With Conservation from Here, artist Joseph Rossano, who grew up in Locust Valley, remarks on the historic progression of conservation, inspired by former Oyster Bay resident, landmark conservationist, and US President Theodore Roosevelt.
Outside, the Roosevelt elk (Cervis elaphus roosevelti) that greeted you are members of a larger herd waiting in repose at Sagamore Hill, TR’s “Summer White House.” Created from recycled aluminum that will be recycled again on completion of this show, they embody the spirit of conservation he championed and again remind us of its necessity and promise.
In the gallery, you find a monochrome interpretation of Sagamore Hill’s North Room with trophy heads, skins and tusks stylized in white, black, silver and glass. Juxtaposed with these are colorful organisms native to Long Island and collected by local students who cataloged the species DNA at a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center research camp.
The North Room exhibition contrasts historical and complementary collection methodologies. Animals covered in crushed glass represent the common strategy of most museum naturalists—capturing, preserving and examining specimens for morphological and anatomical identification.
The colorful photographs and DNA sequences represent recent technological leaps. With genome sequencing fast becoming a new normal in contemporary taxonomy and conservation efforts, the rifles-and-nets strategy relied on by TR has evolved to embrace DNA barcoding.
Each facsimile animal here is identifiable only by its species name and a code sequenced from DNA extracted from the same species as those taxidermied at Sagamore Hill. In most cases, it is no longer necessary to collect whole specimens (or herds of specimens) for identification. A tissue sample or even a hair collected many decades later can suffice.
This powerful tool enables citizen scientists of any age to identify, confirm and even discover species. In context, a sixth grader in Cove Neck can now significantly contribute to the world’s collective understanding of biodiversity for the conservation of all species, including our own.
The shore of our Long Island Sound and the creatures it harbors inspired Theodore Roosevelt to create his legacy as the “conservation president.” It continues to be a source of amazement for a next generation of citizen scientists.
This time. This place. Indeed, the future of conservation starts right from here….