Blogs & Videos: Environment & Conservation

Fossil Sharks

Wherein we take an adventure into the deep oceans of history in pursuit of fossilized sharks.  Shout-out to Bill Simpson for his help in the production of this video and lending us the fossilized shark specimens for the shoot! We want to thank Ray Troll (http://www.trollart.com/) for generously allowing us to incorporate his incredible illustrations in this video! 

Why Sharks?

Welcome to five consecutive calendar days dedicated to programming about everyone's favorite cartilaginous fishes: the sharks!  Special thanks to David Shiffman (@whysharksmatter) for his help, support, advice, and fun facts about sharks! Additional thanks to Joe Hanson (itsokaytobesmart) and the folks at PBS Digital Studios for helping to put this great series together. :) 

How many trees are there in the Amazon?

A couple of weeks ago some colleagues and I wrote a paper in Science reporting some new findings on Amazonian forests. Some of the findings are actually just numbers, and one of those numbers is really big. It's the number of trees we think probably grow in the Amazon, and it's 390 billion.

Paradise Lost is Found in the Mountains of Peru

  Nestled deep within the Escalera Mountains of Peru lies a piece of paradise that has awaited exploration by scientists for hundreds of years.  Until now, scientists have been unable to set foot there due to the severe and isolated terrain: cloud-shrouded cliffs rise out of the Amazonian lowlands far from the main Andean range, crisscrossed with mountain creeks and waterfalls topping out on 7,500-foot ridges.

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.  In terms of birds, this comes just as the much anticipated last volume of Handbook of Birds of the World arrived in the mail (sent to the Bird Division by Lynx Editions because of photos Mary Hennen took from our collection for the volume). It includes articles describing 15 new bird species from Amazonia, and as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, Jason Weckstein and I were co-authors on two of these descriptions with Jason overseeing the gathering of DNA sequence data that helped support the descriptions.  In all, ten of these 86 recently described species involve Field Museum staff and collections in some direct way. Then there is also the description of the new species of Hero Shrew, on which I am a grateful co-author based on work by mammalogist colleagues including Bill StanleyJake Esselstyn and Julian Kerbis with appeared in Biology Letters several weeks ago.

North American Ornithology: Past, present, and future comes to Chicago

The Field Museum and the Palmer House served as the meeting sites for 650 ornithologists from August 13-17.  These were joint meetings of the two largest North American ornithological societies, the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society.  

Remembering Ted Parker

Several weeks ago, a colleague (and former graduate school roommate), Kevin Burns, asked me about a pdf of a paper I wrote back in 1992.  Here is the citation: Bates, J. M., T. A. Parker, III, A. P. Capparella and T. J. Davis.  1992.  Observations on the campo, cerrado, and forest avifaunas of eastern Dpto. Santa Cruz, Bolivia, including 21 species new to the country.  Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 112:86-98.

Thoughts on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)

Friday before last, Camila Duarte and I spent the day down at the University of Chicago.  Camila is a visiting Brazilian student who has worked with colleague Camila Ribas in Manaus, Brazil.  She will be gathering molecular data on several species of birds that inhabit white sand forests in the Amazon Basin over the next five months.  Camila and I were attending a all-day symposium entitled “Conserving more than carbon: valuing biodiversity in a changing world” at the Gordon Center for Integrative Science that was sponsored by the U of C Program on the Global Environment.  Four expert panelists presented perspectives related to the symposium topic and then there was a discussion period at the end

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