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. Tonight it was wonderful to see Francie Muraski Stotz, who is recovering from a serious stroke, talking to all the people who are so glad to see her back on her feet. Her husband Doug brought her in and he and I talked about the possibility that she might be able to come up to Blanchardville, Wisconsin in December when we do the Christmas Bird Count there.

People were remembering stories about Curator Emeritus of Geology Bill Turnbull, who died last Wednesday at the age of 89. Bill started his association with the museum in 1946, and until recently, Bill and his wife Hedy were regular attendees at museum seminars. Lance Grande told me about a new fossil bird from Wyoming that Connie Van Beek in the Geology Prep Lab has just finished, I have got to go see it next week. I met Arista Tischner, an undergraduate working with Corrie Moreau in Insects and Andy Wilson, a mycologist who is a post-doctoral fellow at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Andy and Collections & Research Administrative Coordinator Kasey Mennie are going run in the Chicago Marathon this Sunday.

I talked shop with Dave Willard and Tom Gnoske. We are submitting an NSF grant for new specimen cases late next week and we are always trying to think of ways to make the proposal better. Lora Nickels, a Major Gifts Officer from Institutional Advancement and I talked about the need to choose who will present at the Africa Council’s end of year dinner. Bruce Patterson and Steve Strohmeier talked about African students being supported by the African Training Fund. Josh Engel told me that the toe pad samples from 100 year-old specimens of Albertine Rift birds sequenced well for the some of new primers he has developed. This means he got DNA sequences from the toepads and not we can begin to look at whether or not there has been genetic change in modern samples from this region of Africa.

That is just a few of the conversations; just another interesting and productive Friday Happy Hour in the Zoo Classroom. The photo is one I took as I left museum. Even the walk out to the parking lot was fun tonight. When I came out the west door, I looked up towards the highest building across Lake Shore Drive from the museum and saw a dark object above the building, staying in one place against the evening sky. My first thought was one of those foil balloons, then, since it was not moving, I wondered if someone could be flying a kite off the top of the building. Luckily, I realized I had my binoculars in my backpack. I rummaged around, found them and looked up to see the object had still stayed put. I focused and was rewarded with long pointed wings, stout body, and long straight tail, the unmistakable silhouette of a Peregrine Falcon, black against wispy clouds that were turning orange with the sunset. The bird did not move its wings at all, but continued to hold it position. I am not sure how long I watched it maybe just 20 seconds or so. It finally began to drift a little, I put my binoculars away looked back up and it was gone. I headed for the Soldier Field Parking Garage, what great way to end the day.