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Becky Desjardins



Email: becky.desjardins@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71-56 87 544
Room number: C03.13


I became interested in birds when I was small: my parents paid my brother and I to look for birds on long car trips so that we would not argue with each other. I have worked in bird collections since 1996 and remain an avid bird watcher.


After graduating from college I did two summers of field work, and in 1998 began working at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM) as the bird department technician.  This job combined collection work and specimen preparation with extensive field research and a fair amount of outreach and education responsibilities. In 2005 I became the Bird Collection Manager and remained in that position until 2010. In addition, I was on the board and then the president of the local Audubon Society chapter.

In 2010 I relocated to the Netherlands and began as a volunteer in the bird department at the Zoological Museum Amsterdam (ZMA). The museum hired me to assist with the moving of the collections to Naturalis Biodiversity Center, and in 2012 I started as a scientific preparator. I currently prepare all vertebrates species and I also work on the fossil and geological collection. I have had trainings in herbarium work as well. Additionally, I work on a variety of conservation projects: repairing or curating old, damaged, or neglected specimens.  One day a week I work in front of the public preparing a bird or mammal for the collection.


Collection interest

My main interest is how collections document population changes over time. In collections you can see examples of population growth and decline, how organisms have changed in appearance and structure, and get clues about habitat usage. As ecosystems respond more quickly than ever to climate and habitat fluctuations, it is the duty of  museums to document these developments through specimen collection and growth. In addition, we live in a society that is moving away from natural science studies in favor of lab based research and my goal is to keep collections relevant.


growth, collections, population change

Public outreach

  • November 2014: Lecture about whale preparation, preservation, and importance of whale specimens for the Netherlands Vertebrate Paleontological Society.
  • October 2014:  Weekend van de Wetenschap.  Created  an educational program about bird wings and feathers for this event.
  • February 2013: Organized an outing for the University of Leiden Student Biology Club that was and introduction to collections as well as a tour of the collections tower.
  • November 2013- present: leading dissection night for the University of Leiden Student Biology Club.
  • May 2013 Live preparation session for Museumnacht Leiden.
  • October 2012: Live preparation session for Kenniscafe: Alles Dieren Op een Stokje. De Baile, Amsterdam. 
  • January 2012: Live preparation session for Naturalis Late Night Show:  Dingen doen met dode dieren.
  • Summer 2012 to present:  Weekly live science presentations.  These are 3 hour blocks where I prepare in front of the public.


Research interest

While working at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM), I did extensive work in the field. Studies species included: Swainson’s Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Painted Bunting, Rusty Blackbird, and Southern Appalachian bird species.


Schrand, B.E., C.C. Stobart, D.B. Engle, R.B. Desjardins, and G.L.Farnsworth. 2011. Nestling Sex Rations in Two Populations of Northern Mockingbirds. Southeastern Naturalist 10(2): 365-370.

Browning, R.B. 2003. Hermit Thrush Nesting in North Carolina.  Chat 67(1): 11-13.

Roth, A.J., G.C. Argyrus, R.B. Browning. 2003. Visual Signals in the Crepuscular Common Nighthawk (Chordelies minor). American Midland Naturalist 150(1): 191-193

Lee, D.S., J.A. Gerwin, R.B. Browning. 2001. Specimen Documentation of Unusual and  Previously Unrecorded Birds from North Carolina.  Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 117 (2) 123-127