Vertebrates

Kilimanjaro's Small Mammals

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has captured the imagination for decades, and climbing it is one of the most common items on the proverbial bucket list.  “Kili” is not only the tallest mountain in Africa, it is the tallest free-standing (isolated and not part of a mountain range) massif in the world.  Thousands of climbers ascend Kilimanjaro every year, trekking through multiple habitat zones to reach the summit which is 5895 m (19571 feet) above sea level. 

How many trees are there in the Amazon?

A couple of weeks ago some colleagues and I wrote a paper in Science reporting some new findings on Amazonian forests. Some of the findings are actually just numbers, and one of those numbers is really big. It's the number of trees we think probably grow in the Amazon, and it's 390 billion.

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. 

What do researchers want?

Nina Cummings, who ably heads our photo archives in the museum shared with me an interesting blog post she saw recently.  It was from The Library of Congress and was written by Bill LeFurgy, their digital initiatives manager of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.  The title of the blog post was “What do researchers want from institutions that preserve digital content?”  Here at the museum we are working through our digital initiatives so the post resonated on several fronts.  The opening statement included this: “User expectations influence so much of what stewardship organizations do. We collect and preserve all content primarily to support use.” 

Video: The Birds and the Trees

Are condors more closely related to hawks or to storks?  New research constantly changes our understanding of how birds are related to each other.  At the Field Museum, Shannon Hackett, John Bates, and Dave Willard keep close eyes on avian systematics, the study of evolutionary relationships among birds.  In the past few years, Shannon has collaborated with researchers from other institutions on the Early Bird project to ask big-picture question of how all birds fit on the avian tree of life.

The Chimney Swifts are back

I spent Saturday morning, April 27, 2013, sitting outside with a cup of coffee going over page proofs for our Art of Migration book featuring Peggy MacNamara’s beautiful artwork which soon will be published by University of Chicago press.  It was fun sitting outside looking through the text even though I still eventually got cold enough to need to go back inside.  All around me were signs of what I was reading about. 

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.

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