Chicago Adventure, Part Six: The Spice of Life

Chicago Adventure, Part Six: The Spice of Life


The Chicago Field Museum is one of the largest and most respected natural history museums in the world. Join me as we go behind the scenes! Dun dun dun! So, uh, how we pickle specimens is first, we take a tissue sample and we’ll make just like a small incision in the belly and squeeze the liver through. Take some- Take some liver.
– Ew. Yeah. And we put it in a solution of formalin that they soak for a week. And then we will put it in an alcohol bath. Okay. Um, a certain percentage at a time, so like we start with 20%, 40%… Yeah. Slowly increasing up to 70. Mmkay. And then, that way, once again, we can preserve them for hundreds and hundreds of years to come. They just last forever.
– They just last forever. They do. That’s, yeah, just- Jars and jars and cabinets and cabinets of things in alcohol. And rows and rows. Look at all of ’em. What do we have down here? Parts.
– Ooh. Intestines.
– Yeah. Can you go back and take DNA samples from these later? There are some cases that you can,
– Uh-huh. but I think that most people rely on tissue samples.
– Okay. So much diversity.
– Yeah. A little chipmunk. Something. Yeah, umbrinus, it’s a chipmunk. That’s… awesome. This is the mammals prep lab. I’ve never been happier in my life. Literally. Ever. Every day. It’s a good place to be. This is- I am jealous of your job. People tell me all the time they’re jealous of my job but you have- You- You know, ‘Oh, what did you do today at work, honey?’ You’re like ‘I just washed urine out of a dead snow leopard.’ It just smells like… a bunch of people who ate a bunch of asparagus peed all over this thing. That’s- Like, there’s definite, like, urine-y kind of- it’s weird, I’ve never smelled anything like this.
– Yeah. But do you- Do you smell the spice in it? You know, like, there’s the urine, right.
– Yeah. Like you can smell the ammonia , it’s definitely, like, that’s all of this region. Yeah. But you can also smell this, like, um, like, you can smell the fat a little bit, you can smell the muscle, there’s a little bit of blood in there, and it’s- it’s- it’s got this like spice to it. One of the best parts about this job is not only seeing the insides of so many different mammals but also all their different smells. Primates smell totally different than any other mammal. And chipmunks – they smell the best. You think dead chipmunks smell the best?
– Oh, dead- dead chipmunks smell the best. Like, ‘Hey, lady, what are you wearing tonight?’ ‘Uh, I’m just wearing my dead chipmunk smell.’
– I end up- I can like smell it on- You know- ‘Cause like when you touch the stuff,
– Yeah it- the oils stay with you. Even though you wash your hands.
– Yeah. Um. The chipmunks are always the most pleasant to stay with you. Really? You think so?
– And skunks, fresh skunks that haven’t expressed themselves almost smell like flowers. And so what are you- you gonna be doing with this? Um, so, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna take- I’m gonna take its clothes off. Okay. You’re gonna s- finish skinning it.
– I’m gonna- I’m gonna finish skinning it. And I’m going to make a study skin from this. A flat skin. Wow. Really?
– So, I’ll leave- I’ll leave the nails in one foot and then I’ll take the nails out of another, so that one set of nails can stay with the skeleton.
– Okay. But then what I’ll do is I’ll basically what you did with the wolf, is dismember it I’ll remove a bunch of the meat because if there’s too much then the beetles just are like ‘Oh god, I’m done with leopard.’ Yeah. Um.
– Yeah. I’m over it. Um. And then- and then it- goes to the beetles
– That’s great. and it comes back through here and it ends up in the collection for- Forever. For ever and ever.
– for people to see. Yeah. This is awesome.
– Yeah. And you can see here- So this isn’t- It’s not ideal. Yeah. The skin is actually slipping. Oh, no. So the skin is here but the fur, um, the fur just pulls off.
– Yeah. This means that it’s starting to decompose.
– Yeah. Which isn’t- Which isn’t great.
– You don’t like that. Um. But it- it was in the freezer for a really long time. I’ve had that problem. I get that.
– Yeah. Are those gonads? What is this right there? Oh, that’s the top of the femur.
– Yeah. Coming out of the pelvis. Okay. The gonads are long gone. I was gonna say. I mean- you know, Snow leopard gonads are hot commodity.
– Yeah.

100 Replies to “Chicago Adventure, Part Six: The Spice of Life”

  1. Just for a second, I want to acknowledge how strange these people are. I mean, chipmunk scent?
    Okay I'm over it. Yay! Leopards!

  2. I sometimes wonder if a several hundred thousand years later and somehow most of the specimen are still there, persevered with no degrade in quality. I wonder what the people of the future would think of us.

  3. Can you do an episode with those lovely beetles that we hear so much about? It would be cool to get some of your unique play by play on how you benefit from them.

  4. I just wanted to say that I got your Everything Is Dead t-shirt yesterday, and my mom looked so confused that I showed her Ask Emily #1 so she'd get it. She has now watched all of your episodes. : )

  5. there is nothing worse then being entirely caught up on brain scoop and having to wait for a whole week before the next one 🙁

  6. I was lucky enough to briefly meet Emily and Michael today at the Field Museum! As a teen volunteer in the education department I was on a tour to see the museum's extensive fishes collection. Then, out of the blue there was Emily and Michael! I was literally so speechless I thought I might piss my pants. The nice woman who was showing us volunteers around introduced us to the two and I nearly fainted. Aside from that I was lucky enough to go into the mammal prep lab! Super cool experience 🙂

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  8. oh my gosh I'm so happy to see the gross meter again. I love this whole show but the hands on stuff is like 90% of what makes it so great.

  9. anyone else have that moment of realization that the skunk in Bambi is named Flower? hmm I wonder if that was merely coincidence or something far, far darker. lol 😉

  10. that's right, this is really fantastic. Listen to this, really lucky that i registered and earning more than $40 daily from this web site :). if you wanna try just try now: bit.ly13TwHxp

  11. Seeing all those jars reminded me a lot of the earlier episode where Emily took Hank down into what seemed like a chasm in the earth to find their collection of jars. It makes me so happy to see Emily in a place where all the jars get a space of their own. 🙂

  12. I missed all the nasty and gross stuff.. thanks, that brought back some memories of awesome early brainscoop. I'm not saying that it's bad now, just that the public wants some meat! 😀

  13. In one of the videos they mentioned that the staff is actually familiar with the channel even before this trip 🙂

  14. Odd thought. Do they ever get a specimen fresh enough to make a/random animal/ stake? Would be a entresting way to study it…

  15. Could you post a video about the process of the alcohol bath? I saved a formalin preserved organ I had to have removed, and I want to know how to preserve it in the ethanol correctly. I also like collecting bugs and small dead animals, and I want to do it right.

  16. Hey,
    You use Isopropanol right? Why start at 20% and slowly go up to 70%? What's the advantage? 
    Would you do an episode on preserving specimens? ( A "how to"? )
    Also, do you ever flesh hides by hand or only use beetles? 

    Awesome episode! =)

  17. I would think dead chipmunks smelled like dead mice (like rotten sauerkraut). I'd hate to smell a urine-soaked snow leopard. I lived for years in a house soaked with cat urine. Skunk musk doesn't really smell bad. I hate to admit it, since it makes me sound like a stoner, but skunk musk smells to me like weed. 

  18. HOW DO I GET INTO DOING THIS???? Seriously, I have always been super fascinated with bones, intestines and stuff like that, I have a small connection of skulls, bones, fragments and so on I've found up in the mountains, the funnest part is trying to figure out what it was and how it died!

    I have however, Picked up a cat skull from its decomposing body I saw on the side of the road when I had to pull over because of a bee in the car..the smell was…. not good… but worth it. I seriously feel I've found what I want to do for the rest of my life X'D Playing with dead animals and taking their clothes off. I wouldn't mind smelling a dead chipmunk, I really am now curious.

  19. imagine when we are able to sleep in some liquid and wake up years after and not age at all,, now think of a museum with animals sleeping for thousands of years 😱… Someone needs to make this work!

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