Historically, staff research has emphasized systematic malacology, spanning land, freshwater and marine mollusks. Founding curator Fritz Haas built and used a large collection notably of freshwater and terrestrial taxa. He published 319 titles and described nearly 400 new genera and species during his over sixty-year career at Senckenberg Museum and The Field Museum.
Alan Solem's research focused on the Pacific Basin, Neotropical, and Australian land snail faunas and their relationships to faunas of other areas, the overall phylogeny of land mollusks, shifts in feeding patterns and structure, and overall reproductive strategies of snails living in semi-arid zones. He published 140 scientific papers plus many popular articles while at The Field Museum.
Rüdiger Bieler's research concentrates on gastropod and bivalve phylogeny and systematics, employing a variety of techniques ranging from marine field work to gene sequencing, comparative anatomy, and fine-histological techniques. Special focus groups include venerid clams (the largest family of bivalves and a substantial component of the world’s shellfisheries), as well as sessile marine snails that are capable of reef-building. While these projects focus on "Tree of Life" questions of interrelationships and evolutionary lineages, another part of his research looks at aspects of regional biodiversity, by studying species-level marine molluscan diversity and documenting changes (local extinctions, invasive species) that may result from human activities.
Janet Voight studies the evolution and ecology of cephalopod mollusks, with an emphasis on octopuses. Because so little is known of deep-sea octopus species, she has taken her field work to the bottom of the sea, using Remotely Operated Vehicles and crewed submersibles to see the animals where they live. Voight’s analysis of anatomy and morphology has discovered new characters that reveal the animals' phylogenetic relationships. Using the opportunities provided by at-sea research, Voight studies stochastic habitats in the deep sea, including hydrothermal vents and wood falls, home to extraordinary zoodiversity.
This video illustrates how humans impact ecosystems and the role of Museum collections and research in evaluating that impact.
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