Evolutionary Biology

The museum, big data, and islands of knowledge

On a Saturday morning a few months ago, I felt a huge confluence of thoughts come together for me with respect to science at my institution.  The Division of Integrated Research is once again looking at how we can convince people to support the science we do.  We have been discussing strategies with our institutional advancement folks and how we might present ourselves in upcoming fundraising.  That morning, Shannon, Pete and I were watching a recorded episode of Real Time with Bill Marr, where guest expert Martin Blaiser, Director of the Human Microbiome Program at

A Cassin's Sparrow meets its end a long way from home

Every day during fall migration, the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors deliver to the Field Museum a bag of birds that died flying into windows in the loop as they tried to make their way south to their wintering grounds farther south. These salvaged birds provide a critical component of the museum's bird collection, specimens that can be used by researchers for generations to come to learn about many aspects of our area's birdlife.

Video: The Birds and the Trees

Are condors more closely related to hawks or to storks?  New research constantly changes our understanding of how birds are related to each other.  At the Field Museum, Shannon Hackett, John Bates, and Dave Willard keep close eyes on avian systematics, the study of evolutionary relationships among birds.  In the past few years, Shannon has collaborated with researchers from other institutions on the Early Bird project to ask big-picture question of how all birds fit on the avian tree of life.

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