Staff & Student News
Curator Gary Feinman and Adjunct Curator Linda Nicholas (both Anthropology) presented an invited paper entitled “Reconsidering the Prehispanic Mesoamerican Economy: Markets and Domestic Production in Ancient Oaxaca” at the 3rd workshop on Markets and Marketization at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Attendees included the renowned economists Professor Alan Kirman (l'Université d'Aix-Marseille III) and Professor John O'Neill (University of Manchester). Prior workshops included a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Professor George Akerlof (University of California, Berkeley).
For the past three years, A. Watson Armour Curator Bob Martin (Anthropology) has hosted a summer intern from the University of Chicago under the thriving Metcalf Internship program. As it happens, all three of those interns were prior participants in Bob’s course on Primate Evolution, taught at the Paris Center of the University of Chicago as part of the Study Abroad Program. This year’s intern, Hannah Koch, has just completed her ten-week residency at The Field Museum. One of her main projects for the summer was the recently launched mummy-scanning project, notably working under the guidance of Regenstein Conservator J.P. Brown (Anthropology) to generate a 3-dimensional virtual reconstruction of one of the seven Egyptian mummies that were scanned at the beginning of July. Hannah’s enthusiasm and commitment have also contributed to other projects for Bob, including assembly and analysis of data-sets for human pregnancy lengths following assisted reproduction procedures. Hannah’s internship at The Field Museum was singled out and highlighted in this week’s edition of the regular electronic newsletter circulated by the University of Chicago News Office, appropriately showing her at work on a state-of-the-art workstation in the Regenstein Laboratory. From modest beginnings, the Metcalf Internship program has grown into a major undertaking. To quote the University of Chicago News Office: “What started in 1997 as an internship opportunity for seven lucky undergraduates has grown quickly into an integral component of career preparation for motivated students in the College. More than 450 internships were available this year, and College leaders hope to see more growth in the coming years, including an expansion of the program’s international presence.” The relevant news item can be located here.
Research & Publications
In early September, MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman, (Zoology/Birds and Mammals) published an article in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. The paper, entitled “Phylogenetic relationships of Malayan and Malagasy Pygmy Shrews of the genus Suncus (Soricomorpha: Soricidae) inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences,” was a result of collaboration with Hasmahzaiti Omar, Eleanor A. S. Adamson, Subha Bhassu, Voahangy Soarimalala, Rosli Hashim and Manuel Ruedi, associated with institutions in Malaysia, Switzerland, and Madagascar. On the basis of molecular genetic data, a small shrew that was considered endemic to Madagascar was determined to have been introduced to the island from southeastern Asia and should be placed under the name Suncus etruscus, rather than S. madagascariensis.
Fieldwork & Collections
In August, Adjunct Curator Julian Kerbis (Zoology/Mammals), Research Associate Sushma Reddy and Research Assistant Holly Lutz (both Zoology/Birds) conducted a biodiversity survey of the small mammals and birds and their parasites on Gorongosa Mountain in Mozambique. They were joined by C&R Media Producer Federico Pardo, who documented the field trip with photos, videos, and interviews.
The team was invited by the Gorongosa Restoration Project (funded by the Carr Foundation) to survey a newly expanded portion of Parque Nacional da Gorongosa. The mountain is an isolated massif in central Mozambique that historically has been home to an incredible diversity of species—unfortunately, over the last half-century the area has been devastated by the effects of wars and human encroachment. The FMNH crew were joined by scientists and technical assistants based in Mozambique as well as Malawi, a neighboring country where FMNH has long- standing training projects established.
The international multi-institutional team spent three weeks training students and conducting an intensive survey of the small mammals, birds, and the parasites they host. The trip was successful on multiple counts—valuable specimens of birds and mammals were collected (to be ultimately housed at FMNH and the Museu de Historia Natural in Maputo); parasites found in the fur, feathers, blood, intestines, and other organs of these animals were thoroughly sampled for baseline data on their presence in these wild populations; local scientists and technicians were trained in biodiversity surveying techniques; collaborations with local scientists and future research opportunities were established; and connections between neighboring yet linguistically and culturally secluded African countries were fostered. Videos of the trip, in both English and Portuguese, will be posted soon on fieldmuseum.org. The expedition was funded by the Emerging Pathogens Project, the Africa Council, and the Barbara Brown Fund of the FMNH as well as Roosevelt University and Loyola University of Chicago.
Zoology’s Division of Mammals welcomed Visiting Scholar Sandra Velazco on a three-week trip funded by the Scholarship Committee. Sandra is here from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, studying leaf-nosed bats of the genusDermanura. While curating the San Marcos mammal collection, she discovered a new species of Dermanura in the specimens from Manu National Park collected by MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson, Conservation Ecologist Doug Stotz and their colleagues from 1999–2001. This new bat species is the 12th new mammal species described in the Manu collections, amounting to about 9% of all mammal species collected there! Sandra also participated in the 2007 trip to the Alto Mayo in San Martín, Peru, led by Bruce and former graduate student-in-residence, Paúl Velazco.
Public Education & Media Coverage
Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects) organized and hosted the first Chicago Area Ant Lab Meeting at The Field Museum. Almost 20 ant biologists came together on September 5 for an all-day meeting to tour the Museum collections, share their science, and discuss current research. This was the first meeting of a continuing series to keep local ant scientists connected. Participants attended from The Field Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Lake Forest College, School of the Art Institute, University of Illinois at Springfield, and University of Chicago.
Postdoctoral Research Scientist Joshua Drew (BioSynC) and Interns Amber Richardson and Darcae Holmes (VOISE Academy, Chicago Public Schools) were featured in the August 28 Chicago Sun-Times article “These Chicago teens find cool opportunities to fill the summer,” which highlighted Chicagoland teens who had “cool jobs.” This article showcased the value of the collections and how they can be used for research and conservation.
“Fossil Carrion Feeders” was the highlighted video of the day on September 8, at NSF360 News Service, the news service of the National Science Foundation. C&R now has this important new avenue to showcase media produced at The Field Museum thanks to the efforts of C&R Media Producer Federico Pardo. Visit the link to subscribe to their feed and receive daily updates.
Scientific Program Manager Audrey Aronowsky, Outreach Coordinator Beth Sanzenbacher (both BioSynC), Digital Learning Specialist Johanna Thompson and Communications and Digital Learning Manager Krystal Villanosa (both Education) published “Worked Example: How Scientific Accuracy in Game Design Stimulates Scientific Inquiry” in the International Journal of Learning and Media. The “worked example” focuses on WhyReef, a simulated coral reef in the virtual world of Whyville.net, which is targeted towards youth ages 8–16. The scientific accuracy of the WhyReef simulation fosters an appreciation for coral reef ecosystems, engages youth in scientific methods and techniques (particularly hypothesis testing and collaborative problem-solving), and assists with science content knowledge of coral reefs. The web article discusses how scientific accuracy in a learning-based virtual world simulates real-life scientific observations about and experiences in ecosystems, allows players to mimic scientific processes in order to inform solutions to real world questions, and provides real-life “scientific discovery” moments and opportunities for “higher-level” engagement. For more information, please visit the BioSynC WhyReef project page.