The National Museum of Namibia is a tiny institution. On paper, it reserves places for 12 natural scientists, but its staff is currently a third of that level. Its size, though, has not prevented it from making a major contribution to the natural sciences.
The museum helped to turn up living exemplars of an unknown insect order, Mantophasmatodea, dubbed more familiarly "gladiators" [see "Gladiators: A New Insect Order," by Joachim Adis, Oliver Zompro, Esther Moombolah-Goagoses and Eugène Marais; Scientific American, November]. Eugène Marais, the museum's senior curator for natural history, observes that the Namibian institution might not have played the role it did but for a decision by the museum staff in 1999 that allowed it to make the best use of its limited resources. It was then that Marais and four colleagues met to commiserate about how difficult it had become to do the type of research carried out at better-endowed institutions. No one wanted to lend books and specimens to investigators in a Third World country--and it was hard to come up with the funds to travel abroad. "We started looking at it from a sociological perspective," Marais remarks. "We said, 'We can do research, but we can't be very effective.'"
This article was originally published with the title Making Do.