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Zoology, Division of Birds

The Bird Division, with two curators and three staff along with students, associates, and volunteers, continues a tradition of research and collections that dates back to the founding of the museum.  Shannon Hackett and John Bates, the current curators, study the evolution of birds and their parasites at all levels of the avian taxonomic hierarchy, from how orders and families are related to genetic structure at the population level.  Ben Marks is Collections Manager of Birds.  Ben, who once was a volunteer in the Bird Division, did his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University.  Previously, he had been the Collections Manager of Birds and Mammals at the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection at Texas A&M University. 

Retired Collections Manager, Dave Willard, continues active work in the collections and oversee salvage programs in the Chicago region which he has led for more than 30 years.  Assistant Collections Manager, Thomas Gnoske, has done extensive taxidermy for the museum and for educational outreach programs.  Collections Assistant Mary Hennen has monitored Chicago-region Peregrine Falcons for 20 years.  Senior Field Biologist, Steven Goodman continues his research into the biodiversity of Madagascar.  Staff Scientist Jason Weckstein is leading an NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventories grant (DEB-112054): Amazonian birds and their symbionts: Biodiversity surveys of parasites from the most diverse avifauna on earth.

The Division continues to conduct active field research particularly in Africa and South America.  The countries where we have worked in the last 10 years include: The Philippines, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Panama, Nicargaua, Mexico, Kenya, Madagascar, Ghana, Central African Republic, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  You can see more about our African programs at our newly revised African Birds website.