Divya Anantharaman is an award winning taxidermist based in New York City, and the founder of Gotham Taxidermy. She preserves animals seeking to combine the demonstrative aspect of science with the symbolic, introspective nature of art. Her expertise is with birds, small mammals, and anatomic anomalies, with clients including museums, private collectors, and even celebrities! But what she enjoys most is sharing curiosity and wonder through classes, workshops, and events that hope to inspire deeper connections with nature. In her commitment to conservation, all animals used are sustainably sourced.

Website is gothamtaxidermy.com, and bio is at https://gothamtaxidermy.com/about

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro-pun

3 Do you have any pets?

I have 3 cats (all found in the street) and 2 very fancy pigeons (a Frillback and a Fantail)

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

I have natural history specimens and taxidermy everywhere, but not as much as people may think!

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Cooking

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Both

7 Do you speak any other languages?

Tamil, and am brushing up on my Spanish

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

I love being a taxidermist! But if I had to pick something else, I’d be a professional falconer.

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

I love that I get a bit of everything in my field! If I had to switch, I’d choose ornithology.

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

If the pandemic were not a factor, I’d go to Costa Rica for birding and bat watching!

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

Breathing underwater would be amazing-what a wonderful way to enjoy marine life! Or, I’d want to be like Inspector Gadget.

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

In relation to my field, definitely read about John Edmonstone (the Black taxidermist that taught Darwin the art of preserving specimens) and Martha Maxwell (a woman who greatly innovated the field). The book Mostly Dead Things gives a darkly humorous perspective on the work with a queer voice, and my favorite technical manual is by Oliver Davie (from the 1800s but you can find used copies!)

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

Go to the beach with tons of snacks and a sketchbook, take a nap, and watch a drag or burlesque show.

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

Scalpel, eyeliner, empanadas

15 What beverage gives you life?

Matcha! Or tequila.

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

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon or Isabel Allende’s Like Water for Chocolate

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

It changed all the time-figure skater, vet, fashion designer, ice cream taster 😂

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Thinking about what I will leave behind-from the work itself and it’s impact on conservation, to using my visibility as a queer woman of color in this field to facilitate more accessibility and diversity in this field.

19 What got you excited in science?

It’s absolutely magical! There are explanations for the way nature works, that everything is connected. I’m so thankful for the eccentric science teachers I had who showed me that science isn’t boring.

20 What excites you about science now?

What continues to be the most exciting thing is that the more we solve mysteries, new mysteries are unlocked!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

I’m learning not to feel guilty about the things that bring me pleasure!

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I make perfumes.

23 What is your favorite game?

Clue

24 What is the last book you read?

Birders of Africa by Nancy Jacobs

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

Not to base my self worth in the validation of others. This is hard advice to remember though!

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

Scuba diving!

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

There is potential to your life that you can’t even comprehend right now, life is so unexpected. I’d also tell myself to start going to therapy.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Water-whether it’s a bath or shower, or sitting outside by a body of water.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Finally caught up to season 2 of Pose since it’s on Netflix now

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

A stillborn lamb with 2 heads (congenital anomaly)

31 What is your favorite animal?

Changes daily! But now it’s the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise

32 What is your favorite book?

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Samosas

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

The start of summer

35 What is your favorite plant?

Swamp Milkweed-beneficial, pretty, and so easy to grow!

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Southern Screamers have air pockets under their skin and around their bones (an adaptation to their partially aquatic lifestyle and to help with weight). While preparing a specimen I learned they feel like very strange bubble wrap.

37 What is your favorite season?

Summer

38 What is your favorite smell?

Neroli

39 What is your favorite sound?

Moving water

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

That I’ll try anything twice.

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

Mutivili, which means infinity in Tamil

42 What is your proudest moment?

Restoring a passenger pigeon for an educational program. Though these birds represent a tragic past, it’s such an electric feeling to know that the specimens contain the power to influence the future.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Anything that gets to be very old, shady, with lots of fruit!

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

I live in NYC and the best thing about it is the people-so many different people!

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

The elephants at the AMNH (mounted by the historic taxidermist Carl Akeley) are hollow! He had a really cool method that recreated animal anatomy in a form that was strong and lightweight.

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

Mikayla Inouye IG @ScientificWoman