LATEST NEWS (Click here for older news items.)
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 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 (see photo above) 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.
31 January 2013: Field Museum collections manager Ben Marks and his colleagues at Texas A&M and University of Bukavu and University of Kisangani in D.R. Congo published a paper in Ecology and Evolution describing genetic breaks in four forest understory birds across the Congo River, one of Africa's great rivers (see the full citation on the Publications page). Patterns of avian diversity across river barriers are well-document in South America, but this seems to be the first time it has been shown in Africa. The samples used in the study come from field work by Ben, Charles Kahindo, and colleagues in the Congo Basin in 2010 and 2011 as well as samples collected on Field Museum expeditions to the Albertine Rift. Click here to download a pdf.
28 January 2013: Our colleagues at Illinois State University have a paper in a forthcoming issue of Geocarto International that develops a GIS-based method for correlating body condition of a wild animal with anthropomorphic affects on its habitat [Loew et al. 2013, see the Publications page for the full citation]. They used data from georeferenced specimens of Lophuromys aquilus, the dark-colored brush-furred rat, collected by Field Museum teams (mostly led by Julian Kerbis) from fifteen sites throughout the Albertine Rift going back to 1991.
23 January 2013: The Bird Division welcomes Wanyoike Wamiti for a two-month visit to Chicago. Joining us from Kenyatta University in Nairobi and the National Museums of Kenya, Wamiti will be working on his master's thesis with Jason Weckstein and learning DNA sequencing techniques from Heather Skeen. His visit is sponsored by the Field Museum's Bird Division.. You can read more about his project here and see more about the Bird Division's training program here.
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.