Blogs & Videos: Sciences

Birds get malaria, too

Just like people, birds have the misfortune of being visited by a variety of blood-sucking insects, insects that can transmit all manner of parasites through their bites. Some of those parasites, including ones related to human malaria, come in the form of haemosporidia--single-celled protozoans that take up residence in their host's bloodstream. Using modern lab techniques, scientists are now able to discover the diversity of these parasites living in the bloodstream of wild birds by isolating their DNA from the blood of infected birds.

How to Uncoffin a Mummy

Removing the lid of the coffin was just the start. Now there was the problem of removing the damaged mummy from the lower half of the coffin. With the lid off we found that the right side piece, which had been held in place by the lid, was detached from the bottom of the coffin and could easily be removed. This meant that the mummy could be slid out, instead of trying to pick it up – good news because the assembly was very fragile. Even so, this was no small task, and it took four people to safely move him out of the coffin.

Fishes in Guatemala - Last Update from the field

FMNH Fishes recently returned from our collecting expedition to Guatemala.  Here are a few final photos from the trip.  We will update again soon as we unpack our specimens and work to incorporate them into the Fish Collection at The Field Museum! susancaleb_tissue.jpg Susan and Caleb work on taking tissue samples from specimens after collecting at a site.

Mystery Callicebus from Peru

Possible New Primate Discovered in Peru

Last year I spent three weeks with an incredible team of scientists exploring the Tapiche-Blanco watersheds, a remote region in the Peruvian Amazon. Our team was about 200 kilometers from any of the nearest cities--Iquitos, Pucallpa, and Tarapoto--and 40 kilometers from the border with Brazil. The trip was filled with discoveries (three new plants, four new fishes, four new frogs, a savanna habitat none of us expected in this part of Peru) but the biggest discovery was a mystery monkey. 

North Carolina Zoo polar bear habitat with fake rocks and painted lichens

Attention to lichen detail in the polar bear habitat

One of the best zoos Collections Manager Robert Lücking has ever visited is the North Carolina Zoo, with its vast area allowing much space for its animals. Also, the attention to detail is quite amazing. Many dioramas include rock features made out of various materials including concrete, specifically designed to meet the animals' needs. What is astonishing, however, that the designers and builders even took care to mimic lichens growing on these fake rocks, and even on close-up these look so real that one has to make sure they are not just paint.

Model of the Canopy Operation Access System using lichens as tree canopies

Lichens helped to establish canopy research system in French Guiana

Back in the days, our fungi and lichens Collections Manager Robert Lücking was involved in a project to design and establish a canopy access system in French Guiana for the study of the functional biodiversity of tropical rain forest canopies. The system was named COPAS: Canopy Operation Access System. To obtain initial funding for the project, Robert spent countless hours to built the model depicted here, including trees with a canopy formed by reindeer lichens.

Model train diorama photographed in Germany

Lichens and model trains

Lichens of the genus Cladina (the reindeer lichens) are commonly used as ornaments, including for dioramas with model trains, where they make bushes and tree crowns. Our fungi and lichens Collections Manager Robert Lücking used to have a model train when he was young and remembers spending many hours building the diorama, setting up small areas of forest and bush using differently colored lichens. He had no idea at that point that he would actually study lichens scientifically when grown up.

Lichen-covered car door on display in the lichen exhibit at the Field Museum

Old, lichen-covered car door displayed like a precious jewel

April is taxidermy and diorama month. At first glance difficult to make a connection to lichens. But only at first glance. Of course the best example of lichen dioramas is our very own lichen exhibit, and especially its center piece: the now famous car door. It nicely shows how an old piece of "junk", specifically the driver door of a classic Ford Bronco, can come to shine in new light. Whereas a lichen-covered car is already a spectacular sight, our exhibit team did a fabulous job in setting up said door in a case illuminated with UV, making it look like a precious jewel.

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