Another Thursday night for the Bird Divsion

Over the course of a year we do plenty of evening events of all kinds.  It is always fun to go support people who work in the Bird Division when possible, but last Thursday (2 May) there were multiple events happening across the city at the same time.  Research scientist Jason Weckstein was down at the University of Chicago with graduating senior Jennie Lee who presented her thesis work on population genetics of Ramphastos toucans.  Jennie gathered all her data in the Pritzker Laboratory and we’re looking forward to having her continue with us this summer.  She did a great job on this project and drew rave reviews from the faculty reading her paper.  We expect it will be ready to submit to a scientific journal shortly.

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Jennie Lee learning the ropes from Jason Weckstein in the Pritzker Lab.

Research Assistant Josh Engel was talking about Madagascar to the Chicago Audubon Society at the North Park Village Nature Center.  Josh does multiple talks like this throughout the year, and always gets great reviews.  His Madagascar talk is based on his experiences leading tours to the country, but if he not talking about Madagascar, it could be South Africa or Bhutan and now he can add Uganda, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the mix since he has been working with the Bird Division. There is more about our African Field work on our web site, which Josh has developed and maintained.

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Josh Engel now can talk about the countries of the Albertine Rift in public talks.  Here he is teaching at the CRSN, Lwiro station in the eastern D. R. Congo in 2012.

I was presenting the Spring 2013 scientific proposals to the Africa Council for their consideration.  After questions and discussion, the Council funded three, the 64th, 65th an 66th proposals they have funded since the Council was first formed in the Spring of 2006, totaling almost $380,000 in awards over that time.  Two of the new awards will bring African mammalogists to Chicago to work with Bruce Patterson (Kenyan David Wachuli) and Julian Kerbis (Ugandan Sadic Waswa).  The third will allow Bird Division Collection Manager Ben Marks to gather microsatellite DNA data for the Congo Basin birds he studies. 

At each meeting of the Council, I give an update on activities related to Africa to Council each meeting, and Thursday evening, I was able to tell them great news about several of their grantees.  Nobby Cordeiro has been granted tenure at Roosevelt University.  The Council has funded several of Nobby’s project through the years and he continues to be active in his native Tanzania including taking a Roosevelt class these in the coming weeks.  University of Illinois, Chicago graduate student Carrie Seltzer successfully defended her dissertation on seed dispersal in Afromontane forests.  Carrie was co-advised by Bruce Patterson and received Council grants in 2008 and 2009. 

It was the kind of evening that highlighted some the expertise that exists in the Bird and Mammal Divisions.

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Yellow-whiskered Greenbul (Andropadus latirostris) one of Ben Marks' Congo Basin study species.