Staff & Student News

Staff Scientist Jason Weckstein and Associate Curator John Bates (both Zoology/Birds) were notified on January 31 that they will receive a $6,000 Research Assistantship for High School Students (RAHSS) supplement to their NSF Research Grant “Southern Amazonian birds and their symbionts: Biodiversity and endemicity of parasites from the most diverse avifauna on Earth.”  The RAHSS supplement allows Jason and John to hire a promising high school student this summer to work on the project.

The Society for American Archaeology has appointed Repatriation Director Helen Robbins (Anthropology) to serve on the Committee on Ethics for a two-year term beginning on April 1.

MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology/Birds and Mammals) took part in three different Ph.D. presentations in late January.  The first, held at the Université de Rennes in western France, was presented by Rado Andrianaivoarivelo and entitled “Ecologie et population de Rousettus madagascariensis G. Grandidier, 1928 (Pteropodidae).”  Rado is a Malagasy student that has worked closely with Steve on different phases of his research.  This thesis was co-presented with l’Université d’Antananarivo and Steve was the co-director.  The second thesis was presented by Nicolas Nesi at l’Ecole Doctorale Sciences de la Nature et de l’Homme, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, entitled “Systématique et phylogéographie des chauves-souris africaines de la sous-famille des Epomophorinae (Chiroptera, Pteropodidae).”  Steve was an evaluator (rapporteur) for this thesis.  The third thesis was presented at the Faculté des Sciences et des Technologies, Unité Mixte de Recherche, Peuplements Végétaux et Bioagresseurs en Mileu Tropical, Université de La Réunion, by another Malagasy student, Fanny Rakotoarivelo, on “Biogéographie, évolution et systématique du genre Jumellea Schltr. (Angraecinae, Orchidaceae) dans le Hot-Spot Malgache et des îles environnantes.”  Steve was also an evaluator (rapporteur) for this thesis.  Steve then returned to Antananarivo and will depart on February 4 for three weeks of fieldwork in southwestern Madagascar associated with a new project on bats, blood parasites, and mosquitoes.

Research & Publications

Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator Philipp Heck (Geology) gave a talk about his NASA-funded meteoritic nanodiamond work at the Presolar Grain Workshop held at Washington University, St. Louis MO on January 28 and 29.  Philipp presented the new nanodiamond sample preparation techniques and analytical protocols for the atom probe that he and his team developed.  The objective of Philipp’s three-year research project is to use the atom probe to analyze carbon isotopes in individual three nanometer-sized diamonds found in primitive meteorites.  This will help answer the 25-year old question about the origin of these nanodiamonds.  Presolar nanodiamonds are considered a surviving fraction of the building blocks of our Solar System.  The Presolar Grain Workshop was attended by 45 scientists, mainly from the United States.

Curator Gary Feinman and Adjunct Curator Linda Nicholas (both Anthropology) have published two articles in Spanish in Mesoamérica: debates y perspectivas, which is published by El Colegio de Michoacán, Zamora.  The first, “Poder y desigualdad: variación y cambio en la Mesoamérica prehispánica,” contrasts the nature of leadership and social organization in prehispanic Mesoamerica.  The second article, “La primera evidencia de producción de azul maya: redescubriendo una tecnología mesoamericana olvidada,” was prepared by Gary, Linda and an Anthropology Department team including Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams, Regenstein Conservator JP Brown, Adjunct Curator Dean Arnold (Wheaton College) and former Intern Jason Branden (Northwestern University).  In this article the team presents their research on the production of Maya Blue pigment.  This paper is an expansion and translation of earlier research that was published first in 2008 in Antiquity and was voted the top archaeological discovery of that year by Archaeology magazine. 

Fieldwork & Collections

Associate Curator and Chair Peter Makovicky, Chief Fossil Preparator Akiko Shinya, and Postdoctoral Research Scientist Nate Smith (all Geology) returned in late January from three weeks of fieldwork in Argentina undertaken in collaboration with Argentine colleagues from Universidad Maimonídes and the Museo Ernesto Bachman.  The international team was working in terrestrial rocks deposited roughly 95 to 100 million years ago, and made many discoveries including frog, turtle, and dinosaur fossils and footprints.  The most significant find was a dinosaur ‘graveyard’ with partially articulated skeletons of at least four dinosaurs exposed along the circumference of a thick sandstone layer that capped a small hill.  Three of these appear to be titanosaurid sauropod herbivores, while the other one is a T.rex–sized charcharodontosaurid predator.  Parts of two titanosaurs and some of the skeleton of the predator, which includes parts of the skull, forelimb, and hindlimb were collected, and the team has made plans to return next year to continue quarrying operations.  The expedition was funded by the National Geographic Society and video clips from the trip will be posted soon.  Pete and Nate also spent several days studying specimens collected on expeditions in 2005 and 2007 in museums in the towns of Cipoletti and General Roca.

As part of the continuing work on the CT scans of Egyptian and Peruvian mummies which were acquired last summer,Regenstein Conservator JP Brown and A. Watson Armour III Curator Bob Martin (both Anthropology) hosted Dr. Jeffrey L. Rosengarten, MD, Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.  Photo was taken by John Weinstein (Photography).

Zoology’s Division of Amphibians and Reptiles supplied loans of specimens that were cited in three of the five papers in the most recent issue (No. 25, 2011) of Herpetological Monographs.  In addition, one of the three contributed papers in the January issue of the Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society was based entirely on specimens loaned by the Division.

Public Education & Media Coverage

Research Assistant Josh Engel (Zoology/Birds) appeared on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program on January 30.  He talked with host Phil Ponce about the unusually high number of Snowy Owls currently being seen in the Chicago area as well as the diet of the owls and potential threats to them.  The segment can be seen here.

Curator Rüdiger Bieler (Zoology/Invertebrates) was interviewed by the Goethe-Institut (the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany) for a new web-based series on “Germans in the Midwest.” The interview can be found here.  

Regenstein Conservator JP Brown (Anthropology) gave an invited after-dinner talk at the January Meeting of the State Microscopical Society of Illinois.  Entitled “X-ray specs,” JP showed results arising from using medical CT scanning to examine Anthropology specimens from the Field Museum over the last five years. (See header image)