Staff & Student News

On October 2, the festival “Bulgarian days in Chicago,” organized by the Bulgarian-American Association, was held for its 15th consecutive year.  As part of the festival, the new General Consul of Bulgaria in Chicago, Simeon Stoilov, guests from the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, and many other representatives of the Bulgarian culture and businesses in the U.S. were introduced.  Todor Petev, the Administrative Director of the American Research Center in Sofia (U.S. Office), arrived from New York and introduced the achievements of the American Research Center in Sofia.  Administrative Assistant Dilyana Ivanova (Anthropology) followed Petev with a more detailed accounting of the past and currently funded projects.  Dilyana communicated the history and the results of the collaborative grant administrative program of the Anthropology Department and the American Research Center in Sofia, financed by the America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF).  To date, the program has sponsored ten archaeological and museum proposals in Bulgaria.  Todor Petev and Dilyana introduced Dr. Tsenka Tsanova, who is the first ABF-funded postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at The Field Museum.  Dr. Tsanova comes from the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where she has worked the past three years.  Her current project is entitled “The Emergence of Behavioral Modernity: Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Eastern Balkans: Neanderthal-Modern Human cultural transactions.”

It is with great sadness that the Geology Department marks the passing of Curator Emeritus William D. Turnbull.  Bill passed away Wednesday following a short illness.

Born in 1922 in Milwaukee, Bill attended the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and graduated in 1942.  After serving in the Army during WWII, Bill joined The Field Museum as a fossil vertebrate preparator in 1946.  Bill earned his Ph.D. degree in Paleozoology from the University of Chicago while working at the Museum, and ascended to the post of Assistant Curator of Fossil Mammals in 1956.  He was promoted to Associate Curator in 1963, and again to Curator in 1973.  He also held lecturer status at the University of Chicago and University of Indiana at South Bend, and was a research associate at the University Texas at Austin and the Western Australian Museum. He served the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology as Vice-President from 1975–1976 and as President from 1976–1977.  Bill retired in 1987, but continued to come to work daily as long as weather and health permitted.

Bill was an avid field paleontologist and his collecting efforts ranged widely in the US from the South to the western states, as well as farther afield in Australia.  He made significant contributions to the Museum’s collections, and his collections of Eocene mammals from the Washakie Basin are spectacular.  Several of Bill’s most spectacular finds are on display in Evolving Planet, including the mosasaur Globidens, the turtle Naomichelys, and the aïstopod amphibian Pseudophlegethontia turnbullorum named in honor of Bill and his first wife, Priscilla.  Bill’s scholarly publications ranged widely, covering topics such as jaw mechanics of archaic Mesozoic mammals, descriptions of marsupial and rodent faunas of the Australian late Neogene, to Pleistocene mammals of the Midwest.  Bill was working on manuscripts on the remarkable Eocene finds he had made in the Washakie Basin in Wyoming, the mammalian fauna from the Madura Cave in Western Australia, and on the history of the department, when he fell ill.

During his long tenure at the Museum, Bill interacted with generations of scientists, ranging from Elmer Riggs, the first vertebrate paleontologist in the Museum’s history, to the current cohort of curators.  He collaborated with colleagues from across the globe.  He will be remembered as a dedicated professional, a wonderful citizen to the department and the institution, and as a warm and caring family man.  His legacy lives on in innumerable ways, including in the many specimens and scholarly contributions with which he enriched our exhibits and science, and in the memories we all have of his life as a Museum scientist.

Bill is survived by his wife Hedy, his stepdaughter Eve Band and her husband Steve and their two daughters; his granddaughter Lindsey Goodwin; his stepson Harry Brotman and his two daughters; his brother Alan Turnbull, sister Jane Przedpelski, and their spouses and children.

Condolences can be sent to:

Hedy Turnbull c/o 
Department of Geology
The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

Research & Publications

Research associate and former Bucksbaum and Meeker-Caldwell Fellow Lindsay Zanno (Geology) was part of a team announcing a new North American “raptor” dinosaur—Talos sampsoni—in the journal PLoS ONE last week.  Talos belongs to a rare group of feathered theropods known as troodontids whose feet bore an enlarged, sickle-shaped talon.  During their research, Lindsay and her team uncovered evidence of a severe fracture on a toe, a finding that supports prior hypotheses suggesting that raptor dinosaurs wielded the claw as a weapon in predation and combat.  The new raptor is the latest in a slew of new dinosaurs discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah, which include two new tyrannosaurs, five new horned dinosaurs, and several new duck-bill dinosaurs, among others.  Together these findings are shedding new light on paleobiogeographical patterns in the western US during the late Campanian, a period known as the zenith of dinosaur diversity, by demonstrating that large dinosaurs were restricted to surprisingly small areas of the western interior at this time.

On September 30, MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology/Birds and Mammals) and Voahangy Soarimalala, Association Vahatra and lecturer at The University of Fianarantsoa, were in Antananarivo presenting their new book Les petits mammifères de Madagascar to the Malagasy media, press and scientific community.  This book, published by The Association Vahatra Press is the second in a series named Guides sur la diversité biologique de Madagascar.  The presentation was followed by a reception attended by nearly 200 people and included beer on tap—something very new for Madagascar and greatly appreciated!  The publication of their book on small mammals was covered by Malagasy television and several articles appeared in the local newspapers.  About 150 copies of the book were distributed for free to Malagasy students and researchers.  The next book in the series will be on the endemic birds of Madagascar and entitled L'histoire naturelle des familles et sous-familles endémiques d’oiseaux de Madagascar.  It is about to go to the printers and should be out before Christmas.

From September 26–30, BioSynC hosted the Regional and Global Diversity ofCarex working group. This meeting brought together sedge taxonomists from 10 countries and botanists from the Western Great Lakes region to coordinate the creation of EOL taxonomy and species pages for the genus, online keys for Carex of the Western Great Lakes region, and to initiate creation of an online portal to the entire family Cyperaceae.  The meeting will ultimately produce an authoritative resource for Cyperaceae data integrating global and regional perspectives.

Fieldwork & Collections

The collections of The Field Museum are the basis for every aspect of the Museum’s mission.  Researchers come from all over the world to study these unique resources and discover new things about our planet and its surroundings.  From October 3–7, Zoology’s Mammal collections perfectly exemplified both the diversity of its visiting scientists,  and the amount of study the collections undergo.  The Division of Mammals hosted no less than 12 researchers from 10 different countries.  Institutions represented include: Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil; McMaster University, Canada; Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, France; University of Aberdeen and Durham University, U.K.; Cornell University and University of Minnesota, U.S.A.  Taxa studied ranged from Neotropical marsupials, bats and rodents, commensal rats and mice around the Indian Ocean, squirrels, southeast Asian shrews and bovids, and Okapis.

Every one of the researchers traveled a considerable distance to visit The Field Museum in order to conduct their research.  The collections at the Field Museum are vital to scientists documenting Earth’s natural history.

Curator Emeritus Michael Dillon (Botany) sent the following report from the field:

Dear Friends, I arrived in Santiago and made my way up north 1,000 kilometers.  The bloom is perhaps at its peak.... Flowers everywhere!  I had the good fortune to run into a large population of Leontochir ovallei (common name “Garra de León”).... It is the one that is crawling along ground with red flowers in an inflorescence the size of a 16-inch softball!!  I had seen an old plant many years ago, but never a population of thousands in bloom.  There were many in bud so I may return at some point to see them again.  The Nolanas are all in great shape... I won't bore you with the particulars, but let us just say... I thought I had died and gone to heaven.... pinch me!! Is this a dream? 

The RAV4 in the photo is the one I purchased for a song from a New Zealand cactus specialist.  2008 with only 27,000 miles.  It is in great shape inside and out, and 4-wheel drive so can get most anywhere a 4 x 4 pickup can go... especially to get out of sand.

All the best to you all.... tu amigo, Dillon


Public Education & Media Coverage

Curator Alaka Wali (Anthropology/ECCo) attended the inauguration of the 50 Years of Pow Wow exhibit (originally at The Field Museum in 2004 and co-curated by Field Museum and The American Indian Center of Chicago) at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.  Under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, Alaka lectured at several universities in Guatemala and spoke with Mayan indigenous leaders from September 26–30.  Speaking at the opening of the exhibit, at the National Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, she discussed the vibrancy of Native American urban culture, as represented through the Pow Wow.  The U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala, the Minister of Culture of Guatemala, and other officials attended the talk.  The exhibit remains in Guatemala until early January.

Public Funding Specialist Margaret Neeley (Institutional Advancement) and Sponsored Programs Director Deborah Bekken (C&R) hosted a delegation of museum professionals from Bahrain on October 3.  Ms. Najeeba Alawi Sayed Salman Mohamed Alhallai, Ms. Layali Mohamed Ali Mohamed Mandi (both Bahrain Fort Museum, Ministry of Culture) and Ms. Yusra Mohammad Ali Hawaida (Bahrain National Museum, Ministry of Culture) were interested in learning about best practices in fields such as registration, cataloging, collections care, marketing, education, public programming, and exhibition design and development.  The delegation met with Senior Vice President Laura Sadler (Museum Enterprises), Director Beth Crownover (Education), Director Jaap Hoogstraten (Exhibitions), Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams, Assistant Curator Bill Parkinson, Registrar Alan Francisco, and Collections Manager Jamie Kelly (all Anthropology).  After a full afternoon of discussion and tours through the collections, the Crown Family PlayLab, and the Exhibitions Department, the visitors declared that they had found the visit to The Field Museum more constructive than most of the other meetings in which they had participated.  The US State Department’s International Leadership Program hosted their visit.  Learn more at the UNESCO history on their website: Qal’at al-Bahrain – Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun.

On October 3, Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (Geology) presented a lecture for a class entitled “The Epic of Creation” at the Zygon Center for Religion and Science (part of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago).  The class presents the scientific story of Earth history and evolution from the beginning of the universe to the emergence of humans, as well as interpretations of biblical stories of creation and theological reflection on these topics.  Ken’s talk was entitled “What is a Transitional Form? Or Why 'Mammal-like Reptiles' Aren't Reptiles.”  It focused on the key role patterns of descent from common ancestors play in evolutionary theory and how phylogenetic trees help us reconstruct these relationships and track evolutionary changes in groups of organisms.  To help make these ideas concrete, Ken used the non-mammalian synapsids that he studies as an example, showing why they’re more closely related to mammals than to any reptile, and how the fossil record of these animals provides important information about the evolution of many of the distinctive characters of living mammals.

This weeks Field Revealed highlights the Tully Monster from our Invertebrate Fossil Collection.