Blogs & Videos: Field Work

Aerial view of dense green treetops

A big step in the 300-year quest to find every tree species in the Amazon

How many different kinds of trees grow in the Amazon? This may sound like an impossible question to answer—we’re talking about the most biodiverse rainforest on Earth. Hundreds of thousands of different plants and animals live there, with more being discovered every year.

A coastline with cliffs, green hills, and blue water with a small sailboat

Window to the past: Alepotrypa Cave

Alepotrypa Cave is like a time capsule of life in Neolithic Greece. The cave lay undisturbed for 5,000 years before it was rediscovered in the 1950s, and Greek archaeologists started excavating the cave in the 1970s. Since 2010, Field Museum associate curator Bill Parkinson has collaborated with archaeologists in Greece to understand the significance of this space.

Crystal and her Water Beetles

Want to travel the world? Become a biologist! Crystal Maier - Collections Manager of Insects at The Field Museum - spent a month in New Zealand, going from stream to stream in search of hobbits. And by hobbits I mean beetles that spend their entire lives underwater. How?! Why?! We get answers. Thanks to Crystal for taking the time to talk with us about her research! 

Periods + Fieldwork

Field work can be the most exciting part of research science, but unfortunately there aren't a lot of resources for adventurers when it comes to managing your period in oftentimes remote locations, which can lead to a lot of nervousness about your upcoming trip. Never fear! We talked with a number of experienced field scientists in order to compile some tips and tricks to help you plan for the next adventure. Explore on!

Born from the Ashes

You know that part in Game of Thrones where the dragon eggs hatch when they’re put in fire? This is like that, but with a super-endangered flower. Illinois’s only native wildflower, the Kankakee mallow, has been missing from this state for years—it was presumed extinct in its native habitat. But this year, Field Museum scientists and volunteers from the Friends of Langham Island group were able to bring it back. Their secret? Setting fire to the ground where the plants once lived.

Tea Parties, Bird Barf, and Rat Skulls

At tea parties, etiquette is key. You need to know which spoon to use, whether to pour the milk or the tea first, and, when a fellow scientist hands you an owl pellet for your research, how to graciously accept it and dissect it right there at the table. Field Museum collections manager Bill Stanley was at a garden tea party in Tanzania when a colleague handed him a coffee can containing an owl pellet for him to study. The hacked-up mass of fur and bones contained the key to a scientific discovery—the skull of a rat never before seen in the region.

Birds get malaria, too

Just like people, birds have the misfortune of being visited by a variety of blood-sucking insects, insects that can transmit all manner of parasites through their bites. Some of those parasites, including ones related to human malaria, come in the form of haemosporidia--single-celled protozoans that take up residence in their host's bloodstream. Using modern lab techniques, scientists are now able to discover the diversity of these parasites living in the bloodstream of wild birds by isolating their DNA from the blood of infected birds.

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