Blogs & Videos: Field Work

Fossil Fish, Pt. II: A History

Join us for Part II in our quest to uncover the tropical world of ancient Fossil Lake! Palm trees in Wyoming! Sex in the fossil record! Check out "Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time," by Lance Grande http://bit.ly/1p79CXv Gems and Gemstones: Timeless Natural Beauty of the Mineral World, by Lance Grande: http://bit.ly/1dr59GM

An Earlier Great Wall of China

The centuries before China’s unification under the Qin Dynasty (221 BC) are known as the Warring States period, an era when large armies clashed in fierce competitions for power and territory.  The rulers of these competing large states amassed giant armies of tens of thousands of infantrymen, who marched in combat against their enemies.  In China, one innovation against such attacks was the construction of fortification walls built along borders.  

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!

Dino Discovery

Everyone knows that Tyrannosaurus rex was the biggest and baddest thing around during the age of the dinosaurs.  But what else was out there?  What was the biggest thing before the T. rex?   Scientists at The Field Museum and collaborators have uncovered the bones of another large predator in the Cedar Mountain Formation in Utah – one that would have filled the role as top predator of its time and kept T. rex’s ancestors in check! 

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.

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.  

Ornithologists of the Field Museum play major role in discovery and discription of new species

I adopted the following from something I submitted to the museum's Science and Education News several weeks ago.  The photo is one of only a handful of specimens of the recently described Tsingy Rail (Canirallus beankaensis) in the world (see below).  It is a roadkilled bird that was obtained by Steve Goodman (given to him in Madagascar) and it will eventually be given to our dermestid beetles for the cleaning necessary for it to be what is probably the only skeleton of this species in the world's museums. 

Pages