The Mystery of the Merganser



This international mystery tells of a scientific puzzle in America solved by a historical find in Australia. The bird at the center of the mystery, the merganser (goosander), was labelled in unknown handwriting Gensan Korea, May 1903. The bird skin (AMNH 734284) is part of the Robert Hall Collection, which came via London to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Could a merganser could be native to (i.e. breed in) Korea? There are no other records of mergansers outside winter, and few specimens from North Korea. Letters by R. E. Trebilcock, Hall’s field assistant, preserved in Australia, confirmed the label correct.

Author Biography

Libby Robin, Australian National University (ANU), Australia

Professor Libby Robin is an historian of science and environmental ideas. She is Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University and affiliated professor at the National Museum of Australia’s People and Environment Research Group and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm in the Division of History of Science and Technology. Libby has published widely in the history of science, international and comparative environmental history and the ecological humanities. She has won national and international prizes in History (How a Continent Created a Nation), in Zoology (Boom and Bust), and in literature (Flight of the Emu, The Future of Nature). Libby also coordinates (with Cameron Muir) the Australian and New Zealand Environmental History Network, and (with Thom van Dooren) the Australian Environmental Humanities Hub. She is President of the International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations, and a member of the Executive of International History and future Of People on Earth (IHOPE), Stockholm.