Staff & Student News

The Scholarship Committee met in early January to award the 2012 visiting scholarships.  Field Museum’s visiting scholarships provide funding for short-term visits to any researcher worldwide to examine specimens held in Field Museum’s vast collections.  The sponsorship of a Field Museum curator is a pre-requisite for funding.  In many cases, proposed projects are not directly related to any curator’s research program, but FM curators supervise, promote and enable responsible and productive use of the collections by others to advance research worldwide.  The Committee is grateful for the significant service Museum curators provide to the worldwide scientific community.  In some of these projects, the visiting scientists, often junior and novice researchers, will collaborate with Field Museum curators and receive guidance and experience from Field Museum’s scientific staff.  Funding for the visiting scholarships is provided through generous support from the Bass fund, as well as the Schmidt and Thomas Dee funds.  Curators often supplement the requested funding from their own grants and host visiting researchers in their homes to enable longer and more fruitful visits at the Field Museum.  Frequently, visiting scholars bring specimens for examination using our research facilities and vouchers of such research are often added to our collections.  Visiting scholars are usually experts in a particular organism group or culture and while examining specimens and artifacts, identify them accurately and thus add tremendous value to the scientific collections at The Field Museum.

2012 Visiting Scholars, Anthropology

  • Regenstein Curator John Terrell will host Fredeliza Campos (Hong Kong) who is studying the traditional music of the Philippines leading to an understanding of changes in musical practices over the past 100 years through typological analysis of musical instruments.  John will also assist Katherine Szabo (Australia) who is studying Pacific shell artifacts towards the goal of mobilizing ethnographic material culture to interpret ancient cultural practices.
  • MacArthur curator Jonathan Haas will sponsor the research of Laurie Webster (Colorado) who is documenting early collections of archaeological perishable artifacts from Basketmaker and ancestral Pueblo sites in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest.
  • Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams will be sponsoring Sara Yeung (Ohio) on her study of painted images in Chinese ink concentrating on rubbings from the collection of the Field Museum.

2012 Visiting Scholars, Botany

  • Curator Rick Ree will support Charles Bell (Louisiana) on his study of the origin and diversification of the High Andean flora.
  • Chair and Associate Curator Thorsten Lumbsch will work with Gothamie Weerakoon (Sri Lanka) who is studying the diversity and phylogenetic relationships of south Asian species of Graphidaceae and Khwanruan Papong (Thailand) who is studying the molecular phylogeny of thelotremoid fungi of the family Graphidaceae (Ascomycota).

2012 Visiting Scholars, Geology

  • Sr. Vice President and Head of C&R Lance Grande will advise Sarah Gibson (Kansas) who is studying the taxonomy and evolutionary relationships of fossil fishes in the order Semionotiformes from the Triassic to the Cretaceous.
  • Associate Curator and Chair Peter Makovicky will host Alejandro Otero (Argentina) who is studying morphological, evolutionary, and functional aspects of sauropodomorph dinosaurs.
  • Associate Curator Scott Lidgard (Geology) will work with James Lamsdell (Kansas) on descriptions of the undiagnosed eurypterid (‘sea scorpions’) material housed in the Field Museum and the redescription of the fossil sea scorpions Syntomopterella richardsoni and Dolichopterus asperatus.
  • Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck (Geology) will host Matthias Meier (Sweden) who is trying to determine the time presolar silicon carbide grains spent in the interstellar medium before they were incorporated into meteorite parent bodies.

2012 Visiting Scholars, Zoology

  • Associate Curator John Bates (Birds) will be supporting Thiago Costa (Brazil) who is analyzing the phylogenetic relationship among nightjars (Aves: Caprimulgidae) based on osteological characters and Kevyn Gammie (Canada) who is studying the evolution of iridescent plumage coloration and feather nanostructure in the Galliformes (fowl and their relatives).
  • John Bates also kindly supported a proposal to examine specimens in the Amphibians and Reptiles Division (currently without a curator).  Collections Manager Alan Resetar will assist during the visits of Gunther Koehler (Germany) who is studying the taxonomy and distribution of the amphibians and reptiles from Panama and David Sanchez (Texas) who will be studying the larval morphology and systematics of hyline frogs (Anura: Hylidae: Hylinae).
  • Leo Smith (Fishes) will support Caleb McMahan (Louisiana) who is studying the phylogeny, biogeography, and species limits of the fish family Mugilidae (the mullets).
  • Associate Curator Margaret Thayer (Insects) will sponsor John Leavengood (Kentucky), who will revise the checkered beetle genus Phyllobaenus and needs to study many types deposited in the Field Museum. 
  • Associate Curator Petra Sierwald (Insects) will work with two young millipede experts.  Joao Paulo Barbosa (Brazil) will be examining the giant cyanide-producing millipedes of South America and Anh Duc Nguyen (Vietnam) will be studying southeastern Asian millipede diversity, including descriptions of new species sorted from the Field Museum’s collections.
  • Associate Curator Janet Voight’s (Invertebrates) deep-sea specimens attracted a specialist in the field: George “Buz” Wilson (The Australian Museum) who will be examining rare deep-sea Asellota (isopodcrustaceans) and otherunidentified specimens Janet added to FM collections through her deep-sea field work.  If time permits, Buz will contribute identifications for the massive backlog of Crustacea that is an under-used resource. 
  • MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Mammals) will host Howard Huynh (Texas) who will be assessing taxonomic affiliations and biogeographic patterns of the rodent genus Melanomys, and Natali Hurtado (Peru) who will be performing a phylogenetic analysis of the bat genus Mimon (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae) with emphasis on the subgenus formerly called Anthorhina
  • Curator Larry Heaney will sponsor Philip Piper (Australia) who will study early introductions of domestic animals across Southeast Asia with the goal of defining the complex history of introduced mammal species and their impacts on the highly diverse native faunas of the region.

The Scholarship Committee received 35 excellent applications for visiting scholarships, 23 of which were funded.  Committee Chair Petra Sierwald thanks the members of the Scholarship Committee: Philip Heck, Bruce Patterson (represented by John Bates as Bruce is conducting fieldwork in Kenya), Sabine Huhndorf and John Terrell for their work on behalf of the visiting scholars and our colleagues.  Collections Assistants Stephanie Ware and Alexandra Westrich (both Zoology) provided invaluable assistance during this round of proposal evaluations.  The Scholarship Committee will next be selecting two single-year graduate fellowships to Resident Graduate Students, the Lester Armour fellowship and the Women’s Board “Women in Science” fellowship.  The application deadline is February 1, 2012.

Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (Anthropology) co-presented a paper entitled “Building Taypikala: Telluric Transformations in the Stone Producation of Tiwanaku” at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Institute for Andean Studies held in Berkeley, CA from January 6–7.  Ryan’s co-presenters included Research Associate John Janusek (Vanderbilt), Regenstein Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Golitko (Anthropology) and Archaeologist Carlos Lemuz (Society of Archaeology La Paz).  The paper detailed how the emerging state of Tiwanaku rebuilt their capital city around 700 AD by incorporating hundreds of multi-ton volcanic blocks from different sources across Lake Titicaca as they exerted their authority over a vast region.  It demonstrates the role that control over critical resources plays in the emergence and maintenance of imperial authority.

The project involved collecting samples of the stone Tiwanaku used to build their monuments and sculpt their giant statues from the quarries around Lake Titicaca from which they came.  These samples are now being incorporated into the museum’s collections for use in future research on the chemical characterization of carved stone, including items from The Field Museum’s WCE collections.

From January 3–7, Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (Geology) attended the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Charleston, South Carolina.  Ken presented a talk, “Are the plastral scutes and plastral lobes of turtle shells modules? A geometric morphometric perspective,” that was co-authored by 2010 FMNH REU Intern Keegan Melstrom.  Ken was also a co-author on a second talk entitled, “How well do orbit dimensions predict diel activity patterns in sciurid rodents?” that was presented by 2011 FMNH REU Intern Stephanie Smith.  This was Stephanie’s first presentation at a scientific meeting.

Curator Gary Feinman and Associate Curator Bill Parkinson (both Anthropology) attended the 113th  Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Philadelphia, PA from January 5–8. Bill and his colleagues Dimitri Nakassis (University of Toronto) and Michael L. Galaty (Millsaps College) organized and chaired a colloquium entitled “Crafts, Specialists and Markets in Mycenaean Greece.”  The colloquium explored the emergence and organization of craft specialization in the ancient Aegean.  Bill presented the introduction to the session, and outlined how archaeologists in other parts of the world have investigated the organization of craft production and markets, especially in ancient state societies.  Gary was invited to be the discussant for the session and presented a paper entitled “Re-envisioning ancient economies: beyond typological constructs,” which provided interesting perspectives based on his work in China and in Mesoamerica. 

While at the meeting, Bill also participated on the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting Program Committee, which reviews paper and poster proposals for the AIA Annual Meetings.  In 2012 there over 3,000 registered attendees. 

On January 5, Resident Graduate Student Danielle Riebe (Anthropology/UIC) presented a poster at the 113th Annual Archaeological Institute of America Meeting in Philadelphia, PA.  The poster, “Signatures in Ceramics: Identifying Prehistoric Interaction through Ceramics on the Great Hungarian Plain,” illustrated preliminary results on the research that Danielle has been conducting over the past year using the Museum’s Elemental Analysis Facility.  Her work focuses on identifying micro-regional variation in the chemical composition of ceramics from the Great Hungarian Plain. By isolating these micro-regional signatures, Danielle hopes to model Late Neolithic interactions through the trade of ceramics on the Plain in order to determine the impact that interaction has on prehistoric social boundaries.  This research was conducted with the support of the Körös Regional Archaeological Project (KRAP) and was funded by the National Science Foundation-International Research Experience for Students (NSF-IRES), the Anthropology Collections Fund (Field Museum), and the Women’s Board Field of Dreams Program (Field Museum).

Associate Curator Bill Parkinson, Administrative Assistant Dilyana Ivanova (both Anthropology) and UIC Graduate Assistant Rebecca Seifried convened the 3rd Annual Meeting of the America for Bulgaria Foundation Archaeological Advisory Committee on January 5, in advance of the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meetings in Philadelphia, PA.  The committee, which consists of seven US scholars, vetted proposals submitted to the America for Bulgaria Foundation for: 1) establishing collaborative archaeological research projects between US and Balkan scientists; 2) site preservation, collections, and museum enhancement programs in Bulgaria; and 3) a postdoctoral fellowship for a foreign scholar to be in residence at The Field Museum.  The committee made recommendations regarding funding that will be forwarded to the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which will make the formal awards.  This is part of an initiative funded by the America for Bulgaria Foundation that links the American Research Center in Sofia and the FM Department of Anthropology to encourage collaborative archaeological science in the Balkans.

Research & Publications

The December field season of Curator Rüdiger Bieler’s (Zoology/Invertebrates) Florida Keys molluscan diversity project ended with having sampled the 1000th station in the ongoing investigation of the region.  Station “FK-1000” at Missouri Key in the Lower Florida Keys is noteworthy for two main reasons.  First, it is a “type location”—a place from which previous authors had described a variety of new species in the 1940s that were now re-sampled.  Second, collecting there shows the rapidly changing field of science: the site contains the source population of a marine gastropod species that is the focus of an exploration into the effects of ocean acidification, a new effort begun in collaboration with Division of Invertebrates Research Associate David Vaughan, the director of Mote’s Summerland Key Marine Laboratory.

A team of Brazilian scientists named a new species of deepwater gastropod for Zoology Curator Rüdiger Bieler in the latest (2011) issue of the journal Tropical Zoology.  The species from northeastern Brazil, named Solatisonax rudigerbieleri, is a member of the sundial family Architectonicidae for which Rüdiger is the world’s specialist.     

Fieldwork & Collections

Field biologists at the Museum try hard to avoid trouble, and usually succeed, but sometimes things don’t work out as we plan.  The following message reached Curator Larry Heaney during the first week of January from Research Associate Danny Balete (both Zoology/Mammals), who leads the field team for the Philippine Mammal Project when Larry is safe and warm in Chicago.  Danny went to the small, mountainous island of Lubang to obtain permits for a mammal survey there.

I arrived in Manila from Lubang Island yesterday evening, via Batangas, shortly before midnight.  The trip was unproductive in many ways.  Lubang is a trap, transportation-wise.  When I arrived in Lubang on Tuesday, I was told that there are no regular trips to Looc [a small town] from either the pier or the town of Lubang; the two municipalities appeared to be isolated from each other even with a passable road connecting [them].  Jeepney trips from Looc to the pier are dependent on the arrival of the [small ship] that ferries passengers and goods from Manila, which is now reduced to once a week.  Motorcycles cannot manage the mountain road to Looc, especially when it rains... Because the coastal water was rough, no motorized [outrigger boats] were available.  It was also raining on Lubang that day, so spending time to look around the mountain was not an option either.  I was practically trapped on Lubang—the next trip to Manila will be on the following Sunday.  Staying in Lubang to wait out for the next trip to Manila would be expensive and unproductive.

Fortunately, a passenger who missed the boat to Calatagan that day was chartering a small motorized [outrigger boat] to Lian, Batangas.  I talked to this guy to take me in as the second paying passenger.  The ride was a roller-coaster, with the gusty wind frothing up the sea, and the waves hit the boat really hard; I thought the ply-wood boat would break apart in the middle of the sea.  It took us more than 4 hours to make the ca. 27 nautical mile crossing.  We were soaked and sun-burned, but we made it safely to Batangas.  The other passenger was a former hunter who knows the Lubang mountain well.  So when we finally start our mammal survey of Lubang, I already made some initial contact with potential guides.



Public Education & Media Coverage

The world's oldest carrion beetle fossils were found in China and represent species that were alive 165 million years ago.  Follow Associate Curator Margaret Thayer (Zoology/Insects) and visiting research scientist Chenyang Cai in the video Fossil Carrion Feeders by C&R Media Producer Federico Pardo as they work together at The Field Museum to yield new insights into this family of beetles, called Silphidae.