Samantha Muka (smuka)

Samantha Muka

Assistant Professor

School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Morton 338
(201) 216-8245


My research looks at the history of marine science, with special emphasis on the history of technological development and deployment to study and shape the marine environment. My first book Oceans under Glass (Chicago University Press, 2022) looks at the way that a large network of aquarium users have developed and shared craft knowledge about how to maintain marine organisms in captivity. This book shows that the aquarium is integral to studying the ocean and highlights how this technological use makes it possible for a wide network of users, including hobbyists, public aquarists, and academic reserachers, to contribute to knowledge about the submarine world.

My next project examines the history of ocean waste management to see how engineering and management have evolved along with public perceptions of the marine environment.

Institutional Service

  • STS Speaker Series Member
  • IACUC Member
  • Faculty Senate Member
  • Senior Awards Committee Member
  • Graduate Curriculum Committee Member

Professional Service

  • History of Science Society Member of Executive Council
  • History of Science Society Co-Chair Women's Caucus
  • International Council for the History of Oceanography (ICHO) Steering Committee
  • HSS Education Committee
  • HSS Technology Committee
  • Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution expert
  • New York Times Expert
  • SEA Life expert
  • Reviewer
  • Lady Science Assistant Editor

Honors and Awards

2017 Smithsonian Insitution Post Doctoral Fellow

Professional Societies

  • EED – The European Society For Evolutionary Development Member
  • ASEH – American Society of Environmental History Member
  • History of Science Society Member

Selected Publications

Oceans Under Glass: Knowing the Ocean through Aquarium Building, 1850-Present University of Chicago Press, 2022.

with Christopher Zarpentine. "Cetacean Conservation and the Ethics of Captivity" Biological Conservation 262 (Oct. 2021).

"Historiography of Marine Biology." Handbook of the Historiography of Biology (2021): 435-459.

‘Illuminating Animal Behavior: The impact of malleable marine stations on tropism research’ in From the Beach to the Bench: Why Marine Biological Studies? Eds. Jane Maienschein, Karl
Matlin, and Rachel Ankeny. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2020)

‘Conservation at American public aquariums’ in The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Aquarium and Zoo Conservation eds. Ben A. Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press (April 2018).

"The Right tools and the right place for the job: the importance of the field in experimental neurophysiology, 1880-1945’ History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38:7 (2016): 1-28.

‘Imagining the Sea: The impact of marine field work on scientific portraiture’ in Soundings and Crossings: Doing Science at Sea 1800-1970 eds. Katherine Anderson and Helen
Rozwadowski. Science History Publications, Ltd (2016): 247-276.

‘Marine Biology’ in Blackwell Companion to the History of American Biology eds. Georgina
Montgomery and Mark Largent. New York: Blackwell (2016): 134-146.

‘Outsider Science: Class, Gender, and the Scientific Career of Ida M. Mellen’ Journal of the History of Biology 47: 1 (2014): 29-61.

Muka, S. (2020). Drowning Conservation. no. Slate (Future Tense).

Muka, S. (2019). Bursting the Aquarium Bubble. The Atlantic.

Muka, S. (2019). We’re Gonna Need A Better Script: Uneven Representation of Women Scientists in Shark Films. Lady Science.

Muka, S. (2018). The Myth of Meritocracy in Academic Publishing. Lady Science.

Muka, S. (2018). Trashing the Tanks. American Scientist (6 ed., vol. 106, pp. 340-343). Chapel Hill, NC: Sigma Xi.


History of Medicine
History of Medical Advertising
Technology and Medicine
History of Science and Technology
Biology and Society
Humans and the Environment
Intro to STS