DNA

Sawfish “Virgin Birth” Discovery

“Life, uh, finds a way.” Any Field Museum fan worth their salt probably remembers the scene in Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum’s character explains that even though all the dinosaurs in the park are female, they might still find a way to reproduce. But this isn’t science fiction—Field Museum scientists have recently helped discover that smalltooth sawfish, critically endangered shark relatives, sometimes reproduce through “virgin birth.”

Species in a world that thinks there is a clear division between basic and applied science

Humans are an inconsistent lot, but you would think that might not apply as much when it comes to science, and yet it does.  Even in science are still plenty of ways in which topics lead to opposing and confused viewpoints.  Around my institution these days the terms “applied” and “basic” science are being kicked around at the same time we are discussing “species” as a theme that cuts across research programs. 

North American Ornithology: Past, present, and future comes to Chicago

The Field Museum and the Palmer House served as the meeting sites for 650 ornithologists from August 13-17.  These were joint meetings of the two largest North American ornithological societies, the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society.  

Ornithologists from The Field Museum play major role in discovery and description of new species

I adopted the following from something I submitted to the Museum's Science and Education News several weeks ago.  The photo is one of only a handful of specimens of the recently described Tsingy Rail (Canirallus beankaensis) in the world (see below).  It is a roadkilled bird that was obtained by Steve Goodman (given to him in Madagascar) and it will eventually be given to our dermestid beetles for the cleaning necessary for it to be what is probably the only skeleton of this species in the world's museums. 

One of the most interesting things learned about birds in 2012

For our 2013 Members’ Nights at the museum, I decided to include specimens of two birds, Cinereous Mourner (Laniocera hypopyrra) and Brazilian Laniisoma (Laniisoma elegans) in what I brought out to show people.  Humans have too little time or appreciation for natural history these days, but sometimes, someone discovers something that is so cool that people need to hear about it.  These birds illustrate an example of that.

Science at FMNH : Ep. 47 - DNA Residency Showcase

For the past two summers, youth who participated in the DNA Research Summer Residency planned, filmed, and edited short videos on the genetic research they conducted with Museum scientists.  All participants were trained in molecular biology laboratory methods and equipment used in The Field Museum’s Pritzker Lab/Rice DNA Discovery Center, gathered data relevant to current research programs, and learned about all aspects of the scientific method.

Answers and mysteries from DNA sequences

Before Post-doctoral fellow Michel Valim returned to Brazil several weeks ago there was one of those days that illustrated to me, once again, why molecular data are so special.  They are one big part answers and can still harbor mysteries unsolved.  The answers came from Josh Engel who has been working hard gathering data on genetic structure in birds of the Albertine Rift for our MacArthur Foundation grant.

A beautiful Fall Friday night at the museum

Friday evening at the museum there is a Happy Hour for any staff and others working in the museum. It take place in the Zoology Classroom, and it is a great way to end the week and get to know more about what is happening at the museum. The conversations always are different depending on who comes and who you have time to talk to. People come from all parts of the museum such as Institutional Advancement, Exhibits, Information Technology, Environmental and Conservation Programs, and the four research departments.

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