Meet the Curators
J. Alan May, Ph.D.
Anthropology & Archaeology Expert
Alan May was born in Quanah, Texas and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. His undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville is in Anthropology. He received an MA in Anthropology from the University of Arkansas emphasizing the ethnology of health care delivery in rural and urban settings of western Arkansas.
He received the Ph.D. degree in Anthropology at the University of Missouri-Columbia with a specialization in southeastern United States archaeology. After graduation, he worked first as an excavator and then research associate for the American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY on a coastal Georgia research project. He received a postdoctoral fellowship to study the interaction between Native American populations located in the vicinity of the Georgia Spanish Mission: Santa Catalina de Guale (pronounced “Wally”). During this period he became interested in the Spanish explorer Juan Pardo who had made two trips into the interior southeast United States during 1556 – 1558.
In 1985, he moved to Gastonia, NC to begin a survey of historic and prehistoric archaeological sites at the Schiele Museum of Natural History. He has received several survey and planning grants from the North Carolina Division of Archives and History to survey areas within Gaston County as well as surrounding counties. He directs field school projects through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and serves as Lecturer in Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology. Field school excavations have been conducted on prehistoric and historic sites in Gaston, Lincoln, and Mecklenburg Counties North Carolina as well as York County South Carolina.
When not working on archaeological projects, he enjoys traveling to other museums and sites in the United States and France. He is married to Ann Tippitt, Executive Director of the Schiele Museum of Natural History.
Dawn’s work with arthropods (insects) contributes to the growing body of research that seeks to inventory information about species of insects throughout the regions of North Carolina. She identifies features that are unique or similar and records those findings in a database that will be submitted to the state of North Carolina for analysis. The insect specimens at The Schiele Museum come from donations as well as specimens collected in the field by our research team. One of the main goals for Dawn’s study of arthropods is to make people more aware of their local environment and the creatures that contribute to keeping it healthy.
Interesting notes: There are 68 different species of ground beetles within greater Gaston County. Only half a dozen of these species are predators and the rest are gathers that collect seeds for food. The predators have a longer snout that they use to prey on snails.
Denise Furr, Ph.D.
Denise has been working with The Schiele Museum for years to focus on the snails of the southern piedmont region that includes Gastonia and the surrounding areas. Her focus is on providing a more accurate inventory of the snails in the region so that people can be educated about the benefits of the good snails, especially if they want to have healthy plants in their yards.
Denise looks for small differences to distinguish one species from another and the differences can be as subtle as the dullness of the shine on the shell that identifies one species from another.
Interesting notes: Slugs are important decomposers and they can break down tough materials like tree bark because they use their sharp teeth. Many snails are found in a specific location or near a specific rock substrate. Some snails are microscopic in size (just a few millimeters).
Deborah Langsam, Ph.D.
Deborah received a doctoral degree from Duke University with a specialty in the taxonomy of the lower fungi. Her interest in fungi began as she pursued her master’s degree in Oceanography at The City University of New York; a summer course taken at the Duke University Marine Laboratory introduced her to the fascinating shapes, colors, and textures of fungal spores and the role fungi play in aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Now retired, Deborah is Associate Professor of Biology Emerita at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A winner of the NCNB (Bank of America) Teaching Excellence Award, she taught courses in Introductory Biology, Botany, and Mycology for almost 25 years. In addition to working with the Schiele fungal collections, Deborah serves as a docent with the Mint Museums of Charlotte. She, along with Schiele colleague Allein Stanley, also act as consultants to the Charlotte Poison Control Center.
Fun fact: when you find a mushroom, you’re seeing the “tip of the iceberg.” Mushrooms are the reproductive structures of the organism and they’re produced by extensive networks of mostly microscopic filaments called hyphae. One collection of hyphae extended over 2400 acres in Oregon and is believed to have been the largest single organism in the world.
Accustomed to gathering wild foods as a child, Allein became interested in fungi as a nutritional addition until the challenge of identification drove her to a deeper study. From her graduate studies at UNC Charlotte, she expanded her mycological knowledge with work at the University of Tennessee, Dartmouth, and the Biological Stations of the University of Michigan, the University of Montana and Highlands, as well as fungal expeditions in Canada, Mexico and Europe. She became the first North Carolinian to join the North American Mycological Association (NAMA) and served as chair for the first two NAMA southern forays. After serving as the Southern Regional Trustee for some years, she became the first woman president of NAMA and fulfilled that responsibility for two terms.
Prior to her professional retirement, Allein taught middle school science in Iredell County, was a member of the county nature society and frequently presented programs and workshops on fungi and natural history.
Fun fact: One poorly understood fact about North Carolina mushrooms is that we have such a broad diversity because we are a crossroads for northern, southern and sub-tropical plants and trees.