Staff & Student News

On Monday, October 24 Field Museum resident graduate student Isabel Caballero (Zoology/ Birds) from the University of Illinois, Chicago successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Genetic structure in Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus): An assessment using multiple markers.”  On Wednesday, October 26, she gave a public seminar on the UIC campus.  Isabel was co-advised by Associate Curator John Bates (Zoology) and Research Associate Mary Ashley at U.I.C.  Working in both the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution and in Ashley’s UIC lab, Dr. Caballero gathered genetic data for more than 500 Peregrine Falcons from blood samples, feathers, and specimen toepads to look at evolution in this globally distributed bird at multiple scales.  Locally, she documented paternity among nestlings sampled from Chicago region nests by Collections Assistant Mary Hennen (Zoology/Birds).  At the national level, she collaborated with colleagues to assemble the first data set comparing genetic structure across the United States including the using toepad samples from historical samples to assess recovery of Peregrines in the Midwest and eastern United States at the genetic level following the banning of DDT on the 1970’s.  At the global scale she developed collaborations in Africa and South America to include samples of resident Peregrine Falcons from the southern hemisphere to understand how Peregrines have moved across the world.  A native of Argentina, Isabel finished writing her dissertation in College Station, Texas where her husband Richard was recently hired in the Department of Physics at Texas A&M University.

The Geology Department was well represented at this year's Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Las Vegas held from November 1–5.  Geology Curators Kenneth Angielczyk and Peter Makovicky, fossil preparators Akiko Shinya and Connie Van Beek, collection manager Bill Simpson, post-doctoral student Nate Smith, resident graduate student Jonathan Mitchell, and research associates Lindsay Zanno and Terry Gates all attended the meeting.  SUE docents and department volunteers Karen Nordquist, Irene Broede, and Dennis Kinzig also attended.  Geology department staff were authors or co-authors on 15 papers ranging taxonomically from aquatic reptiles, through avian and non-avian dinosaurs and their kin, to non-mammalian synapsids.  These papers covered biological topics such as new insights into biodiversity and the age of groups, body size, growth strategies, skeletal pneumaticity, and corrections to current methods of calculating rates of character change.

While at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), Postdoctoral Research Scientist Nate Smith (Geology) presented the talk: “Body mass and foraging ecology predict evolutionary patterns of skeletal pneumaticity in the diverse waterbird clade” based on a paper in press at Evolution.  Nate was also a co-author on the presentation: "Archosauromorph bone histology reveals early evolution of elevated growth and metabolic rates” based on a work in progress with his Ghost Ranch Triassic Project colleagues, and the poster: “Anatomy and affinities of large archosauromorphs from the lower Fremouw Formation (Early Triassic) of Antarctica” based on a paper published in the July issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology with two former Field Museum Geology undergraduate interns and curator and chair Peter Makovicky.

At the SVP meeting, Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (Geology) presented one talk entitled “Dicynodont (Therapsida, Anomodontia) assemblages from the Luangwa Basin, Zambia: taxonomic update and implications for biostratigraphy and biogeography”, and co-authored two other talks entitled “An enigmatic archosauriform from the Manda beds of the (Middle Triassic) of southwestern Tanzania” and “Middle Permian biodiversity changes and the Guadalupian extinction on land: unraveling evidence from the Beaufort Group, South Africa”.  Ken also presented one poster entitled “New data on the archosaur fauna of the Middle Triassic (Anisian) Ntawere Formation of Zambia.”

Finally, the fifth annual Tidy Bowl, an SVP football game between the Field Museum and the American Museum, took place last Saturday afternoon on the dusty outskirts of Las Vegas.  The Field Museum pulled ahead early, and in an epic 9-8 shootout managed to hold on for their first-ever victory!  This was followed shortly by a Gatorade bath for collections manager Bill Simpson.  With this victory, the mythical "Cope Cup" trophy comes back to Chicago and will reside in the Geology reprint case on the 3rd floor until next year's meeting in Raleigh.

Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (Anthropology) lectured on three occasions on the topic of Andean Prehistory for undergraduate classes at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in early November.  Ryan’s lectures were part of the World Prehistory courses taught at UNCG by Adjunct Curator Donna Nash and focused on the rise of Andean civilization from 3000 BC to 600 AD.  Ryan also took the opportunity to help recruit students to the museum’s Contisuyo Archaeological Field School held in Peru.

Research & Publications

Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams and Lab Manager Laure Dussubieux (both Anthropology) co-authored a paper entitled “A Pilot Compositional Analysis of Ceramics from the Kroeber Collection” with Research Associate Kevin Vaughn in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.  The research illustrates changes in ceramic production over several centuries in Nasca, one of the most iconic ceramic styles of the ancient Andean world.  It is based on ceramics collected in 1925 and 1926 by the noted anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in The Field Museum’s collection.  Studies like this one build a comparative database of economic production and distribution in societies through time around the world.  They allow anthropologists and other social scientists to create better models of people’s behavior in order to study economic success and crisis, and perhaps contribute knowledge to prevent the latter.  The research was carried out in the museum’s Elemental Analysis Facility

A panoramic picture by MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) is wrapped around the front and back covers of a new book entitled “Ungulate Taxonomy” published by Johns Hopkins University Press.  Fittingly, the picture shows wildebeest, zebra and giraffes (two orders and three families) in Kenya's Masai Mara Reserve.  Colleagues Colin Groves (Australia) and Peter Grubb (England) wrote the book.




Fieldwork & Collections

Public Education & Media Coverage

The Field Revealed video "Conserving Sticky" by C&R Media Producer Federico Pardoshowcasing Regenstein Conservator JP Brown's work on CT scanning Pacific collections over the summer, was the featured video on the National Science Foundation's news channel on Friday, Novmber 4.


Chief Preparator Akiko Shinya (Geology) organized a one-day workshop entitled “Travel and Expedition Medicine Workshop” at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.  This course was designed to help field scientists prepare for expeditions where they might encounter various injuries and medical problems in a remote setting.  It provided basic knowledge (and some hands-on practice) for various antibiotics, and over-the counter medications that can save lives.  The workshop went over techniques in splinting and bandaging, eye care, treatment of bloody noses, bites, stings, and allergic reactions. Dr. Matthew Lewin, Director of Institute for Exploration and Travel Health at California Academy of Sciences, taught the course.

This week the Earth experienced a close encounter with asteroid 2005 YU55.  It passed within 308,000 km of the Earth, which is inside the Moon’s orbit.  Though it posed no risk of impacting the Earth, these NEOs (Near Earth Objects) can potentially affect our planet.  Collections Manager Jim Holstein (Geology) spoke of these risks and how these objects are catalogued on NPR’s How to do Everything, a weekly podcast aired online.  This can be found on