A flensing knife, a dead dolphin, and a kickass scientist

This Nature News profile of whale anatomist Joy Reidenberg has it all: how to get your dead dolphin into Manhattan (through the Lincoln Tunnel, of course), how to move a table-sized pharynx (a forklift) and bit of an elegy for the dying art of anatomy (hard to publish, no support). Reidenberg’s scientific work is on cetacean voice evolution and mammalian pharynx anatomy, but the amazing part of this profile is her utter joy in dissecting rotting bus-sized cetaceans. Please enjoy selected quotes:

“I had to fold the front seat over on the passenger’s side and shove the bottlenose dolphin’s face out of the front passenger window to fit the thing in the car,” says Joy Reidenberg, almost losing her breath in laughter at the memory. “And so coming in through the Lincoln Tunnel, they’re saying ‘What do you have as a passenger?’”


“To bring back a larynx the size of this table,” she says, thumping on a conference room table, “takes six people, a tug-of-war, and maybe a backhoe and a crane.”


“The two words that have usually sent me into near heart attack have been the words ‘mass stranding’. To her, this is one of the greatest excitements in the world,” he [the department chair] says. “I, on the other hand, have the wonders of explaining to the institutions, the boards, the loading dock, the security people the wonderful material that comes in — trying to stand there with a straight face and say, ‘Odour? What odour?’

And anyone else who loves roadkill gets a double-A+ awesomeness rating in my book:

Once, at about age eight, she decided one of her few dolls needed a fur coat. Rather than asking her mother for one, she went out and found a dead chipmunk. She flayed it and was drying the hide when, to her horror, a raccoon took her prize.

Go read the full profile before Nature takes it out of the free zone.


6 Responses to A flensing knife, a dead dolphin, and a kickass scientist

  1. JasonR says:

    Doh, it’s behind their registration wall for me. Brain did a little coverage of this too, and I’ll mention again that over at TONMO you can see Dr. Steven O’shea work the flensing knife (and backhoe) on his stranded specimens. Yum.

  2. Wow! Did you see that Dr. Reidenberg stopped by Brian’s blog with an open invite for whale dissection?! I wish I still lived in NYC.

  3. Joy Reidenberg says:

    Hey Miriam:
    Let me know if you’re back visiting NYC – maybe you can come to a dead whale party too!

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