Staff & Student News
Over the past ten weeks, numerous undergraduate students from around the country have been actively engaged in research projects in various sections of Collections and Research. Following fierce competition for places, eight undergraduates were accepted in a special NSF-funded program known as REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates). NSF supports several REU programs at sites throughout the United States each summer, including one at The Field Museum organized by co-PIs Associate Curator Petra Sierwald (Zoology/Insects) and Associate Curator and Chair Peter Makovicky (Geology). Each REU Site hosts a group of undergraduates who work in existing research programs at the institution concerned. Each student is associated with a specific research project and works closely with resident scientists. REU students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with travel and housing. The program at FMNH is just completing its third year of operation, and a proposal for a three-year renewal is currently under NSF review.
As the 2011 REU program at FMNH draws to a close, students presented their results at Undergraduate Research Symposium, held in Montgomery Ward Lecture Hall on August 13. The eight students in the REU program were joined at the symposium by 14 other undergraduates supported from other sources, including the C&R Prince Collection’s Summer Interns. The students gave 16 presentations on research ranging from organism studies on Acacia ants and lichens to dinosaurs and from topics such as the evolution of venom and scientific illustration of mollusks to exploration of gaps in the avian fossil record. The research talents and achievements of the students were simply outstanding. Their presentations, in turn, reflected the extraordinarily high quality of the mentoring that was provided by various members of C&R, ranging from curators to graduate students. The research topics and results presented provided a cameo view of the cutting-edge research that is currently being conducted on many different fronts by the staff of Collections and Research. It was a day when everyone involved could feel justifiably proud. Special mention must be made of the very effective and influential Phylogenetic Workshop led by Postdoctoral Research Scientists Steffani Kautz (Corrie Moreau’s Ant Lab, Zoology) and Andre Sartori (Rüdiger Bieler’s Mollusk Lab, Zoology). Through this workshop, all undergraduate researchers were provided with excellent training in methods of evolutionary reconstruction and the results were clearly evident in many of the presentations made at the symposium. Acknowledgment is also due to Collections Assistant Stephanie Ware (Zoology/ Insects), who ably coordinated practical details of the REU program, and Petra, who played a major role behind the scenes in orchestrating the outstanding success of the research training presented at the symposium.
Research & Publications
Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch (Botany) co-authored a colored field guide to the lichen family Lecanoraceae in Thailand. The booklet is in Thai and aims at helping naturalists and students in Thailand to identify species of this genus, which is very common in the tropics.
Curator Gary M. Feinman and Adjunct Curator Linda M. Nicholas (both Anthropology) have recently published three articles that focus on their ongoing excavations and studies at two sites (El Palmillo and the Mitla Fortress) in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. The following papers were published: "Implications for Late Classic Oaxaca, Mexico" in Mexicon; "Domestic Craft Production and the Classic Period Economy of Oaxaca" in Producción Artesanal y Especializada en Mesoamérica: Áreas de Actividad y Procesos Productivos; and "Monte Albán: una perspectiva desde los límites del Valle de Oaxaca" in Monte Albán en la encrucijada regional y disciplinaria: Memoria de la Quinta Mesa Redonda de Monte Albán.
Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects) and University of Chicago Graduate Student Benjamin Rubin participated in the field based Ant Course from August 4–14. Held at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Arizona this ten-day intensive course was designed to teach students systematics, taxonomy, identification, curation, collecting techniques, and research programs involving ants. Ben was one of 30 students and Corrie was one of 14 invited instructors.