Have you ever wondered what an anthropologist does? Perhaps you have an interest in lemurs? Then you will love this week’s interview. The Children’s Department would like to issue a warm welcome to Dr. Mitch Irwin, Professor of Anthropology at NIU. Come read about his work, his favorite books, and the interesting things he has done… and yes, lemurs are involved!
What is your name?
What is your job title and where do you work?
I’m an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Anthropology at NIU.
What do you do for a living?
One side of what I do is teach Anthropology courses at NIU. Some students are majors focusing on Anthropology, while others take just one or two courses that they find interesting. The other side of what I do, like many professors, is research. I find out things about the world that haven’t been discovered yet. My specialty is looking at the ecology of lemurs living in Madagascar. I examine what they eat, and how their food supply is affected by forces like logging, habitat loss and climate change.
If someone is interested in your line of work, would you encourage that interest?
It’s a great time to get interested in wildlife, because it’s a crunch time for wildlife. They are under a lot of pressure from human development, so we have a lot of work to do in studying them and stopping extinctions.
With regards to your work, what is the most amazing or exciting thing you have ever discovered, learned, or created?
It has all been fun. Maybe the most fun thing I discovered was that the most important plant for the lemur I studied was a mistletoe – a tiny little plant that is a parasite living on bigger trees. In rainforests, everyone is so impressed by the huge trees, but this scrappy little plant is so important for the ecosystem.
What are your hobbies? Do you like comic books, manga, music, scifi? Sewing or art? Tell us what you like!
It’s music – learning, playing and writing songs. It’s so healthy to have at least one hobby that is really different from your day job.
Tell us something fun about yourself! A silly story, a fun thing you have done, or something you are proud of… what would you like the children and families of DeKalb to know?
When I was a college student, to make money in the summers I planted trees for a logging company in Ontario. Many Canadian students did. It tore up my hands every day, I had to patch them up with duct tape. To make any decent money, you had to plant about 3000 per day! In the end I planted about 130,000 seedlings over 2 summers.
Do you have a favorite section in the library to read or find books? What is your favorite memory of time spent in the library?
As a high school student I worked in the library in my hometown in Ontario. I would shelve books, clean the shelves, clean 16 mm films, type, photocopy, all the good stuff. It’s a good memory because it was a great place to work and I was surrounded by books all the time.
Please list your favorite book (or books!) from when you were a child. Why did you love this book so much and how old were you when you read it?
There are too many. As a younger kid I loved JRR Tolkien – the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. After that I remember liking dragon novels – the Dragonlance series. Later in high school and college I got into Hermann Hesse.
What genre do you like to read now that you are an adult? Do you have a favorite author?
I alternate what I read. I try to read one non-fiction book related to my work (about primates or Madagascar), one non-fiction book about something else, and one fiction book. Then, back to the beginning.
If families wanted to see the work that you have done or read a book or research paper that you have written, where would they go to view your work?
Note from Miss Julie: I highly encourage you to check out the link above. The pictures are gorgeous, and the information presented is very interesting. In addition, one of our very own Library Specialists in the Children’s Department is on Dr. Irwin’s research team! See if you can find Miss Amanda’s picture!
Thank you, Dr. Irwin, for taking the time to share your interests with us!
If you would like to read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, check it out here on Hoopla.
The Two Towers, Book Two of the Tolkien series can be checked out from the DeKalb Public Library using this link.
The Return of the King, Book Three of the Tolkien series can be checked out from the DeKalb Public Library using this link.