Collections and Research News for the Week of November 16, 2012

Research & Publications: 

Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (Geology) is a co-author of paper with Audrey Aronowsky, Beth Sanzenbacher (both BioSynC), Johanna Thompson (Education), and Krystal Villanosa (Northwestern University) that was published on November 12 in the GLS (Games Learning and Society) 8.0 Conference Proceedings.  The paper, entitled “Game of Bones: Design Decisions and Early Feedback from a Prototype,” describes various aspects of the design process for the prototype video game about paleontology, including content decisions, learning goals, and results from focus group testing.  Game of Bones is a collaborative project between BioSynC, Education, and Geology, and the Efroymson Family Foundation provided funding for the prototype. 

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Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (Geology) is a co-author of paper with Audrey Aronowsky, Beth Sanzenbacher (both BioSynC), Johanna Thompson (Education), and Krystal Villanosa (Northwestern University) that was published on November 12 in the GLS (Games Learning and Society) 8.0 Conference Proceedings.  The paper, entitled “Game of Bones: Design Decisions and Early Feedback from a Prototype,” describes various aspects of the design process for the prototype video game about paleontology, including content decisions, learning goals, and results from focus group testing.  Game of Bones is a collaborative project between BioSynC, Education, and Geology, and the Efroymson Family Foundation provided funding for the prototype. 


The second Friday in November provided new views on two important fields.  First, Publications manager in charge of the division of Scientific Publications at the Musee National histoire naturelle Paris, France, Laurence Bénichou with her colleague Claire Margerie visited Fieldiana.   As part of a business trip to the University of Chicago Press, they met with Fieldiana’s Scientific Managing Editor, Associate Curator Janet Voight (Zoology/Invertebrates).  Unfortunately only a few members of the Fieldiana Editorial Board were available to discuss alternate means of processing submitted manuscripts.  The Paris Museum, which produces a diversity of journals and monographic series, employs a dedicated editorial team who empower authors to publish the very best work they can through copyediting and assistance with figures, aspects of publication that are largely invisible to most authors.  Fieldiana, in contrast, contracts with a commercial Press to hire ad hoc copyeditors to improve (using journal-specific guidelines) accepted manuscripts (those that have been recommended for publication after outside review by at least two qualified experts).  The problem that can arise is that the copyeditors have no “ownership” or vested interest in the journal or in the quality of the final product.  This means the Fieldiana editorial staff must attempt to bridge gaps, and work with authors to generate the highest quality final product within the journal format.  A steep learning curve, conflict, hurt feelings, and wasted time and for all involved often results.  As Fieldiana continues to evolve with the rest of scientific literature, these issues merit consideration.


Postdoctoral Research Scientist Stefanie Kautz and Resident Graduate Student Benjamin Rubin (both Zoology/Insects) attended and presented at the Annual Entomological Society conference in Knoxville, TN during November 10–14.  Steffi gave an oral presentation entitled “The negative effects of ant attraction by induced plant defenses” on the consequences of direct and indirect plant defenses in a natural system, co-authored by Assistant Professor Daniel Ballhorn from Portland State University.  In their study, plants with high levels of induced indirect defenses were visited less by leaf herbivores.  However, they performed worse than non-induced controls due to reduced growth and attraction of one dominant ant species (Dorymyrmex sp.) that maintained aphid populations on these plants.  Ben presented a poster, entitled “The genome of the arboreal ant, Pseudomyrmex gracilis,” co-authored with Stefanie and Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects).  Ben also presented the draft genome of the ant Pseudomyrmex gracilis.  This genome contains almost 14,000 genes and is highly repetitive.  While P. gracilis is non-mutualistic, the Pseudomyrmex genus includes several species of mutualistic plant-ants that are being compared to this ant.  Eventually, this research will help us understand how the ants become mutualistic on a genomic level.


 

In September, Postdoctoral Research Scientist Steve Leavitt and MacArthur Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch (both Botany) published a paper in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology that reports factors driving diversification in common lichen forming fungi (“Miocene and Pliocene dominated diversification of the lichen-forming fungal genus Melanohalea(Parmeliaceae, Ascomycota) and Pleistocene population expansions”).  They show that mountain uplift, major climatic changes (aridification) during the Miocene and Pliocene promoted diversification within the lichen-forming genus Melanohalea.  They also report that Pleistocene glaciations were not inherently unfavorable or restrictive for some of these lichenspecies.  At least six previously unrecognized species were identified within Melanohalea during this research.  This study provides an important perspective on factors driving diversification, and the collections made in conjunction with this study provide a valuable resource for ongoing research.  Above Image: Melanoalea aff. subolivacea in the Lone Peak Wilderness Area, Utah, USA (photo by Steve Leavitt)


Former Postdoctoral Research Scientist Torsten Dikow (BioSynC) and Assistant Curator Leo Smith (Zoology/Fishes) are co-authors of an article that was published in BMC Biology in October.  The article, “From taxonomic literature to cybertaxonomic content,” is the result of a BioSynC meeting on cybertaxonomy that was held in May­ and June of 2011 at The Field Museum.  The BMC Biology article argues for scientists and publishers to make a concerted effort toward the semantic tagging of legacy and contemporary taxonomic publications to allow for the efficient and automated transfer of critical taxonomic data from print and electronic publications to major online resources ranging from the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and ZooBank.


In early November, MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology) and two Malagasy colleagues (Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa and Martin Raheriarisena) published a paper online in the Journal of Heredity.  The article is entitled “A phylogeographic study of the endemic rodent Eliurus carletoni (Rodentia: Nesomyinae) in an ecological transition zone of northern Madagascar.”  The work examines the fine-scale genetic structure of this rodent species across a fragmented and botanically heterogeneous landscape, and attempts to correlate different topographic and physical aspects of the environment, with phylogeographic patterns.


Regenstein Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Golitko (Anthropology) attended the Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exhibition in Somerset, NJ on November 12–13, where he presented results of chemical analysis of obsidian tipped spears and daggers from the Admiralty Islands (Papua New Guinea) housed in The Field Museum’s collections.


Dr. Ellinor Michel, Executive Secretary of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) and Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature gave a talk underscoring the critical role of scientific names in all work on biodiversity and introducing ZooBank, the authoritative web-based register of scientific names for animals.  Changes in the ICZN Code now allow electronic publication of new names if they are registered at ZooBank.  Recommending that other more traditional outlets, such as Fieldiana, also require registration will, in time, generate a definitive list of all species names published validly and provide a hub for retrieving information on taxa and their descriptions.  Testimony about its ease of use and critical role for both scientists and publishers came unsolicited from the publications manager of Scientific Publications at the Paris Museum and members of the Field Museum staff.  Intrepid C&R videographer Kate Webbink has it all on tape, including a Q & A of Dr. Michel in front of —what else —What is an Animal?


MacArthur Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch (Botany) spent the second week of November at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.  Thorsten gave a seminar talk at the Plant Pathology Department there on challenges of species delimitation in the DNA era.  Afterwards, he worked with Curator Scott LaGreca at Cornell on a joint project on species delimitation of some species of the lichen genus Lecanora in northeastern North America.               


In late October, MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology) took part in a course organized by the Tropical Biology Association (TBA) in the Kirindy Forest of western Madagascar.  This is the seventh consecutive year that the TBA course has been held in Madagascar, bringing together instructors and students from around the world.  Steve has participated as an instructor for the course in three separate years.  This year the 20 students were nearly equally divided between those coming from European and African countries.  Steve gave several introductory seminars on Madagascar and its biota, and demonstrated techniques associated with catching bats and bioacoustic recordings.  After finishing his intervention with the TBA course, Steve met up with several colleagues and conducted fieldwork in the Parc National de Bemaraha, also in the western-central portion of Madagascar.  The fieldwork focused on catching bats and blood-sucking insects in and around caves for a project on transmission and blood parasites of bats.  Steve is now back in Antananarivo and will head to Mauritius, an island east of Madagascar, between November 22–30 for fieldwork on bats and their potential role as reservoirs for some apparent emerging diseases.

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Fieldwork & Collections: 

Field Associate Sherif Baha el-Din (Zoology), herpetologist and ornithologist from Cairo, Egypt, and Co-founder of Nature Conservation Egypt, visited the Museum’s Herp Lab on November 13–14 to continue his studies of North African and Near Eastern amphibians and reptiles.  The Field Museum houses the largest preserved collection of Egyptian amphibians and reptiles in the world.  This collection has been intensively studied by Dr. Baha el-Din on numerous visits.  Dr. Baha el-Din also presented a seminar on birds of the Egyptian Nile delta on November 10 at a symposium entitled “Birds in Ancient Egypt” held at the Oriental Institute.  For an interesting profile of Dr. Baha el-Din visit this link.

 

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Field Associate Sherif Baha el-Din (Zoology), herpetologist and ornithologist from Cairo, Egypt, and Co-founder of Nature Conservation Egypt, visited the Museum’s Herp Lab on November 13–14 to continue his studies of North African and Near Eastern amphibians and reptiles.  The Field Museum houses the largest preserved collection of Egyptian amphibians and reptiles in the world.  This collection has been intensively studied by Dr. Baha el-Din on numerous visits.  Dr. Baha el-Din also presented a seminar on birds of the Egyptian Nile delta on November 10 at a symposium entitled “Birds in Ancient Egypt” held at the Oriental Institute.  For an interesting profile of Dr. Baha el-Din visit this link.

 


On November 14–15, Assistant Collection Manager Kathleen Kelly (Zoology/Amphibians and Reptiles) attended the Sustainability Preservation Practices for Managing Storage Environments conference hosted by the Newberry Library.  This two-day workshop coordinated by the Image Permanence Institute at RIT and funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities provided training in how museum and library staff can incorporate both cost-effective and environmentally responsible practices into collections care.


On November 13, Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck and Collections Manager James Holstein (both Geology) published the 6th edition of The Field Museum's meteorite catalog (see header image).  The catalog includes the latest significant accession of research collections; it currently includes 1,479 different meteorites and 7,647 specimens.  The new catalog is fully searchable (CSV text file) and can be read with almost all spreadsheet software.  The Field’s meteorite collection is the largest located in a private scientific institution and one of the largest world-wide, making it an invaluable resource to the cosmochemistry and meteoritics community.  The Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies accepts sample requests from qualified scientists and reviews them carefully.  Philipp Heck says, “We strive to maintain a balance between serving current research needs and preserving the collection for the future generations.”  Learn more about the need for sample consumption to study meteorites by going here.  


On November 9, Geology staff members Jim Holstein, Akiko Shinya, Connie van Beek, Ian Glasspool and Paul Meyer received training in the use of a new Buehler Isomet 4000 wafering saw.  The saw was a gift to the Geology Department from Buehler’s parent company ITW, a major museum contributor.  The myriad projects that Geology scientists will use this tool for include histology of bones and teeth of extinct reptiles and synapsids and for creating thin sections for use in classifying meteorites.  The Department is grateful to David Parry, Vice Chairman and Rosemary Matzl, Director, Community Relations at ITW for arranging this gift and to Todd Danielczyk, Brian Joyce, and Vicky Lynch of Buehler for their time spent training our staff.  David Parry is also a member of the Collections & Research Committee of the Board of Trustees.  Image left: Todd Danielczyk of Buehler talking to Connie Van Beek (Geology preparator) in front of the new wafering saw to his left

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Public Education & Media Coverage: 

In mid-November, A. Watson Armour III Curator Bob Martin (Anthropology) returned from Paris after spending three weeks teaching a course for 20 study-abroad students for the University of Chicago (almost twice as many as were registered for previous years).  Now in its fifth year, the course has become a firmly established part of the program on offer at UC’s Paris Center.  Under the title “Primate and Human Evolution,” it has three sections.  The first, on human evolution, is taught by Dr. Russell Tuttle (Professor in the Department of Anthropology, UC), while the final part is taught by Dr. Dario Maestripieri (Professor in the Biopsychology Department, UC).  Bob teaches the middle section, devoted to an overview of primate evolution, including an excursion and a final symposium with presentations from eightFrench research teams working in biological anthropology or related fields.  Dominique Grimaud-Hervé (Paris Institute for Prehistory) organizes speakers for the symposium every year.  Bob once again seized the opportunity to discuss common research interests with Dominique, notably in the field of brain evolution, and also visited the CT imaging laboratory operated by her former Ph.D.

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In mid-November, A. Watson Armour III Curator Bob Martin (Anthropology) returned from Paris after spending three weeks teaching a course for 20 study-abroad students for the University of Chicago (almost twice as many as were registered for previous years).  Now in its fifth year, the course has become a firmly established part of the program on offer at UC’s Paris Center.  Under the title “Primate and Human Evolution,” it has three sections.  The first, on human evolution, is taught by Dr. Russell Tuttle (Professor in the Department of Anthropology, UC), while the final part is taught by Dr. Dario Maestripieri (Professor in the Biopsychology Department, UC).  Bob teaches the middle section, devoted to an overview of primate evolution, including an excursion and a final symposium with presentations from eightFrench research teams working in biological anthropology or related fields.  Dominique Grimaud-Hervé (Paris Institute for Prehistory) organizes speakers for the symposium every year.  Bob once again seized the opportunity to discuss common research interests with Dominique, notably in the field of brain evolution, and also visited the CT imaging laboratory operated by her former Ph.D. student, Antoine Balzeau, which is scanning multiple specimens from the collections at the National Museum of Natural History.  This year’s excursion returned to the workshop where Elisabeth Daynès and her team create reconstructions of hominids, such as the stunning reconstruction of “Lucy” that is one of the major highlights in The Field Museum’s Evolving Planet exhibit.  Two head reconstructions of Egyptian mummies produced by the Daynès team are included in the current special exhibit Images of the Afterlife, and the workshop is currently creating a reconstruction of the head of “Magdalenian Girl” to be included in the Lascaux exhibit at The Field Museum next spring.  In the afternoon, the students visited the Gallery of Anatomy and Paleontology in the Jardin des Plantes, where they collected information for a research project on the evolution of the backbone in primates and other vertebrates.  Overall, the students in the course performed even better than in previous years. Below Image: Elisabeth Daynès, Bob Martin (almost completely hidden behind a large lamp) and the 20 students mingling with several hominid reconstructions


Richard and Jill Chaifetz Associate Curator Shannon Hackett (Zoology/Birds) gave an invited presentation on October 30 in a lecture series for the general public at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science entitled “Living Dinosaurs: The Evolution of Birds Lecture Series.”  Shannon’s lecture was on the origin and early diversification of birds and included examples from the recently renovated Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds.

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