LATEST NEWS (Click here for older news items.)
27 February 2014: Congratulations to Innocent Balagizi for succesfully defending his master's thesis. He graciously sent us the full document which is downloadable from the Publications page. See the news item from 28 January for more information.
20 February 2014: The Bird and Mammal Divisions are thrilled to welcome Sadic Waswa to The Field Museum. Sadic is a student at Makerere University in Uganda and is at the Field to collect data for his thesis. He's already been here for a few weeks acclimating to the cold and snow of a real Chicago winter and starting to collect data. You can read more about him and his project on the Students page.
12 February 2014: We're very excited to see some of the best biodiversity heat maps be made publicly available. They are based on a study originally published by Clinton Jenkins and colleagues in the prestigious PNAS journal in 2013. One thing that we love about them is how the Albertine Rift really stands out in many of the maps. For example, in Birds check out global bird diversity and non-passerines (the map labeled "non Passeriformes"). For Mammals check out global mammal diversity, rodents (Rodentia), and primates. Cool stuff!
28 January 2014: Our friend Innocent Balagizi wrote to let us know that he is defending is master's thesis this week. He sent us the abstract, which is posted in the Biodiversity and Conservation section on the Publications page. His research will have very important implications for plant conservation and biology education in eastern Congo, focusing on teaching about medicinal and wild food plants in the region's secondary schools. He writes, "We are working on medicinal and wild food plants of the eastern DRC for technology development and food security! Now we have a community outreach programme [based on] the experience of P-BEATRA." It's great to see the Field Museum's training programs in the region, like P-BEATRA, continuing to influence science and conservation in the Albertine Rift.
19 November 2013: Our Publications page continues to grow. Today we added two new papers from the Bonn zoological Bulletin by Field Museum and Roosevelt University mammalogist Julian C. Kerbis Peterhans and colleagues from DR Congo, Germany, and Uganda. These papers describe the mammal fauna of the poorly known southern Albertine Rift forests of Misotshi-Kabogo on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and include the descriptions of four new species, two shrews and two insectivorous bats. The papers also suggest that other specimens collected may represent undescribed species. This clearly highlights the need for further biodiversity surveys in this region, one that has been difficult to access in recent years due to lack of infrastructure and civil strife. The papers can be downloaded in the Mammals section on the Publications page.
1 October 2013: Last week we bid farewell to three esteemed visitors from the Kenya Wildlife Service, Dr. Edward Kariuki, Christine Boit, and Oliver Chapa (see photo above looking at insect specimens with Collections Manager Jim Boone). Hosted by Birds Curator John Bates, they had a wonderful, productive visit, including several days visiting the two Chicago area zoos and much of the rest of their time talking to scientists and educators at the Field Museum. They also managed to fit a Cubs baseball game into their busy schedule!
25 July 2013: Congratulations to Mammals Collections Manager Bill Stanley and his colleagues from around the world for the publication of a remarkable new species of hero shrew from the lowlands of D.R. Congo, which they named Scutisorex thori, or Thor's hero shrew. There are now two known species of hero shrews, which have fused vertebrae that give extraordinary strength to their backbone. Why do they have this feature? No one knows. The paper was featured widely in the popular press (for example, here). The original paper, published in Biology Letters and featuring three authors from the Field Museum as well as others from around the U.S., Europe, and the Congo, can be found here.
23 July 2013: We have added a publication by Field Museum Bird Division personnel and a colleague from the National Museums of Malawi about the birds of Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve based on our expedition there in 2009. Vwaza is tucked away in the north of Malawi, on the border with Zambia, and is an important site for the conservation of miombo woodland (a woodland type found only in south-central Africa) and its associated fauna. The paper includes six species new to the reserve's bird list as well as a comprehensive bird list for Vwaza based on literature going back to C.W. Benson's publications about the birds of Malawi from before World War II. A pdf of the paper, published in The Journal of East African Natural History, can be downloaded here.
6 June 2013: We were very excited to learn about a paper just published in Herpetology Notes by our herpetology colleagues at CRSN-Lwiro (the lead author, Chifundera Kusimba), the Field Museum (herpetology collections manager Alan Resetar), and other institutions about the remarkable last meal of a snake-eating snake, a snake nearly as large as the predator itself! The photos in the article are not for the faint of heart. Click here to download a pdf.
5 June 2013: We've added a map to the collections page showing the strength of our African collections, country-by-country. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the map. Our largest African series are from Kenya, Uganda, and Cameroon, followed by Angola and Malawi. To see the equivalent map for the whole world, visit the Bird Division's main collection page, and click on "more" at the end of the introduction.
13 May 2013: The joint bird and mammal expedition to western Uganda concluded successfully with the specimens arriving safely back to Chicago for distribution around the museum and to collaborators around the world. The team worked in the forests of Kibale National Park and Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve with the wonderful help and support of administrators and staff of both reserves. Now the next phase of work begins--the analysis of the collected samples. Eventually we will add a gallery of photos from the trip, but until then enjoy the Shoebill image above!
27 February 2013: A Field Museum team has arrived in Uganda for biodiversity surveys, but before heading into the field they co-hosted a symposium at Makerere University in Kampala called "Insights into Past & Present Afro-Tropical Biodiversity." The symposium was arranged by Julian Kerbis (see 18 August 2012 update below) and the Department of Biological Sciences and included eight presentations on topics as wide-ranging as African malarial parasite diversity, Miocene primates in Uganda, and conservation genetics of African birds and large mammals. Besides Makerere and the Field Museum, speakers came from Southern Mississippi University and the University of Michigan. A highlight was a superb talk by Arthur Tugume of Makerere University who argued that many devastating plant viruses--including ones affecting sweet potatoes and cassava--originated in East Africa.
The Field Museum has a long history of ornithological research in Africa dating back to inventory work by collectors working for the museum and extensive field work by curators W. R. Boulton (West Africa and Angola) and Melvin Traylor (Zambia, Botswana, Egypt and Sudan). The museum also purchased important historical collections of F. J. Jackson and V. G. L. van Someren (Kenya and Uganda) and smaller collections made by Goode (Cameroon) and D. Parelius (Ivory Coast). Since 1990, we have worked in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Madagascar. These efforts include collecting specimens, training and providing support to African graduate students and conservation specialists, and conducting scientific research useful for setting conservation priorities in the region. All of our recent work has been in concert with local institutions and colleagues. In Malawi, for example, we have worked with the National Museums of Malawi to make modern surveys of birds throughout the country to understand morphological and genetic diversity in both birds and their parasites/pathogens. This collection may be the most comprehensive modern collection of birds and parasites from any African country, something that will allow comparative work on Malawian birds to be conducted for generations to come.