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.

Since 2006, The Council on Africa has contributed over $400,000 to 74 capacity-building and scientific projects in 10 countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Madagascar.

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.


  • 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 scientists Julian Kerbis, Research Associate Sushma Reddy, and Cornell University Graduate Student 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

  • 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.

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. 

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 that work in Africa.


Current Staff

Students - U. S. Institutions

  • Edna Davion (University of Chicago)

Other associated researchers

  • Thomas Wesener
  • Jason Weckstein
  • Steffen Pauls
  • Nobert Cordeiro
  • Carl Dick
  • David Willard
  • Dan Brinkmeier
  • George Mugambi
  • Julian Kerbis
  • Rahul Oka
  • Al Newton
  • Bob Inger
  • Colin Lejeune
  • Stephanie Moormann

Recent Alumni from U. S. Institutions

  • Brandon Kilbourne (University of Chicago)
  • Muhammad Abu Baker (University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • Michael Huhndorf (Illinois State University
  • 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.

Travel to Africa with Field Museum Tours

Scientists at The Field Museum have conducted field work throughout Africa for over a century. Field Museum Tours offers you a chance to visit Africa with those scientists. Currently we offer an annual trip in February to the great parks of Tanzania with Bill Stanley, head of the Gantz Family Collections Center and Tanzania expert.

Past Trips to Africa with Field Museum Tours include...

  • Tanzania Migration Safari
  • The Road to Timbuktu & Coastal West Africa
  • Egypt's Hidden Treasures
  • Ultimate Madagascar
  • The Best of Kenya: A Luxury Safari
  • The Best of Botswana and Zimbabwe

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