My Personal Ethics
I am and always will be a champion for the humane, respectful treatment of animals. All of my specimens come from legal sources in the United States – that could mean roadkill, legal hunting or trapping, animals raised for food, natural deaths, etc. I am firmly against poaching and will not hesitate to report it. I make it my business to be aware of and follow laws relating to animal parts. I know that every specimen that comes into my shop was at one time a living creature, and do my best to treat their body with appreciation and respect.
Who I am
If there’s been one theme throughout my life, it’s that I have always wanted to work with and be surrounded by animals. I grew up hunting and fishing, and begged my way into my first real job as a veterinary assistant when I was 16. I felt privileged to get to see and appreciate the inner workings of the body, and developed a fascination with animal anatomy that only grows stronger as I continue to learn.
My work with animals continued as I worked and interned on small farms, learning about raising animals respectfully for food. Nothing makes you appreciate your food more than raising and caring for the animals that provide it, and I am a firm believer in making use of as much of the animal’s body as possible. It was during a day of harvesting buck goats for meat that I decided to try to clean skulls for the first time, and little did I know that that decision was the start of the long and winding journey to creating Dermestidarium.
Today, I am still surrounded by animals – even some live ones! My wife and I have a small farm where we raise sheep, chickens, ducks and pigeons, and inside our home are our rescued pets – our Australian Kelpie dog Dash, and three spoiled cats that run the house. We garden, hike, kayak, and are always looking for ways to enjoy the natural world around us.
About My Process
Here bones are cleaned as a collaborative effort between myself and tens of thousands of my favorite employees, the Dermestid beetles (Dermestes maculatus). These flesh-eating beetles are native to North America, and are commonly used in forensic research to clean bones. They are great at what they do – the youngest larvae can get into even the smallest gaps in bone to clean it of flesh without causing damage.
Once the beetles have done their part, degreasing begins. This is the lengthiest part of the process, often taking weeks to months, but critical to having a bone that is free of discoloration and smell. Because bones are porous, they become saturated in fats and oils. Degreasing safely and gently removes these.
Getting the bones completely white is achieved with a concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution, which removes stains without causing damage to even the most delicate bones. After that, a transparent sealant can be applied to make the skull more durable and easier to keep clean.