Staff & Student News

Research Associate Khwanruan “Poo” Papong (Botany), a lecturer at Mahasarakham University in Thailand, received the university’s Research Excellence Award for her scientific publications.  The award was presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn at Mahasarakham University on December 21, 2011.  Poo has worked intensely with the lichenologists at The Field Museum, especially Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch and Collections Manager and Adjunct Curator Robert Lücking (both Botany).

MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoolgy/Mammals) was named to the board of the non-profit organization Connect the Kids, the brainchild of author Lori Polodoros, one of the volunteers on Bruce’s “Lions of Tsavo” project.  During the trip, Lori (an acclaimed children's book author) laid the foundations for classroom-to-classroom communication between a Tsavo school (see header image) and one that her own children attended in southern California.  The resulting flurry of personal and social exchange has been rewarding for kids on both sides of the Atlantic.  Through several follow-up visits to Voi and Sagalla, Lori has honed this interaction into a blueprint for developing mutually stimulating channels for growth and understanding.  Connect the Kids will provide the umbrella for enlarging and diversifying these interactions.  Lori writes about the work here

Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck (Geology) was appointed to the Program Committee of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), the most important and largest conference in meteoritics, cosmochemistry and planetary science held in Houston, TX since the first Apollo moon landing.  Philipp served on the committee from January 16–20, which reviewed 1,900+ conference submissions and organized the conference.  Philipp said “I've been attending the LPSC since I started my career in cosmochemistry as a graduate student.  It is a very high honor for me to have being asked to serve on the LPSC program committee.”

Collections Manager James Holstein and Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck (both Geology) have been awarded $26,160 in funding by the Negaunee Foundation for their project “Consolidation and Migration of the Field Museum's Meteorite and Terrestrial Physical Geology Data.” This project will bring a major improvement in efficiency and practicality to the collections management and eventually will free up staff time to enable more scientific research in meteoritics.

Staff Scientist Jason Weckstein and Associate Curator John Bates (both Zoology/Birds) were notified on January 23 that they were awarded a $7,500 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) supplement to their NSF Research Grant “Southern Amazonian birds and their symbionts: Biodiversity and endemicity of parasites from the most diverse avifauna on Earth.”  Through this three-year project they will work with collaborators to conduct the first-ever comprehensive surveys of avian parasites and symbionts in the five southern Amazonian areas of endemism.  One of the main aims of the project is to ask whether the parasites of this megadiverse region exhibit the strong patterns of endemicity that are well documented for birds and other vertebrates.  The REU supplement allows Jason and John to hire an additional undergraduate intern this summer to work on the project.  You can learn more about Jason and John’s prior students trained through these REU supplements here.

At the IAL7 meeting in Bangkok (see below) Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch (Botany) was elected president of the International Association for Lichenology for the next four years.  His main responsibilities in this position will be to co-organize the next mycological meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in 2014, the next IAL meeting in 2016 that will be held in Helsinki, Finland and to represent the association in the IUBS (International Union of Biological Sciences). 

Graduate Research Assistant Danielle Riebe (Anthropology) recently completed and successfully passed her preliminary examinations for the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her committee members consist of UIC faculty, Drs. Larry Keeley and Bob Hasenstab, Associate Curator Bill Parkinson and Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (both Anthropology), and outside committee member at the University of Michigan, John O’Shea.  With Bill’s guidance, Danielle has been able to utilize The Field Museum’s Elemental Analysis Facilities to carry out preliminary research for her dissertation, which focuses on modeling Late Neolithic interactions on the Great Hungarian Plain through ceramic trade/distribution.  The preliminary research was funded in part by and an NSF-IRES grant, the Women’s Board Field of Dreams Program, and the Anthropology Collections Fund.  As a Ph.D. candidate, Danielle’s future research will continue to benefit from the unique relationship between the UIC Anthropology Department and The Field Museum.

Research & Publications

The Field Museum’s Botany Department had a strong presence at the 7th Meeting of the International Association for Lichenology in Bangkok, Thailand from January 9–13.  Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch, Collections Manager and Adjunct Curator Robert Lücking, Postdoctoral Research Scientists Steven Leavitt and Sittiporn Parnmen, and Resident Graduate Student Matthew Nelsen (University of Chicago) all attended.  Thorsten and Robert each convened a session at the meeting (“Adaptation of lichens” and “Graphidaceae”), and Robert, Matt, Steven, and Sittiporn together gave six talks at the meeting.

                  Matt presented two talks: “Diversification of lichen-forming ascomycetes” co-authored by Robert, Thorsten and Curator Rick Ree, and “On time or ‘fashionably’ late? The comparative dating of lichen-associated eukaryotic algae and their fungal symbionts,” co-authored by Robert, Rick and Research Associate Carrie Andrew.  Matt also presented a poster entitled “Characters state evolution in the lichen-forming lineage Trypetheliales (Dothideomycetes, Ascomycota)” with Robert, Carrie, Thorsten, Rick and Andre Aptroot (ABL-Netherlands).  All three presentations represent portions of Matthew’s Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago.

                  Robert and Thorsten were authors and co-authors of more than ten additional oral presentations and over 25 posters presenting results from their multiple collaborations with colleagues around the world.  With this productivity, The Field Museum had the largest number of contributions at the meeting from all institutions worldwide.  This international meeting of lichenologists happens every four years and this year was held for the first time in Asia, with over 300 participants from more than 40 countries. 

                  Thorsten, Robert, and Ana Crespo from Universidad Complutense (Madrid, Spain) also organized an EOL lichen meeting associated with the IAL meeting, focusing on the family Parmeliaceae.  This meeting was attended by over 40 colleagues and allowed intense discussions for collaborative projects on the evolution and classification of the family and for streamlining the import of data into the EOL webpage.

Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch and Collections Manager and Adjunct Curator Robert Lücking (both Botany) organized a “Graphidaceae workshop” at the Banpu Resort at the east coast of Thailand with 40 participants, financially supported by the National Science Foundation.  The three-day workshop, filled with lectures, field trips, and identification using microscopy and chromatography was held directly after the IAL7 meeting from January 15–17.

Fieldwork & Collections

Public Education & Media Coverage

Adjunct Curator and Collections Manager Robert Lücking (Botany) was featured in an article highlighting lichen research in the Sunday edition of one of Germany's most important newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.  The author, Sonja Kastilan, used information provided by Robert and lichenologist Christian Printzen (Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt), focusingon projects involving temperate and polar lichens as well as tropical lichens.  Some recent Field Museum publications, such as Associate Curator and Chair Thorsten Lumbsch’s (Botany) “100 new species,” were also featured.  One of the major topics explored in the article is the role of molecular studies and how they have opened new ways of studying the lichen symbiosis, including testing species concepts and finding that in many groups of lichens, the species richness is grossly underestimated.  The article also made mention of the International Association for Lichenology meeting held earlier in January in Bangkok, Thailand.

On January 21, A. Watson Armour III Curator Bob Martin and Research Associate Sylvia Atsailis (both Anthropology) participated in a Teacher Workshop organized by the Education Department.  Sylvia interacted with one group of teachers with a limited science background while Bob had the easier task of meeting with a group of science-savvy teachers.  Bob and Sylvia both gave brief presentations on evolution along with practical demonstrations of selected hominid casts in the Human Origins Lab.  Some 40 teachers attended the workshop, which evoked excellent questions and great appreciation from the attendees.  Credit is due to School Partnerships Manager Jessica Hankey (Education) for organizing this very successful event.