Natalia Maass
Natalia Maass. Photo provided by Natalia Maass.

Natalia Maass is a recent Master of Science, interested in birds and insects. Honestly just trying to do my best.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

So much decor. I have an Audubon reprint of fighting eiders, three prints of aquatic insect larvae, a print of blue jays, lots of bones (including a cow skull I painted), an embroidery I made of my fave caddisfly family (philopotamidae), a fake street sign that says “Science Place”, a blue morpho butterfly in a shadow box, and a taxidermied pheasant.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

I retain a bare minimum of Italian (I was enrolled in classes for 6 years and one semester)

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Historian. Would it be cheating if I specified the history of biology as a field of interest?

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Insect taxonomy. I love the thrill of the insect ID, curating a collection, collecting the insects or just going through specimens that other people collected. Insects are just so fascinating and there’s so much more to learn about them.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

I’m having a hard time with this one. Practically, I’d like a plane ticket to go visit a friend. Fantastically, I’d like a plane ticket to Papua New Guinea.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Telepathy/Mind Reading

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Species Seekers by Richard Conniff. It is about the early origins of taxonomy and species description. You’ll learn a bunch of wild facts about early taxonomists.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Bird watching/iNaturalisting in the morning, spend the afternoon listening to podcasts while crafting (knitting, embroidering, or learning something new), and then at night get a milkshake or something and go black lighting for nocturnal insects by a stream.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Internet access
Picture’s of Nick Sly’s cat, Finch (ha)
The people close to me in life

15 What beverage gives you life?

Kevita’s Lavender Melon Kombucha

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

None of the assigned reading in high school that I remember had an influence on me and in college we didn’t have much assigned reading in the way of entire books. One book I read at the end of high school was The Nesting Season, by Bernd Heinrich, which got me interested in animal behavior/behavioral ecology.

17 What did you want to be be when you grew up?


18 What drives you and keeps you going?

I really don’t know anymore. I thought in my undergraduate I would study feather coloration, go on into a Master’s program to get a better background in it, maybe incorporate some behavioral research too, go on to do a PhD, and then become a museum curator/professor. But after my whole experience in my Master’s program and the last few years, I don’t really know what I want to do anymore, the path isn’t so clear. I guess what’s keeping me going is trying to find a path to go down again, what my end goal is, and how am I going to get there. Being aimless and worrying about my future does not feel great and I would like to stop feeling this way.

19 What got you excited in science?

What initially got me excited in science was the feeling I belonged. I didn’t have a real living science/biology class until my freshman year of high school. When I had my first biology class, everything just seemed to click and it was the first time I felt that this was something I could do for the rest of my life.

20 What excites you about science now?

Science twitter gets me excited about science now. It is great to follow research in real time, find potential collaborators or positions, get inspired from other’s work, read some cool papers, and just learn new things from fields I wouldn’t normally be involved in. Plus the people I follow offer a wealth of positivity and support to one another and it makes me happy to see that.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

The Sims 4. I love building and decorating homes and coming up with elaborate backstories for my characters and why they’re working towards their current goals.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I don’t really have a secret talent. I’m not particularly great at anything but I try to accrue as many skills as I can.

23 What is your favorite game?

Is birding a video game, haha? I don’t want to say Sims 4 since that’s my guilty pleasure. I really like group games that are not overly complicated and result in copious amounts of laughter.

24 What is the last book you read?

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Technically I’m still reading it but it’s been about three weeks since I’ve read it, and I haven’t had the time to pick it back up.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Get as much training as you can in data collection and analysis techniques to build-up your “toolkit”

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Therapy or Karaoke. Both scare me for different reasons.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Make careful choices about where you get your education and with time, you will eventually find more people like you.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Taking a nap- if you aren’t conscious, nothing can stress you out.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 2

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Dead nestling/fledgling robin my friend would in her yard. She gave it to me in one of the plastic bags carrots come in and I put it in a small purse (just big enough for a baby robin) with the intention of bringing it to my school’s collection the next day (it was partially decomposed and I wanted to try to macerate the skeleton). The purse went missing in my apartment for several months, and then I refound it, baby robin and all.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Any of the birds in Paradisaeidae, can’t pick just one.

32 What is your favorite book?

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Can’t go wrong with ice cream

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

The first warm day of spring

35 What is your favorite plant?

I love orchids. A) Because I haven’t killed the moth orchid I bought a couple weeks ago yet and B) Orchids have a fascinating interactions with pollinators

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Too many to pick from. One is that the Club-winged Manakin has solid wing bones so that it can beat its wing together to produce sound using modified flight feathers. You generally don’t see this mechanism of sound production in vertebrates.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Garlic- raw, cooked, in a sauce. Ya girl love alliums.

39 What is your favorite sound?

A thunderstorm/rainstorm during the day

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Nothing comes to mind

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?


42 What is your proudest moment?

I think finally defending my Master’s has topped discovering a new species of bee fly. For a long time my thesis was a Sisyphean task, but I finally got to the mountain top and threw the rock at the sun, or however Sisyphus would have wanted to celebrate.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Some kind of juniper

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

New York has the best bagels

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I sang in a choir from fourth grade until I graduated my undergrad in 2015.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Laura Jessup, @LauraHearsBirds