Collections and Research News for the Week of October 26, 2012
Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects) gave an invited seminar as the Distinguished Michener Speaker on October 23 at the University of Kansas. This annual seminar series was created to honor Dr. Charles Michener, well know for his work on bees and social evolution, upon his retirement in 1989 although he is still active and continues to publish scientific papers and books. During this visit, Corrie met with numerous faculty including Charles Michener (photo included). She also spent time in the entomological collections at KU helping to curate their ant collections. Image left: Charles Michener and Corrie Moreau at the Distinguished Michener dinner at the University of Kansas Adams Alumni Center.… More
Assistant Curator Corrie Moreau (Zoology/Insects) gave an invited seminar as the Distinguished Michener Speaker on October 23 at the University of Kansas. This annual seminar series was created to honor Dr. Charles Michener, well know for his work on bees and social evolution, upon his retirement in 1989 although he is still active and continues to publish scientific papers and books. During this visit, Corrie met with numerous faculty including Charles Michener (photo included). She also spent time in the entomological collections at KU helping to curate their ant collections. Image left: Charles Michener and Corrie Moreau at the Distinguished Michener dinner at the University of Kansas Adams Alumni Center.
The Geology Department attended the Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Raleigh, NC (October 17–20) in force. Rowe Family Curator Olivier Rieppel co-authored three papers read at the meeting: ‘Two new Early Triassic marine reptiles from Chaohu, Anhui Province, South China”; “A long-snouted protorosaurian from the Middle Triassic of southern China”; and “Assembling the squamate tree of life: perspectives from the phenotype and the fossil record.” The latter talk presented a summary of Olivier’s NSF-funded interdisciplinary project researching the phylogenetic interrelationships of lizards and snakes; the results of which were published under the same title in the April Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History. Associate Curator Ken Angielczyk was an author on six talks/posters, including his platform presentation “Do tetrapod herbivores matter? Ecosystem robustness, Olson's community types, and the primacy of insects.” Associate Curator and Chair Peter Makovicky co-authored three talks including his presentation “Ceratopsians didn't just get big: evidence for dwarfism in Psittacosaurus.” Resident Graduate Student Jonathan Mitchell gave a talk entitled “Paleoecology of the Jehol Birds: Inferences from Modern Bird Ecomorphology,” covering part of his dissertation research, while Chief Preparator Akiko Shinya was co-author on a poster presenting a new portable device for sharpening prep tools.
Geology staff were also heavily involved with committee service at the meeting. Collection Manager Bill Simpson is now the senior co-chair of the Preparator Committee; Akiko Shinya serves on that committee as well as the Information Management Committee. Ken Angielczyk served on the Romer prize committee, which is charged with selecting the best graduate student presentation, while recent department graduate and Research Associate Rudd Sadleir served on the media liaison committee.
October 18 was a memorable day for Curator Emeritus John Bolt. On that day a group of his colleagues from the Museum and around the country lured John and his wife Joanie to a surprise dinner party at the SVP meeting. At the gathering a celebratory volume (festschrift) dedicated to John’s scientific accomplishments, leadership, and collegiality was presented to him. Four years in production, the volume of eleven papers by 31 authors recently published in Fieldiana was a complete surprise (“Studies in Vertebrate Paleobiology—Essays in Honor of John R. Bolt,” in Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences by Lombard, R. E., J. Anderson, M. Ruta, and S. S. Sumida.). John was a member of the curatorial staff from 1972 until his retirement in 2008 and chair of Geology from 1981–1990. His research has significantly added to the understanding of the evolution of early tetrapods and the origin of modern amphibians and he continues his research at the Museum to this day. The individual contributed papers―and a Dedication that reviews John’s science; leadership in his field and at the Museum; his contributions to the collections and exhibits; and his collegiality that has benefited many―are available on BioOne here. Olivier contributed a paper on the evolution of feeding mechanics in snakes to the Festschrift (“Regressed” macrostomatan snakes, from Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences). Ken co-authored a paper with former Meeker post-doc Marcello Ruta (University of Lincoln) entitled “The roots of amphibian morphospace: a geometric morphometric analysis of temnospondyls” in which we examined patterns of skull shape variation in the group. Peter contributed a chapter describing a new, tiny theropod form the Cretaceous of Argentina, with two Argentinean co-authors, Sebastián Apesteguía and Federico A. Gianechini, entitled “A New Coelurosaurian Theropod from the La Buitrera Fossil Locality of Río Negro, Argentina,” from Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences.
Last but not least, the 6th Annual SVP Tidy Bowl between AMNH and FMNH was played on the afternoon of October 19th. FMNH went up early 2–0, but AMNH countered quickly. Team Fieldiana never relinquished the lead, but never lead by more than 2 until the AMNH tied the game 8–8 in the final minutes. In the last two drives of the game, Team Fieldiana scored a touchdown. AMNH put up a fight marching down the field in their final drive, but gave up an interception in the end zone, leaving the final score 9–8. The overall series is now 4-2 (AMNH lead), but the coveted “Cope Cup” trophy (on display in Geology) has been returned to Chicago for the second year running. More significantly, the game was played without major injury.
Associate Curator and Chair Ryan Williams (Anthropology) published a chapter in the catalog for the new Cleveland Museum of Art exhibit Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes. Ryan’s chapter, co-authored with Gordon McEwan, is entitled The Built Environment: Landscape and Architecture of Empire. The exhibit opens in Cleveland on October 27 and is curated by Sue Bergh.
Adjunct Curator James Phillips (Anthropology) presented a lecture in the Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany on October 16. The lecture dealt with the recent re-dating of his archaeological sites in Sinai, which indicate that the earliest Upper Paleolithic tradition in the World is dated to 48,000 years ago.
A. Watson Armour Curator Bob Martin (Anthropology) is cited in an online commentary by Ann Gibbons in Science Now. The commentary reports on a study just published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Brazilian neuroscientists Suzana Herculano-Houzel and Karina Fonseca-Azevedo. Their study examined energy requirements of the brain in relation to time spent feeding each day. It is argued that great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans) are unable to have larger brains because they are unable to consume sufficient food in the time available during the day. Herculano-Houzel and Fonseca-Azevedo calculated that, if humans were obliged to eat only unprocessed raw food, they would have to spend more than nine hours a day eating to obtain enough energy for their brains, which are three times larger than in great apes. So it is proposed that the cooking of food was essential for the evolution of the very large human brain, neatly complementing a hypothesis proposed a decade ago by Harvard University primatologist Richard Wrangham, according to which the brain began to expand rapidly 1.6–1.8 million years ago in Homo erectus. In fact, Bob Martin proposed over 30 years ago that energy supply was crucial to the evolution of the human brain, although he emphasized its significance in relation to brain development fueled by maternal resources rather than in connection with the requirements of the adult brain. Gibbons cites Bob as follows in her commentary:
“Paleoanthropologist Robert Martin of The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, agrees that the new paper does ‘provide the first evidence that metabolic limitations’ from a raw food diet impose a limit on how big a primate’s brain—or body—can grow. 'This could account for small brain sizes of great apes despite their large body sizes.’ But ‘the jury is still out’ on whether cooking was responsible for the first dramatic burst of brain growth in our lineage, in H. erectus, Martin says, or whether our ancestors began cooking over a fire later, when the brain went through a second major growth spurt about 600,000 years ago. Hearths show up in the archaeological record 800,000 years ago and the regular use of fire for cooking doesn't become widespread until more recently.”
Adjunct Curator James Phillips (Anthropology) organized a symposium in memory of Robert L. Hall, Field Museum Research Associate and Professor Emeritus at UIC at the Midwest Archaeological Conference at Michigan State University on October 20. Professor Emeritus and Research Associate James Brown (Northwestern University/Anthropology), Collections Manager Jamie Kelly (Anthropology) and seven other scholars presented papers about their work with Bob Hall or on how Hall’s research influenced their own research. Image Right: Field Museum Research Associate Robert L. Hall.
On October 24, MacArthur Field Biologist Steve Goodman (Zoology) traveled from Madagascar to La Réunion to attend a meeting at the University of La Réunion on “Infectious diseases in the south-west Indian Ocean.” Steve presented the inaugural plenary presentation entitled, “Windows into the extraordinary recent land animals and ecosystems of Madagascar.” He was also a co-presenter for three other talks: “Molecular phylogenetic analysis of nycteribid (Diptera, Nycteribiidae): implications for host associations and phylogeographic origins (presented by Najla Dsouli)”; “Genetic diversity of pathogenic Leptopspira in wild animal reservoirs of the south-western Indian Ocean (presented by Muriel Dietrich)”; and “Novel paramyoxoviruses in mammals of the south west Indian Ocean.” After the meeting, Steve remained on La Réunion to attend the scientific board of directors meeting at Centre de Recherche et de Veille sur les maladies émergentes dans l'Océan Indien, on which he serves as a board member. He then will return to Madagascar before departing shortly for a few weeks of fieldwork in the central west region.
This October saw the publication of a work that started out with investigating the validity of hundreds of gastropod and bivalve names in a very obscure and exceedingly rare publication of a 19th Century museum in Hamburg, Germany, and ended up becoming a monographic publication outlining the history of a very important but short-lived privately owned natural history museum. Published by (Hamburg-born) Curator Rüdiger Bieler and Research Associate Richard Petit (both Zoology/Invertebrates) in the journal Zootaxa, the 80-page publication is entitled “Molluscan taxa in the publications of the Museum Godeffroy of Hamburg, with a discussion of the Godeffroy Sales Catalogs (1864–1884), the Journal des Museum Godeffroy (1873–1910), and a history of the museum.” The Museum Godeffroy (1861–1885), a private natural history museum in Hamburg founded by the merchant John Cesar VI Godeffroy, functioned as a research and public display museum, as well as a natural history specimen dealership (similar to Ward’s Natural Science in the U.S.). Large collections of zoological, botanical, ethnographic, and anthropological specimens were obtained by company employees and an international group of contract collectors, mostly in the Pacific, made available for study to specialists, and placed in the museum’s holdings or distributed by sale. The massive collecting efforts quickly amounted to what has been described as “generally recognized across Europe as the most complete collection of natural and man-made artifacts from Australia and the Pacific islands.” While the treatment of 650 molluscan names will only appeal to specialists, the general background about the museum, the fate of its collections, the individual histories of the specimen collectors (several of whom did not survive the field expeditions), and the connections drawn to today’s museums will be of interest to a wider readership. The full text can be accessed here. Image above: Godeffroy plate.
The Anthropology Department welcomed returning visiting researcher Dr. Laurie Webster (University of Arizona). She visited the Museum from October 22–26 to finish her detailed survey and photo-documentation of approximately 260 archaeological textiles, baskets, and other perishable artifacts from southeastern Utah. This project is the first phase of a larger, long-term effort to document early collections of archaeological perishable artifacts from Basketmaker and ancestral Pueblo sites in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest.Less
On October 26, C&R Media Interns Jared Berent and Kate Webbink released a new The Field Revealed entitled The Man Who Mistook His Tarantula for a Hat. Collections Assistant Jim Louderman (Zoology/Insects) wears many hats—some of which are tarantulas. In addition to preparing specimens for The Field Museum’s Insect Collection, he collects insects and arachnids around Illinois and the central U.S., and participates in numerous public outreach programs.… More
On October 26, C&R Media Interns Jared Berent and Kate Webbink released a new The Field Revealed entitled The Man Who Mistook His Tarantula for a Hat. Collections Assistant Jim Louderman (Zoology/Insects) wears many hats—some of which are tarantulas. In addition to preparing specimens for The Field Museum’s Insect Collection, he collects insects and arachnids around Illinois and the central U.S., and participates in numerous public outreach programs.
This Bird Division staff has been busy with outreach efforts through speaking engagements at local bird clubs' monthly meetings. Most recently, Associate Curator John Bates (Zoology/Birds) talked to the Evanston North Shore Bird Club about the Bird Division's Congo expedition this past April. Research Assistant Josh Engel (Zoology/Birds) has also given several talks recently, including The Lake-Cook Audubon Society (about last winter's Snowy Owl irruption), Prairie Woods Audubon Society (Birds and Wildlife of South Africa), and the DuPage Bird Club (Natural History of Madagascar). Resident Graduate Student Ben Winger (Zoology/Birds and University of Chicago) also spoke recently at the DuPage Bird Club about his fieldwork in Peru and the team's discovery of a new species of barbet there.
Additionally, Josh Engel wrote a blog post for WTTW's Chicago Tonight about a Burrowing Owl (see header image, photo by Josh Engel) that showed up unexpectedly at Montrose Point, which he discovered while leading a field trip for the Illinois Ornithological Society. Phil Ponce quoted the post at the end of the show, which can be seen here.
Adjunct Curator James Phillips (Anthropology), along with Director Jaap Hoogstraten (Exhibitions) and Senior Vice President Laura Sadler (Museum Enterprises) attended the opening of the Lascaux III exhibit in Bordeaux on October 12. The Field Museum will host the exhibit in March, 2013, curated by Jim Phillips, Associate Curator Bill Parkinson and A. Watson Armour III Curator Bob Martin (all Anthropology).
On October 22, Collections Managers Jamie Kelly and Michelle Burton (Anthropology) hosted a visit by Professor Judith Zeitlin (University of Chicago) and her students from her class, “Visual Culture of Opera in Late Imperial China.” Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Yuhang Li (Grinnell College) accompanied them to discuss objects pulled from the Museum’s Chinese theater collections. Dr. Li is familiar with these collections, as she is a former Boone Scholars Intern. Drs. Zeitlin and Li along with Wu Hung are curating an upcoming 2014 Smart Museum exhibition entitled “Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture.” Image left: Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Yuhang Li (Grinnell College) explains an 18th century Qianlong Period woven silk tapestry of two baby chicks from the Chinese collections as Professor Judith Zeitlin (University of Chicago) and her students listen. The tapestry was reproduced after a painting by Li Ti of the 12th century by the order of Chinese Emperor Qianlong.Less