Blogs & Videos: Sciences

Bird Calls of Amazonia

Considering how sweaty and dehydrated I became during this film shoot, it's remarkable that Ernesto and the rest of the bird team were diligently out for long periods of time, at all hours of the day and night, to listen for the birds of the Amazon.

These assessments - recording the calls and sightings of birds - helps inform distribution and range of known species, the information used to update maps and increase our knowledge about these animals and their habitats. Check out these revised maps!

Lichens: a lasting relationship like farmers and crops

Lichens: a lasting relationship like farmers and crops

With their stable symbiosis between a fungus and an alga, lichens are a prime example for lasting relationships. But these lichen fungi do not simply host their algae, they actually grow them as much as farmers grow their crop. And just as farmers select the best crop to propagate, lichen fungi do the same. Not conciously, but through the process of selective evolution.

When relationships aren't what they seem

When relationships aren't what they seem

February is all about relationships. But isn't it sad that we need a special month to dedicate ourselves to our relationships? In biological sciences, almost everything is about relationships. All year round. With the difference that we do not call them romantic or platonic, but instead phylogenetic or evolutionary. The most basic question in biology is how organisms are related to each other. This can be done by studying all kinds of features or by just analyzing DNA sequences.

A lichen threesome

A lichen threesome

It's February, and Valentine's Day is upon us. Everyone is thinking about that significant other. That significant other is usually a single person in a monogamous relationship, although many variations are known in human cultures. Once you look outside the human species, anything goes. No matter how weird certain constellations might seem, they have been invented already, by animals, plants, fungi, millions of years before humans appeared on Earth.

What are the feathers in those Amazonian headdresses?

Working at the Field Museum, I get to see some pretty special things. Whether it's because of rarity, antiquity, or something that's just plain weird, the museum provides surprises in abundance. Today was one of those days where routine gave way to surprise when Dylan Lott, a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), showed up needing help identifying feathers. These weren't just any feathers, they were feathers attached to incredible artifacts that a UIC professor had collected from an Amazonian tribe called the Parintintin in the late 1960s.

The Field Museum Collections help define the "edges" of life on earth

Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) is an innovative gathering of ideas and presentations to innovate and fuel new ways to look at the world.  Past speakers include David Axelrod, Hillary Clinton, Naomi Judd, George Lucas and Reverend Al Sharpton.   Invited to the 2014 CIW Edison Talks, Bill Stanley, Director of the Collections Center at the Field, used specimens to explain how study of the diverse and unique library of material housed at the Museum constantly re-defines our understanding of earth. 

Things seen in the Bird Division #8 (or: A once-sacred ibis)

This taxidermied specimen of Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) has been on display the Field Museum's Ancient Egypt exhibit for about 27 years. Indeed, its name derives from the fact that ancient Egyptians considered the birds sacred (ironically, Sacred Ibis no longer occurs in Egypt). The exhibit's department decided it was time to do some repairs. It needs some clever work to make it look just right again; that's the job of Chief Preparator Tom Gnoske.

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