Insect diapause 
by David L. Denlinger
Our highly seasonal world imposes environmental challenges for insects. To survive these inimical periods they rely on a diapause (dormancy) mechanism to bridge unfavorable seasons. The origin of the term "diapause" is discussed, as well as its relationship to related forms of dormancy in other animals. Diapause is distinct from quiescence in that it is not an immediate response to an adverse environment but is programmed at an earlier developmental stage, an attribute that enables the insect to take steps in preparation for entering the arrested state. Diapause can occur at any point in the life cycle (embryo, larva, pupa, adult), but when it occurs is species-specific. The chapter summarizes who does it and in what stage, as well as addressing the occurrence of diapause in social insects. The pervasive impact of diapause on the insect life cycle begins prior to diapause and continues well beyond its termination.

The origin and early evolutionary history of snakes 
edited by David J. Gower and Hussam Zaher
Snakes comprise more than 3,800 extant species found on all major continents except Antarctica. Morphologically and ecologically diverse, they include burrowing, arboreal, and marine forms, feeding on prey ranging from insects to large mammals. Snakes are strikingly different from their closest lizard relatives, and their origins and early diversification have long challenged and enthused evolutionary biologists. The origin and early evolution of snakes is a broad, interdisciplinary topic for which experts in palaeontology, ecology, physiology, embryology, phylogenetics, and molecular biology have made important contributions. The last 25 years has seen a surge of interest, resulting partly from new fossil material, but also from new techniques in molecular and systematic biology. This volume summarises and discusses the state of our knowledge, approaches, data, and ongoing debates. It provides reviews, syntheses, new data and perspectives on a wide range of topics relevant to students and researchers in evolutionary biology, neontology, and palaeontology.

Sound relations : native ways of doing music history in Alaska 
by Jessica Bissett Perea
Sound Relations: Native Ways of Doing Music History in Alaska delves into histories of Inuit musical life in Alaska to amplify the broader significance of sound as integral to self-determination and sovereignty. The book offers radical and relational ways of listening to Inuit music across a range of genres-from hip hop to Christian hymnody and drumsongs to funk and R&B - to register how a density (not difference) of Indigenous ways of musicking from a vast archive of presence sounds out radical and relational entanglements between structures of Indigeneity and colonialism. The research aims to dismantle stereotypical understandings of "Eskimos," "Indians," and "Natives" by addressing the following questions: What exactly is "Native" about Native music? What does it mean to sound (or not sound) Native? Who decides? And how can in-depth analyses of Native music that center Indigeneity reframe larger debates of race, power, and representation in twenty-first century American music historiography? Instead of proposing singular truths or facts, this book invites readers to consider the existence of multiple simultaneous truths, a density of truths, all of which are culturally constructed, performed, and in some cases politicized and policed. A sound relations approach endeavors to advance a more Indigenized music studies and a more sounded Indigenous studies that works to move beyond colonial questions of containment - "who counts as Indigenous" and "who decides" - and measurement - "how much Indigenous is this person/performance" - and toward an aesthetics of self-determination and resurgent world-making.

The unstoppable human species : the emergence of homo sapiens in prehistory 
by John J. Shea
In The Unstoppable Species John J. Shea explains how the earliest humans achieved mastery over all but the most severe, biosphere-level, extinction threats. He explores how and why we humans owe our survival skills to our global geographic range, a diaspora that was achieved during prehistoric times. By developing and integrating a suite of Ancestral Survival Skills, humans overcame survival challenges better than other hominins, and settled in previously unoccupied habitats. But how did they do it? How did early humans endure long enough to become our ancestors? Shea places "how did they survive?" questions front and center in prehistory. Using an explicitly scientific, comparative, and hypothesis-testing approach, The Unstoppable Human Species critically examines much "archaeological mythology" about prehistoric humans. Written in clear and engaging language, Shea's volume offers an original and thought-provoking perspective on human evolution. Moving beyond unproductive archaeological debates about prehistoric population movements, The Unstoppable Human Species generates new and interesting questions about human evolution. John J. Shea is Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University, New York. He is the author of Stone Tools in the Paleolithic and Neolithic Near East: A Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Stone Tools in Human Evolution: Behavioral Differences Among Technological Primates (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and Prehistoric Stone Tools of Eastern Africa: A Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2020). A paleoanthropologist, archaeologist, and an experienced practitioner of ancestral survival skills, Shea's demonstrations of stoneworking appear in numerous television documentaries and in the United States National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

Useful objects : museums, science, and literature in nineteenth-century America 
by Reed Gochberg
Useful Objects: Museums, Science, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century America explores the debates that surrounded the development of American museums during the nineteenth century. Throughout this period, museums included a wide range of objects, from botanical and zoological specimens to antiquarian artifacts and technological models. Intended to promote "useful knowledge," these collections generated broader discussions about how objects were selected, preserved, and classified. In guidebooks and periodicals, visitors described their experiences within museum galleries and marveled at the objects they encountered. And in fiction, essays, and poems, writers embraced the imaginative possibilities represented by collections and proposed alternative systems of arrangement. These conversations spanned across spheres of American culture, raising deeper questions about how objects are valued-and who gets to decide.

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This entry was written by Iris Lee, Cataloging and Metadata Librarian.