Staff & Student News

With the help of a Field Museum Visiting Scholar grant (sponsored by Associate Curator Margaret Thayer), University of Kentucky Ph.D. student John Leavengood visited Zoology's Division of Insects from April 10–20 to study the collection of checkered beetles (the family Cleridae).  John was particularly interested in the many types from the Wolcott collection, which included numerous specimens marked as new species by Wolcott but never published.  John was able to pin down the identity of several more species in his study group, and borrowed many specimens for further study.  He also helped the insect division considerably by identifying and inserting into the collection many of the unidentified clerids formerly lingering at the end of the family holdings. 

After holding postdoctoral appointments at the University of British Columbia and the University of Arizona, former Resident Graduate Student Rebecca Rundell (Zoology/Invertebrates) will be starting a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in Conservation Biology at State University of New York’s College for Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY in late April.  As a student of the University of Chicago’s Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Rebecca did her dissertation work on the Land Snails of Belau (Republic of Palau, Oceania) with Curator Rüdiger Bieler (Zoology/Invertebrates) as her major advisor.   Former Zoology Assistant Curator Paul Goldstein and Richard and Jill Chaifetz Associate Curator Shannon Hackett (Zoology/Birds) also served on her committee.  Rebecca was a recipient of The Field Museum’s Brown Family Fellowship.   Congratulations, Rebecca! 

Research & Publications

Robert A. Pritzker Assistant Curator of Meteoritics and Polar Studies Philipp Heck's (Geology) paper on the first isotopic analysis of sulfur-rich comet dust was published in the April issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.  The dust was captured during a flyby of Comet Wild 2 by NASA’s Stardust Mission and returned to Earth in 2006 (see picture).  Philipp used an ion microprobe at the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry in Germany to analyze the sulfur isotopic composition of 24 comet dust particles.  His study finds that most of this comet dust formed in our solar system.  There is only one grain that shows a chemical fingerprint that could indicate that it contains a real stardust sulfide grain, which formed in a supernova explosion outside of our solar system.  Philipp’s findings contrast the view that comets are largely composed of stardust and also show that in this aspect comets are similar to primitive meteorites.  The comet-equals-stardust view had to be abandoned following the initial analyses after the landing of the Stardust spacecraft showed that stardust in Stardust samples is very rare!  Philipp's new study confirms this new view, and his paper can be accessed online here.  Above Photo: Artistic rendition of the Stardust spacecraft during its flyby of Comet Wild 2. Credit: NASA/JPL.

On April 20, Associate Curator Rick Ree (Botany) and Research Associate Patrick Herendeen (Chicago Botanic Garden) hosted the second annual Chicago Plant Science Symposium, which had the theme “Major evolutionary transitions.”  In their ~450 million years of evolution, land plants have confronted and overcome a wide range of challenges in dealing with the environment and interacting with other organisms, either competitively or cooperatively.  Seven invited speakers gave talks highlighting cutting-edge research and perspectives on fundamental questions in this area, and over 100 people attended the symposium.  Pat and Rick wish to thank Mark Alvey, Tyana Wachter, and Juliana Philipp for their logistical support, and acknowledge the symposium’s sponsors: The Field Museum, Chicago Botanic Garden, and International Journal of Plant Science.

Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau, Postdoctoral Research Scientist Stefanie Kautz (both Zoology/Insects) and several colleagues co-authored a paper on the microbial community associated with herbivorous ants in the upcoming May issue of Molecular Ecology.  The paper, entitled “Highly similar microbial communities are shared among related and trophically similar ant species,” details findings that reveal: (1) clear differences in bacterial communities harbored by predatory and herbivorous ants; (2) notable similarities among communities from distantly related herbivorous ants and (3) similar communities shared by different predatory army ant species.


Associate Curator Bill Parkinson (Anthropology) and his colleague Attila Gyucha (Hungarian National Museum) published an article, entitled “Tells in Perspective: Long-Term Patterns of Settlement Nucleation and Dispersal in Central and Southeast Europe,” in the book Tells: Social and Environmental Space (2012) edited by Robert Hofmann, Fevzi-Kemal Moetz and Johannes Müller. The book, published by Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Bonn includes the proceedings of the International Workshop “Socio-Environmental Dynamics over the Last 12,000 Years: The Creation of Landscapes II (14–18 March 2011)” in Kiel.  The article compares the long-term patterns of early village organization in two parts of Europe—the Great Hungarian Plain in the Carpathian Basin, and the Thessalian Plain in Greece.

Chair and MacArthur Associate Curator Thorsten Lumbsch, Collections Manager Christine Niezgoda and Collections Database Architect Joanna McCaffrey (all Botany) attended the 5th Annual Meeting of the Global Plants Initiative, held in Madrid, Spain from April 9–13.  GPI is an international partnership of herbaria working to create a coordinated database of information and images of plants worldwide with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The Botany Department has received recurring funding from the foundation since 2006, with the most recent award of $92,000 arriving earlier this April.

The Anthropology Department was well represented at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Memphis, TN.  Associate Curator Bill Parkinson presented two invited papers about his research.  One paper, entitled “On the Shoulders of Giants: Regional and Micro-Regional Studies in the Prehistoric Carpathian Basin,” was co-authored by colleagues Attila Gyucha (Hungarian National Museum), Paul R. Duffy (University of Toronto), and Richard W. Yerkes (Ohio State University).  In that paper Bill and his colleagues argued that European archaeology is historically schizophrenic; grand syntheses of the entire continent are created through the narrow perspective offered through the excavation of individual sites.  While such macro-scale syntheses are essential for the discipline of archaeology, they need to be tethered to specific regional and micro-regional studies.  This paper discussed the long history of systematic, intensive, regional studies in the Carpathian Basin and how those earlier survey projects have facilitated more recent micro-regional studies that incorporate cutting-edge research techniques that only recently have become available. Together, these multi-scalar, diachronic, datasets constitute one of the richest archaeological records in the world.  The other paper, co-authored by Paul Duffy and Attila Gyucha, is entitled “From Societal Types to Comparative Regional Trajectories: The Long-Term Dynamics of Prehistoric Villages on The Great Hungarian Plain.”  In this paper Bill and his colleagues focus on societal variation within the Late Neolithic and Middle Bronze Age of the Körös region to argue that using the same methodological approach for both periods allows for a useful comparison of social dynamics at the regional scale. 

                  Regenstein Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Golitko presented two papers co-authored with colleagues, one entitled “Technological, Chronological, and Social Dimensions of Obsidian Acquisition at Tikal, Guatemala” (with H. Moholy-Nagy, J. Meierhoff, and C. Kestle) as well as “Integrating archaeological data toward a better understanding of food plant use in the early northwestern European Neolithic” (with A. Chevalier, A. Salavert, C. Hamon, and D. Bosquet). 

                  Charles Benton Postdoctoral Research Scientist Nicola Sharratt presented herpaper “Ceramic Hybrids and Mutli-ethnicity in the Moquegua Valley.”

            Boone Postdoctoral Research Scientist Lisa Niziolek presented a paper entitled “Ceramics Under the Sea: Pre-modern Maritime Trade in East and Southeast Asia,” which highlighted the Museum's Java Sea Wreck collection, part of the East Asian collections.  The Java Sea Wreck, discovered in Indonesian waters halfway between Bangka and Jakarta,was excavated in 1996 by Pacific Sea Resources.  Half of the collection was given to the Indonesian government and the other half was donated to The Field Museum.  The 13th-century vessel is believed to have been constructed in Indonesia and was carrying international cargo to markets likely located in central Java.  While most of the ship’s cargo was made up of high fired ceramics and iron ingots from China, the vessel was also carrying aromatic resin and unworked elephant tusks from Sumatra, earthenware kendis (spouted vessels used in rituals) from Thailand, and personal items of the crew, including sharpening stones and scale sets.

                  Graduate Research Assistant Matthew Piscitelli presented a paper coauthored with fellow UIC Ph.D. Candidate Sofia Chacaltana, entitled “Using LA-ICP-MS to Observe Imperial and Local Political Dynamics in the Upper Moquegua Valley during Inca Occupation.”  The paper was part of a general session, which Matthew chaired, on Andean Archaeology.  He also served as a discussant in the invited forum entitled “Research in the Field: What to Do and What Not to Do in Running an Archaeological Project” sponsored by the SAA Student Affairs Committee.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County held its first Science and Research Symposium on April 19 at the Lincoln Park Zoo.  The symposium consisted of 25 invited presentations from numerous partnering institutions and agencies, including The Field Museum, the Chicago Botanical Garden and the University of Illinois at Chicago.  The presentations covered a wide range of research projects that have been and are being conducted on land of the Cook County Forest Preserve.  Associate Curator Petra Sierwald (Zoology/Insects) presented an overview on the 1996–2000 Soil Arthropod Diversity Survey in Swallow Cliff, which yielded numerous new spider species records and a new beetle species, Xylodromus suteri, described by Associate Curator Margaret Thayer (Zoology/Insects).  Other presentations ranged from the comprehensive management of wildlife populations in urban areas and disease control to prey-predator relationships between coyotes and Canada geese and invasive species monitoring.  Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle addressed the 200 attendees, stressing the importance of the research for the protection, restoration and management of the region’s fragile biodiversity within its ecosystems.  The symposium demonstrated many close collaborations between museum scientists, faculties of several area universities and colleges, Cook County and Lincoln Park Zoo staff, and many others with a wide range of expertise. 

Collections Manager Paul Mayer (Geology) attended the 46th Annual North-Central Geological Society of America Meeting in Dayton, OH from April 22–24.  Paul presented a paper in the technical section entitled “T20. The Museum as Geological Muse: Outreach, Online Catalogs, Student Internships, and More.”  Paul and summer intern Alexander Layng also presented the paper, “Fossil Invertebrate Website Projects At The Field Museum,” which highlights a variety of outreach projects that use to promote the Fossil Invertebrate collections.  Projects to date include the Silurian reef database project that Alex Layng worked on last summer, the Tully Monster video in The Field Revealed series by Science Media Producer Federico Pardo, and TFM iPad app Specimania.  During the conference a one-day field trip that examined the local paleontology around Dayton, Ohio was conducted.  The rocks around Dayton were deposited during the Ordovician Period (approximately 450 million years old) when a shallow, tropical sea covered much of North America.  The sheer abundance and wonderful preservation of the fossils around Dayton is amazing.  Numerous fossil brachiopods, trilobites, bivalves, gastropods, bryozoans, and corals were seen and discussions about how such large concentrations of fossils could be generated over such large areas were intensely debated. Above Photo: Collected during the field trip a Bedding plane slab from the Ordovician Liberty Formation with some Grewingkia sp. (rugose corals) and over 60 Zygospira sp. (Rhychonellid brachiopods) possibly in life position. 

From April 18–21, Associate Curator Margaret Thayer and Curator Emeritus Al Newton (both Zoology/Insects) visited the Division of Entomology in the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas.  The initial cause of their visit was Margaret’s serving as an external committee member for the Ph.D. oral exam of her former intern Taro Eldredge, who is continuing to study rove beetles (family Staphylinidae) at KU.  Taro was a Museum-sponsored intern in summer 2007, in the middle of his undergraduate years at Cornell.  The trip also provided an opportunity for Al and Margaret to study KU’s substantial staphylinid collection, which was largely built up by late professor and curator Steve Ashe (a Field Museum Curator from 1982–1988), and they found many specimens of interest.  A day of local collecting with Taro near Lawrence was enjoyable and fruitful, but they made the acquaintance of far more lone star ticks than was really necessary.      

Associate Curator Rick Ree (Botany) traveled to Washington, DC on April 21 to give an invited talk in the annual Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, held at the National Museum of Natural History.  The theme of the symposium was “Transforming 21st Century Comparative Biology using Evolutionary Trees,” and Rick gave a talk about how his ongoing research on the phylogeny of Pedicularis (lousewort; wood betony) has yielded insights into reciprocal dynamics in the evolution of species interactions, floral traits, and propensities for species proliferation and extinction.

Associate Curator Bill Parkinson (Anthropology) and colleagues Attila Gyucha (Hungarian National Museum), Paul R. Duffy (University of Toronto), and Richard W. Yerkes (Ohio State University) took a short break from their field work to present an invited paper at a conference entitled “Chronologies, Lithics, and Metals: Late Neolithic and Copper Age in the Eastern Part of the Carpathian Basin and in the Balkans,” which was held in Budapest from March 30–April 1.  Bill and his colleagues presented the results of their ongoing fieldwork project in southeastern Hungary, which centers around the development of the Neolithic tell sites of Vésztő-Mágor and Szeghalom-Kovácshalom. 

Adjunct Curator and Collections Manager Ian Glasspool (Geology) co-authored an article in late March that appeared in Cretaceous Research, entitled “Cretaceous wildfires and their impact
on the Earth system.”  The article was co-authored by colleagues from Royal Holloway University of London and reviews fire events during the Cretaceous Period (145.5 to 65.5 million years ago) and their impacts on ecosystems and the environment.  The article was subsequently picked up by several news agencies including the Chicago Sun-Times, New Scientist Magazine and the science blog io9.

Fieldwork & Collections

Associate Curator Bill Parkinson (Anthropology) returned from over a month of fieldwork in southeastern Hungary, where he and his multi-disciplinary team  were investigating how 7,000 year-old villages grew into complex proto-urban centers (see header image).  The team explored the Neolithic village complex of Szeghalom-Kovácshalom in the Körös River valley, where they conducted excavations, surface surveys, and many forms of geophysical prospection to understand how the settlement was established and grew over time to a size of over 60 hectares before it was abandoned during the 5th millennium BC.  Bill blogged about his work, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Women’s Board’s Field Dreams Program, on The Field Museum’s revamped Expeditions website.

Adjunct Curator and Paleobotany Collections Manager Ian Glasspool (Geology) traveled to Pennsylvania State University in late March to take receipt of a major collection from Professor A. Traverse comprising about 8,000 slides and 5,000 residues preserving modern and fossil pollen and spores.  These specimens were used extensively by Traverse in compiling his textbook Paleopalynolgy that deals with palynological identification and classification and that has been
cited in about 550 scientific articles.


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