Featured Students

Student Spotlight - Matt Hack

“People underestimate the extent and importance of collections like the Peabody’s in active scientific research. People often assume this is a cool archive – which it is – but we make extensive use of the collections for contemporary biology projects. Everything here could be a data point for some project that could be a big discovery. There’s a lot of potential for what we can use these museums for. And we have Bald Eagles and that’s also cool.” Our latest Student Spotlight is Matt Hack! Matt is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and has been working in the Peabody’s Vertebrate Zoology (VZ) collections since the spring of his freshman year. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Matt has been passionate about birding since he was a kid, even volunteering at the University of Michigan’s natural history collections while he was in high school. 


Matt gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the VZ collection where he works daily, even showing us some of his favorite birds. Matt said “my favorite bird is the Painted Bunting. When I was a little kid, I got a toy Painted Bunting, and I was determined after that to see it in real life. I got to see one when I was ten years old in Oklahoma. And I was a dramatic ten-year-old so I went home and wrote an account of my experience and it ended with the sentence ‘the Painted Bunting made my day and my career.’ It’s crazy how working in the collections and labs has turned my passion I had as a kid into an academic career.” 


We asked Matt what his favorite part of working in the collections was, and he told us that it was “giving a tour of the collections to a group of New Haven middle-schoolers. I got to show them Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles, and the excitement that they showed was just incredible. As someone who has loved birding and birds since I was nine, it was validating how much people, especially young people, can enjoy this sort of thing when they have the opportunity to see it.” 


After Yale, Matt wants to take a gap year and then apply for PhD programs in ecology. He hopes to go on more birding trips and is looking forward to one day seeing the birds he has been studying for so long in real life.


Written by Natalie Boyer '21 and Lucy Duran Camacho '22, March 2020




Check out our previous Student Spotlights!

Maya Juman

Sarah Adams