Draper Natural History Museum staff
Meet the staff of the Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Curator Dr. Charles R. Preston, Assistant Curator for the Raptor Program Melissa Hill, Curatorial Assistant Bonnie Smith, and Raptor Program Assistant Brandon Lewis.
Charles R. Preston, Ph.D.
Willis McDonald IV Senior Curator of Natural Science
Dr. Charles R. Preston is the Willis McDonald, IV Senior Curator of Natural Science and Founding Curator-in-Charge of the Draper Natural History Museum and its Draper Museum Raptor Experience at the world-renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming. He received national and international acclaim for his “visionary” leadership of Draper design and development (1998 – 2002), and the Draper has become a model for a new genre of highly immersive natural science museums focused on communicating the process and product of science and the relationships binding people and nature.
Preston established and continues to oversee all of the Draper Museum’s activities, including an innovative suite of lecture series, field trips, exhibits, and other public programming, field and collections-based scientific research, and acquisition and curation of audiovisual materials and scientific specimens that document environmental status and change in the Greater Yellowstone region. All these activities serve to advance science-based understanding and conservation of natural resources in Greater Yellowstone and beyond.
Trained as a wildlife ecologist, Preston continues to conduct research on the influence of climate, landscape characteristics, and human attitudes and activities on large birds of prey and other wildlife and established a long-term monitoring program focused on Golden Eagles nesting in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin in 2009. He is widely recognized as a leading authority on wildlife and human – wildlife relationships in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He has also developed wide-ranging partnerships between the Draper Museum and several universities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and foundations, such as the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, to foster innovative research and exploration on conservation issues affecting Greater Yellowstone and other globally significant conservation areas.
Prior to his current appointment, Preston was Curator of Ornithology and Chairman of the Department of Zoology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Before that he was a tenured Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He holds or has held adjunct faculty appointments in the Haub School for Environment and Natural Resources, at the University of Wyoming, Biology and Environmental Science at the University of Colorado (Boulder and Denver campuses), Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Denver, and Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He has authored, co-authored, or edited seven books and several dozen scientific and popular essays and articles covering a wide variety of topics.
To schedule Dr. Preston for a public appearance/presentation, please contact Bonnie Smith firstname.lastname@example.org 307.578.4020
- Portrait of an Icon: The Golden Eagle in the Western Landscape
- Predators, Prey, and the Wholeness of Life
- Creating the Vision for a Sustainable Planet
Bonnie Lawrence Smith
Curatorial Assistant, Draper Natural History Museum
Bonnie Lawrence Smith is the Curatorial Assistant for the Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. She began working for the Draper as the museum’s program coordinator in 2010. As curatorial assistant, Smith assists Dr. Charles Preston with the Draper’s natural science exhibits, collections, and research, and coordinates educational programming. Smith is a member of the Center’s volunteer Community Outreach Team, the Cody Culture Club, and P.E.A.K.S.; she also volunteers annually for HistoriCorp, working to restore historic buildings of the West. A Wyoming native, Smith has traveled throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, and Central America. She has lived in Nevada, Colorado, and California. She received her Associate of Arts degree in Anthropology from Santa Monica College in 2007, and her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Art History from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2009. While at UCLA, Smith volunteered with Dr. Thomas Wake in the Archaeo-zoology lab researching the ancient diet of people living off the Panamanian coast, and Dr. David A. Scott in the Cotsen School of Archaeology conservation lab studying ancient metallurgy and preparing samples.
Smith returned to Wyoming in 2009.
Assistant Curator, Draper Museum Raptor Experience
Melissa Hill joined the Draper’s staff to establish, launch, and manage a new program, the Draper Museum Raptor Experience, which now has brought six live birds of prey to the Center for public educational programs. All birds—non-releasable due to physical or behavioral defect—come from other educational programs or rehabilitation facilities.
Hill comes to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West from HawkQuest, a nonprofit raptor education organization based in Colorado that has presented popular raptor programs at the Center of the West in recent years. She was lead lecturer there, and prior to that served as curator of birds at Reptile Gardens in South Dakota, where she did programs, trained birds, and taught staff and volunteers to care for and handle them. Hill’s bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming is in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and Management.
Hill is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) and a member of the Education Committee for the International Association of Avian Trainers & Educators (IAATE). In 2015, she became a published author, writing two series of children’s books about raptors for Capstone Publishing in Minnesota.
Raptor Program Assistant
Brandon Lewis joined the Draper Museum’s staff in the spring of 2014 after interning for two summers with the Draper Museum Raptor Experience. Lewis’s duties include presenting raptor education programs for the public, training raptor program volunteers, developing an animal enrichment program, and caring for, feeding, cleaning up after, and training the birds currently living at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Lewis has dual degrees in zoology and history from the University of Wyoming. In addition to working with birds of prey, he has a background in public education working as a Park Guide for the National Park Service, and has interpreted American history in period clothing for the past ten years. He is a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation.