Robles PhotoI am a PhD candidate in Harvard University’s American Studies program specializing in early American history, history of science, Atlantic history, material culture studies, and environmental history. My dissertation, “Curious Species: How Animals Made Natural History, 1735–1820,” examines the formative role animals and specimens played in early American science. I center creatures such as corals, fishes, rattlesnakes, and raccoons to illustrate how nonhumans shaped the Enlightenment project that sought to study them, resulting in both the advancement and loss of natural knowledge. My most recent publications include an essay in Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life on the benefits and challenges of reenacting historical specimen preservation techniques, an article about a 1755 earthquake that shook Boston, published in The New England Quarterly, and an essay on flattened scientific specimens and modes of observation, published in The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 (edited by Ethan W. Lasser). My research has been supported by the American Historical Association, the American Antiquarian Society, the William L. Clements Library, the Lewis Walpole Library, the Linda Hall Library, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History and the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University, and the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

In my days before academia, I worked as a science editor for a global health laboratory at Caltech and as a freelance science and nature writer. I also penned stories on firefly sex, flavor perception, and terraforming Mars while working as a writer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 2011, I graduated from Yale University with an American Studies degree and a concentration in nature writing.

Cover Image: Hand-colored engraving from William Jardine’s The Naturalist’s Library. Courtesy of Flickr/Dedree Dees.