Blogs & Videos: Collections

What the Function? with Smarter Every Day!

Where biology and engineering meet: let's puzzle out what the function is for some of our specimens! QUIZ SHOW! Huge thanks to Destin from Smarter Every Day for his help with this episode; stay tuned for more soon, and be sure to check out his channel! 

http://www.youtube.com/smartereveryday Special Guests: Anna Goldman and Destin!

Video: The Team

Meet the other members of this inaugural team and learn about what skills are needed for the upkeep of this important collection. Check back in on Monday for the final video in the series for a first-hand look at the backbone for the whole collection – the infrastructure. See what goes into installing the collection’s compactor units and see how these nuts and bolts do more than hold everything together.

Not One, Not Two, But Four New Species!

In our recent history, it has not been uncommon for scientists to collect plant and animal specimens from the remotest corners of our planet, and then bring them home to be a part of a collection at a museum.  It’s also not uncommon for some of these specimens to remain undescribed (meaning that no official characterization of the animal has been published in the scientific literature) for years, due to the large number of specimens in the collection.  Many times, new species have been discovered hiding among the specimens in a collection, sometimes 50 years after the specimen was collected.  Of course, it helps if the animal is fossilized – this is the reason scientists are still discovering new species of dinosaurs that once walked the earth!

Hiding in Plain Sight at The Field Museum

Today, new species of mammals are often discovered in the more remote areas of our planet, and most of them are small animals, such as shrews, bats or rodents. To discover a new carnivore is an exceptional feat, and especially in the Americas. In fact, scientists haven’t discovered a carnivore in the Americas in 35 years! Recently, however, the “olinguito” was revealed as a new species in the raccoon family, although it was first noticed years ago in the collections at The Field Museum.

Species in a world that thinks there is a clear division between basic and applied science

Humans are an inconsistent lot, but you would think that might not apply as much when it comes to science, and yet it does.  Even in science are still plenty of ways in which topics lead to opposing and confused viewpoints.  Around my institution these days the terms “applied” and “basic” science are being kicked around at the same time we are discussing “species” as a theme that cuts across research programs. 

What do researchers want?

Nina Cummings, who ably heads our photo archives in the museum shared with me an interesting blog post she saw recently.  It was from The Library of Congress and was written by Bill LeFurgy, their digital initiatives manager of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.  The title of the blog post was “What do researchers want from institutions that preserve digital content?”  Here at the museum we are working through our digital initiatives so the post resonated on several fronts.  The opening statement included this: “User expectations influence so much of what stewardship organizations do. We collect and preserve all content primarily to support use.” 

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