Staff & Student News

Resident Graduate Student Dave Clarke (Zoology/Insects) was recently notified that he will be the 2011 recipient of the Jean Theodore Lacordaire Prize, awarded annually by The Coleopterists Society for the best published monograph based upon a Ph.D. dissertation.  This prestigious award recognizes the finest work by young Coleopterists and represents attainment of the highest achievement among the international community of scientists working on the biology and evolution of beetles.  The title of Dave’s monograph was “Testing the phylogenetic utility of morphological character systems, with a revision of Creophilus Leach (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae)" and was published last November in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.”  The award includes a cash prize and a plaque that will be presented to Dave at this November’s Annual Meeting of The Coleopterists Society, held in conjunction with the Entomological Society of America conference in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Research & Publications

This summer saw the publication of the first major bivalve phylogeny from Zoology Curator Rüdiger Bieler’s Bivalve-Tree-of-Life project.  Entitled “Phylogenetic analysis of four nuclear protein-encoding genes largely corroborates the traditional classification of Bivalvia (Mollusca),” the multi-authored paper in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution showed that the analysis of nuclear protein-encoding genes corroborated earlier hypotheses based on data from morphology and nuclear ribosomal genes and is in stark contrast to recently published assumptions of basal relationships that were based on mitochondrial gene analyses.  Ph.D. student Prashant Sharma served as lead author of this analysis, which can be found here.

MacArthur Curator Bruce Patterson (Zoology/Mammals) recently co-authored two articles on parasites.  The first, in the Journal of Parasitology with Agustín Jimenez of SIU-Carbondale, was entitled “A new species of Pterygodermatites (Nematoda: Rictulariidae) from the Incan shrew opossum, Lestoros inca.”  It describes a new species of roundworm from an order of marsupials that are restricted to the Andes Mountains—both the opossums and worms were collected during the Manu Expeditions (1999–2001), bringing the number of publications based on those collections to 56.  The second article, with Zoology Research Associate Carl Dick (Western Kentucky University) and colleagues from Ben-Gurion University in Israel, appeared in PLoS One and was entitled “Effects of anthropogenic disturbance and climate on patterns of bat fly parasitism.”  It examines the bat-bat fly host-parasite system for a pattern common among fleas and ticks: increased prevalence and intensity with habitat and climate change caused by humans.  But unlike more general parasites, bat flies are strictly host specific and their distribution and abundance on bats appear unfazed by human activities.  Both articles can be accessed here.

Curator Gary Feinman (Anthropology) is co-author of an article that recently appeared on the website of the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.  The article, entitled “Cooperation and Collective Action in the Cultural Evolution of Complex Societies” is co-authored with David M. Carballo (Boston University) and Paul Roscoe (Maine-Orono), and will be published in the journal at a later date.  The authors make the case that investigations of the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation and collective action provide productive venues for theorizing social complexity, yet this multidisciplinaryscholarship contains analytical and epistemological tensions that require reconciliation.  They propose a course for integration of this diverse literature to investigate the emergence and developmental trajectories of complex societies.  Greater attention to collective action problems, cultural mechanisms that promote cooperation, differentiation of human interests, and multiscalar research designs provide firmer conceptual underpinnings for a theoretically grounded cultural evolutionary framework.  The case of agricultural intensification in pre-Hispanic highland Mexico is used to illustrate major points of the paper.


Associate Nina Sandlin (Zoology/Insects) attended the 36th Annual meeting of the American Arachnological Society during July 20–24 in Green Bay, WI.  Nina “live-tweeted” the conference and created a compilation of posts at Storify for those who could not attend.  Nina also brought back a rare book, a gift to The Field Museum Library from lifelong spider researcher and classical languages scholar Don Cameron.  The book, Histoire Naturelle des Araignées by early French arachnologist Eugène Simon, is in its original 1864 binding and contains classical Greek etymologies of the species names, is inscribed by the author and subsequently by American arachnologist B.J. Kaston.

Resident Graduate Student Nate Upham (University of Chicago and Zoology/Mammals) attended the Society for Conservation Biology’s 1st North America Congress in Oakland, CA from July 15–18, where he presented a poster entitled “Biogeography and conservation of Cuba’s endemic non-flying mammals”.  The poster was co-authored with Rafael Borroto-Páez of the Instituto de Ecología y Sistemática in Havana, who was a Visiting Scientist at the Field Museum last November.  An effort was made to summarize extinctions in Cuba during the past 12,000 years (67% of the native rats, sloths, and shrews), and then highlight the current distribution, diversification patterns, and conservation threats for the 10 living species of rodents and one species of solenodon.  Invasive mammals and habitat loss were pinpointed as the areas of greatest concern.  To download this poster, please click here.

Photo: The hutia conga, Capromys pilorides, one of the 11 remaining native mammal species in Cuba (photo by Julio A. Larramendi).

Resident Graduate Student Nate Upham (University of Chicago and Zoology/Mammals) visited the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology’s mammal collections at UC Berkeley from July 9–13.  This visit focused on photographing rodent specimens in the MVZ’s extensive Neotropical collections for an element of Nate’s dissertation that examines how jaw shape has changed over the past 25 million years in a diverse group of rodents.  Fossil rodent jaws at the UC Museum of Paleontology, downstairs from the MVZ, also contributed to this data collection effort and will help shed light on this question.  See header photo: Skull of a chinchilla rat, Abrocoma bennettii, collected in Chile (photo by Nate Upham).  

Zoology’s Division of Amphibians and Reptiles saw a flurry of activity over the past few weeks.  In mid-July, Research Associate John C. Murphy, Field Associate Tom Anton, and Intern Gabriel Hast returned from a month-long collecting and research trip to Trinidad and Tobago.  Additionally, colleague John R. McCranie returned from Honduras and his second collecting trip for The Field Museum.

Fieldwork & Collections

In July 1909, a team of biologists from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) at the University of California-Berkeley, led by Walter P. Taylor, traveled to the Pine Forest Range in north-central Nevada to conduct the first survey of the mammals of the region, and documented their results in detail.  From June 27–July 2, Curator Larry Heaney (Zoology/Mammals), Eric Rickart (Natural History Museum of Utah), Rebecca Rowe (Univ. New Hampshire), and Jim Patton (MVZ) returned to the Pine Forest Range, located the precise areas where the 1909 survey was conducted (see matching photos from 1909 and 2012), and replicated the sampling.  Preliminary analyses of the results indicate that reductions in grazing intensity and increases in fire frequency since 1909 have caused changes in the relative abundance of many mammal species, and the current drought that is associated with global climate change is stressing nearly all species.  This survey is part of a long-term study that utilizes the unique perspectives on biological change made possible by museum collections that are accompanied by detailed field data from past.

Library & Information Science graduate student Gina De Keersmaecker completed pre-processing an archival collection entitled The Rolf Singer Papers 1968–1994.  Contents of this collection included Singer’s research notes on fungi and mushrooms, correspondence, articles, and other items.  Gina’s tasks included a preliminary analysis of the contents, re-housing the papers into folders, researching biographical information about Singer, organizing the folders alphabetically, placing them into series, weeding out duplicate and previously published items, and creating a finding aid for the collection.  This was done as a 25-hour special project for her practicum class for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Public Education & Media Coverage

Every other Friday, The Field Museum will be posting a new podcast from the new What the Fish?  series, check out the latest episode, from August 3!  The podcasts dive into various topics surrounding the biodiversity of fishes, including discussions on their general biology, ecology, and evolution.  Join the fish nerds— Assistant Curator Leo Smith, Postdoctoral Research Scientist Matthew Davis, Consultant and Volunteer Eric Ahlgren (all Zoology/Fishes) and Outreach Coordinator Beth Sanzenbacher (BioSynC)—as they banter, debate, quip, and explore fishy subject matters that range from the ponds and streams near your home to the deepest recesses of the ocean  Please follow  on Twitter and tweet your fishy questions @FM_WhatTheFish or email at  The podcasts are also available at iTunes here.

On July 27, C&R Media Interns Jared Berent and Kate Webbink released a new The Field Revealed episode A Century of Butterflies & Moths, featuring Collection Manager Jim Boone (Zoology/Insects).  Jim takes the viewer on a tour through the Herman Strecker Butterfly and Moth Collection, exploring the history of the collection and some its most interesting specimens.

Social Media Strategist Jane Hanna is happy to report that The Field Museum was recently included in a list of 11 Nonprofits Who Excel at Social Media!  The Field was the only museum included among a peer group of international heavy hitters including Amnesty International, UNICEF, and PETA.  The article was widely shared and retweeted in the blogosphere and is proof that recent efforts to tell the behind-the-scenes stories of our collections and research efforts through features like Insect of the Week and Herp Day are capturing attention worldwide!  Many thanks to the curators and collections managers who collaborate with Jane weekly to produce this outstanding effort!

Assistant Collection Manager Kathleen Kelly (Zoology/Amphibians & Reptiles) led a herpetology collection tour for a group of students and chaperones participating in Project Exploration on July 24.   Project Exploration was founded by Gabrielle Lyon and Paul Sereno to “ensure communities traditionally overlooked by science—particularly minority youth and girls—have access to personalized experiences with science and scientists.”"  Students toured the wet collection, lab facilities, and cryogenics storage room, and learned about museum collections in preparation for an upcoming dig in Wyoming.   The same day, Collection Manager Alan Resetar (Zoology/Amphibians & Reptiles) met with biologist Kimberly Schmidt.  Schmidt is a Zoology Master’s student at Southern Illinois University.  She uses radio-telemetry to assess the population dynamics and habitat use of ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata) for the Nature Conservancy.  The Division also hosted Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Greenway, avid divers who were eager to share their underwater photography during a lunchtime presentation to interested staff and students on July 20. 

Zoology’s Division of Amphibians and Reptiles hosted several researchers throughout the month of July, including Dr. Thomas Frazzetta from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Dr. Steven Poe from the Museum of Southwestern Biology in Albequerque, NM and Sébastien Huertas, a geology graduate student from Paris.  Frazzetta utilized the Division's collection of snake skulls, Poe collected data from type specimens of the lizard genus Anolis and Huertas chose salamander specimens that will be loaned to his adviser for bone histology.