Council on Africa

View of mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A small camp is just visible in the center.

The Field Museum’s century–long association with Africa is one devoted to exploring, communicating, and preserving Africa’s spectacular natural and cultural legacy and the Council on Africa is an important collaborator in the Museum’s efforts across the continent.

Members of the Council on Africa have a unique opportunity to work closely with scientists at The Field Museum and support their research financially. All contributions to the Council on Africa are pooled in a restricted fund at the Museum, and Steering Committee members meet semiannually to vote on how to allocate the resources.

The group considers proposals from anthropologists, botanists, geologists, and zoologists at the Museum and funds those which they deem most able to make a contribution to scientific knowledge and a positive impact in Africa. The most recent meeting was help on May 23, 2017, during which six grants were awarded, for a total of $23,455. Associate Curator John Bates and Council Chairperson Nancy McDaniel are pleased to announce the Council's latest awards:

  • Dr. Jean-Louis JUAKALY MBUMBA, a professor at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, working with Associate Curator Petra Sierwald, received support for “Rapid assessment protocol for spiders and millipedes: collection of repeatable universally comparable data in D.R.C./Congo Basin.” ($2245)

  • Sospeter Kibiwot, a doctoral student studying with Research Associate Paul Webala at the University of Eldoret as well as Curator of Mammals Bruce Patterson, received support for the project “Effects of forest degradation on bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) at South and North Nandi forests, western Kenya.” ($6000)

  • Dr. Jasson John, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam working with Research Associate Norberto (Nobby) Cordeiro of Roosevelt University, received support for “A cryptic bird species in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania: fiction or fact?” This genetics-based study will be pursued in the Museum’s Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution. ($1900)

  • Nduhiu Gitahi, a doctoral student at Kenyatta University working with Assistant Collections Manager Thomas Gnoske and Adjunct Curator Julian Kerbis Peterhans of Roosevelt University, received support for “Analysis of the diet of the ‘Man-eaters of Tsavo’ through direct examination of the hairs of prey found embedded in their teeth.” ($4710)

  • Jacob C. Cooper , a doctoral student-in-residence studying with John Bates as part of University of Chicago's Committee on Evolutionary received support for “An Ornithological Inventory of the Bakossi Mountains, Cameroon.” This marks the first time that Council on Africa funding will go to research in that Central African country. ($3500)

  • Kenneth Otieno Onditi, a doctoral student at the National Museums of Kenya & Kunming Institute Zoology, China, working with Postdoctoral Fellow Terry Demos, received support for “Species limits of the gray brush-furred mouse species complex (Lophuromys aquilus) in Kenya” ($5100)

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Since 2006, The Council on Africa has contributed over $460,000 to 80 capacity-building and scientific projects in 13 countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. These grants have gone to 28 African scientists and graduate students, 28 Field Museum staff members and research associates, 18 U.S.-based graduate students, and have helped fund five training courses in four countries. 

The Council on Africa funds a broad range of projects from scientist training to seed funding of research to conservation efforts. See below for examples of each type of project funded by the Council on Africa.

Scientist training

  • Two Malawian museum professionals came to The Field Museum as a result of a Council on Africa funded project led by Dan Brinkmeier and Tom Gnoske to be trained in specimen preparation, museum interpretation, and exhibit production techniques. This training was the first step leading to the development of a planned new natural history museum in Malawi.

Biodiversity/Conservation 

  • Norbert Cordeiro, Field Museum research associate and professor at Roosevelt University, explored if trees change sex in order to counter barriers against reproduction due to deforestation in the East Usambara Mountains in Tanzania.

Expanding Scientific Knowledge

  • Council on Africa funding made it possible for Field Museum scientist Julian Kerbis, Research Associate Sushma Reddy, and Cornell University Graduate Student (now University of Chicago and Field Museum post-doc) Holly Lutz. to conduct inventories of small mammals and birds of Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, an exciting extension of ongoing long-term survey work across montane Africa. Federico Pardo made an award-winning short film about the expedition.

Seed Funding

  • The late Bill Stanley and Julian Kerbis's longtime field work surveying small mammals in Tanzania and the Albertine Rift led to a National Science Foundation grant of $500,000, which would not have been possible without the Council on Africa's contribution to the project that enabled its beginnings. This 3-year project, in collaboration with Jake Esselstyn of Lousisiana State University, is investigating the diversity, relationships, and biogeography in one of the most species-rich and least-studied mammalian clades—the Crocidurinae, a subfamily of Old World shrews.

petra_juakale_crop.jpg

Dr. Jean-Louis JUAKALY MBUMBA, professor at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, working at the Field Museum with Associate Curator Petra Sierwald, received support from the Council on Africa for their project “Rapid assessment protocol for spiders and millipedes: collection of repeatable universally comparable data in D.R.C./Congo Basin.”

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Council on Africa members receive many rewarding benefits by providing a minimum gift of $2,500. Detailed membership levels and benefits are described below:

 $3,000 – Steering committee

  • Attend semiannual funding meetings with voting privileges
  • Invitations to exclusive Museum exhibition previews
  • Gift publication
  • Personalized behind-the-scenes tour by request
  • All general membership benefits

$2,500 – General membership

  • Invitations to three programs annually featuring Field Museum scientists
  • Invitation to Year-End Dinner
  • Recognition in Museum annual reports
  • Periodic email updates on African field work
  • Council on Africa members participate in many exciting events throughout the year. Membership benefits include invitations to exclusive exhibition previews, personalized behind the scenes tours, and receptions featuring Field Museum scientists. See below for examples of past events and also for upcoming events.

Past Council on Africa Events

  • Conserving Lions: Genetic, Landscape, and Economic Perspectives - Dr. Bruce Patterson shared facts he and his colleagues uncovered concerning the forces that are endangering lions and avenues that may help save them. 
  • Social Networks of Mobile Money in Kenya - Dr. Sibel Kusimba, Associate Professor of Anthropology, shared her team's research to understand the social relationships that are created and revealed in mobile money flows.
  • Africa: A Day In The Life - Council on Africa members, Rene' and Bruce Lauer, discussed a program they offer to U.S. students that provides an overview of the typical experiences of children their own age living in Africa.  
  • Gorillas, Guerillas, and Greenbuls: Studying Avian Diversification and Conservation in the African Lowland Rainforest - Dr. Ben Marks, Collections Manager of Birds, discussed recent studies of geographic variation in widespread birds inhabiting the west African and Congo Basin lowland rainforests that suggest we may be vastly underestimating diversity in the Afrotopics. 

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The Field Museum’s century–long association with Africa is one devoted to exploring, communicating and preserving Africa’s spectacular natural and cultural legacy. The Council on Africa is an important collaborator in the Museum’s efforts across the continent. Below is a list of Field Museum staff and associates that have recently received support from the Council or are actively involved with research in Africa.

Curators

Current Staff

Current students - U. S. Institutions

Other associated researchers

  • Nobert (Nobby) Cordeiro
  • Noé de la Sancha
  • Julian Kerbis
  • Holly Lutz
  • Dylan Maddox
  • Steffen Pauls
  • Sushma Reddy
  • Jason Weckstein
  • Thomas Wesener
  • David Willard

Recent Alumni from U. S. Institutions

  • Rahul Oka (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Brandon Kilbourne (University of Chicago)
  • Muhammad Abu Baker (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Michael Huhndorf (Illinois State University
  • Colin LeJeune (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Lucinda Lawson (University of Chicago)
  • Carrie Seltzer (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Terry Demos (City University of New York)
  • Nick Block (University of Chicago)
  • Matthew Heinz (University of Chicago)
  • Mel Askay (Jonas) (Illinois State University)
  • Luca Borghesio (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Collaborating Institutions in Africa

Join us today to help continue The Field Museum's century-long association with Africa, devoted to exploring, communicating, and preserving Africa's spectacular natural and cultural legacy. Council on Africa members support exciting capacity-building projects, making it possible for The Field Museum to train young African scientists and support research endeavors across the continent.

For more information about the Council on Africa email us or call (312) 665-7730.