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Understanding Extinction Patterns


Understanding Extinction Patterns
100th Anniversary of the Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Two hundred years ago, passenger pigeons were the most abundant bird on earth, often seen flying overhead in flocks so deep and wide that they darkened the sky. But due to overhunting, the species that once numbered in the billions dwindled at a catastrophic rate. On September 1, 1914, the last remaining passenger pigeon, “Martha,” died in captivity.

Though extinction has been part of our planet’s history since long before the loss of the passenger pigeon, today species are going extinct at an alarming rate. What makes now so different than the other five mass extinctions? Understanding why it’s happening can help us figure out how to reduce its impact.

This August and September, join The Field Museum for a series of events and programs focused on understanding extinction patterns and causes, and learn more about what we can do about it. See what lessons we’ve learned from extinct species, like the passenger pigeon, to extinct ecosystems. Hear about success stories of species that have been recovered from the brink of extinction, including the peregrine falcons and the American bison. And see what simple steps we can take in our own lives to help ensure that fellow species continue to thrive today.

Upcoming Programs and Events:

Pigeons, Prairies and Peregrines
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 5:30pm – Ward Hall, Free program
Join us for a panel discussion with Joel Greenberg author of A Feathered River Across the Sky, Jeff Walk from the Nature Conservancy, and Mary Hennen from The Field Museum to learn more about the loss and recovery of the Midwestern landscape.

Lecture & Book Signing with Steve Goodman and Bill Jungers
Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 2:00pm – Comer Gallery, Free with Basic admission
In conjunction with the new exhibition, Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the Island’s Past, join Steve Goodman, PhD, for a lecture and book signing of his new publication of the same title. Steve and co-author Bill Jungers will speak about their collaboration with scientific and wildlife illustrator Velizar Simeonovski to reconstruct the vanished habitats and species of Holocene-era Madagascar.

Beaubien Woods Volunteer Stewardship Workday
Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 9am-12pm – Beaubien Woods Forest Preserve, RSVP required
Join Field Museum staff for a hands-on volunteer day to help restore prairie habitat at a Forest Preserves of Cook County site. RSVP required, contact Laura Milkert at; 312-665-7420.

Art and Science Spotlight: Butterflies
Saturday, September 20, 2012 from 11am-2pm – Crown Family PlayLab, Free with Basic admission
Young naturalists and their families are invited to the Crown Family PlayLab to learn about the conservation of Monarch butterflies and other locally endangered species. Field Museum scientists will be on hand to display butterfly and bird specimens from our collections. Learn why migration patterns are so important to the success of ecosystems and their impact on extinction. Later, join us in the art studio for butterfly creations and stick around for a Monarch butterfly release outside our Museum doors!

Other ways to get involved!

Volunteer! Participate in a volunteer stewardship workday to help restore and improve essential habitat for species close to home. There are opportunities across the Chicago region – find one today.

Create new habitats by planting native plants in your yard, place of work, or neighborhood. Even small spaces can make a big difference – learn more about sustainable gardening

Participate in a local Citizen Science effort to help scientists understand how species are responding to changes in our environment.

Support and elect politicians and leaders that understand the importance of protecting biodiversity and are willing to support legislation such as the Endangered Species Act.

Reduce your own ecological footprint