Staff & Student News

Associate Curator and Chair Peter Makovicky (Geology) received an Antarctica Service Medal last week.  The medal is bestowed to civilian and military personnel who serve for more than 30 days at a research station or onboard a research vessel as part of a United States expedition to Antarctica.              

Research & Publications

On April 6, Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck (Geology) gave an invited seminar talk at the Department of Geography-Geology at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.  He talked about what can be learned about asteroid collisions through studying the chemistry, mineralogy and petrology of fossil meteorites and micrometeorites from the Ordovician.

Above photo shows a fossil meteorite with an angular shape that was found shortly before Philipp visited a mid-Ordovician outcrop in Scandinavia.

Resident Graduate Student, Ben Rubin (UChicago and Zoology/Insects), Associate Curator Rick Ree (Botany), and Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects) published a paper on April 6 in PLoS ONE entitled “Inferring phylogenies from RAD sequence data.”  The aim of this study was to simulate the collection of RAD sequences (a form of reduced-representation genome sequencing) from sequenced genomes of different taxa (Drosophila, mammals, and yeasts) to develop a proof-of-concept workflow to test whether informative data can be extracted and used to accurately reconstruct ‘‘known’’ phylogenies of species within each group.  The freely available open-access article can be viewed and downloaded from the PLoS ONE website here.

MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology/Birds and Mammals) co-authored a review paper in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases with colleagues from the Institut Pasteur entitled “The role of the wild mammals in the maintenance of Rift Valley Fever virus.”  This disease is becoming a serious problem on Madagascar, impacting cattle production, as well as a serious human health issue.  For several years, Steve has been involved in a project with colleagues at Association Vahatra and Institut Pasteur de Madagascar to establish if forest-dwelling animals act as a reservoir for the disease.  The detailed review article attempts to summarize what is currently known about verified and suspected mammal and arthropod vectors in the maintenance of the virus and associated epidemiological cycle.  The article terminates with proposed new lines of research to advance on understanding patterns of the cycle and potential host groups that have yet to be studied.    

Fieldwork & Collections

Public Education & Media Coverage

Assistant Curator Ken Angielczyk (Geology) will be in Brazil from April 11­–May 2.  During this time, he will be part of an international team of paleontologists conducting fieldwork in Permian-age (approximately 299–251 million years ago) rocks in the Parnaíba Basin, which is located in the northeastern part of the country.  Ken and his colleagues hope to find fossils of synapsids (early mammal relatives) and the other animals that lived along side them, which will help them answer questions such as how terrestrial vertebrates dispersed into higher latitude areas following the end of the Permo-Carboniferous ice age.  While he is away, Ken will be doing a series of blog posts for the New York Times’ Scientist at Work blog.  The post will cover the team’s research goals, as well as their experiences (scientific and otherwise) and discoveries while conducting their fieldwork.

The Chicago Tribune interviewed Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck and Adjunct Curator Paul Sipiera (both Geology) about the bright fireball that was seen over the Chicagoland area.  Read the April 13 news story at the Chicago Tribune’s website here.  

MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology/Birds and Mammals) was interviewed the week of April 9 on Radio France International (RFI) about the scientific implications of a recent article he co-authored and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on the history of animal colonization of Madagascar.  The interview first made it to the African section of the radio station and then on April 11 was included in the worldwide general news report of RFI.