Monday, November 17, 2014
Edith Taylor

Air Force jet on runway
Basically, there are three to four ways you can go to Antarctica: (1) as a tourist, (2) If you’re very wealthy, you can mount your own expedition!, (3) you can work for the contractor who manages the U.S. bases there for the National Science Foundation, or (4) you can go as an NSF-funded researcher. 

You don’t need permits, but you must agree to abide by the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 during the first International Geophysical Year, and subsequently agreed to by 50 parties. Some of the provisions are that you cannot collect anything, unless you are a funded research project, and you must stay a certain distance away from the wildlife, unless again you are a researcher studying the wildlife. Another provision of the Treaty is that Antarctica cannot be claimed by any nation and that the continent is open for scientific investigation and cooperation—basically a scientific preserve. 

It takes months to prepare for an expedition. The PI must fill out about 50 pp of forms stating what gear the team will need. Each team member provides their sizes of clothing and boots, and has to get extensive medical and dental exams. The only gear that we take are some collecting tools, e.g., geologic hammers, a gasoline-powered jackhammer, and some extra clothes, e.g., extra liner gloves and extra mittens, as collecting rocks tends to tear up your gloves and mittens. - Co-PI and curator, Edith Taylor

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Jennifer Humphrey

Although most people think of Antarctica as a barren, cold environment, 200 million years ago it was a lush forest – a forest that now permineralized can yield clues to the climate change of the past, and how plants today may react to current climate change as well.

An international research team headed by KU scientists will head to Antarctica this week as part of a project aimed at understanding floral changes during the Jurassic in the Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica. The group, departing on Tuesday, Nov. 11, will be on the ground for about one month and plans to blog and post to social media about the experience. The public is invited to follow the team’s work through the Biodiversity Institute blog

As part of this research, the group will examine the Early Jurassic fossil flora and the corresponding paleoenvironments from southern Victoria Land using a combination of geology, geochemistry and paleobotany. Learn more about the research on our news page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Robin Abraham

Rafe, Robin and Matt at iDigBio Summit 

The Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio; https://www.idigbio.org/) is the national resource for digitization of vouchered natural history collections and was established by the community strategic plan for the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA). iDigBio is supported through funds from the NSF’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) program. The vision of the ADBC is a permanent database of digitized information from all biological collections in the United States. It is anticipated that this effort will lead to new discoveries through research, a better understanding and appreciation of biodiversity through improved education and outreach, and subsequent improved environmental and economic policies. Key partners in this effort are the Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs), which form a national grid of institutions that are digitizing specimens and associated resources. Within this context, animal vocalizations (like that of birds and anurans) and electrical signals (such as by fishes), which also form vital specimen-associated resources for research, are currently being digitized and archived by the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://macaulaylibrary.org/) and other institutions around the country. Avian and anuran calls recorded by researchers at KU have been being digitized and contributed to this repository, with a substantial part of the collection already accessible to the public. 

Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History

The 2 day iDigBio IV summit, which was held in Gainsville between October 27–28, 2014 saw Rafe and I, along with Matthew Medler (who represented Mike Webster, Director of the Macaulay Library) as the attending members of the fledgling TCN devoted to digitizing animal vocalizations and electric signals. Eighty-four on-site attendees and nine remote attendees from TCNs, iDigBio, NSF, USGS and other biodiversity informatics initiatives convened for the summit. A series of brief presentations and demonstrations were made by representatives of the various TCNs and Matthew made a presentation of the basic components of our TCN and the progress made so far. One of the more inspired demonstrations was that of John La Salle, who showcased the Atlas of Living Australia portal (http://www.ala.org.au/), which was supported by a $45 million investment by the Australian Government. I guess I would be very inspired too, had I had that kind of money backing me. Another interesting demo was that of augmented reality for public outreach, education and research purposes, where digitized 3D images of specimens can be viewed through a device such as a mobile phone, iPad, or a desktop webcam; the following video illustrates the point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STc8Nsx36MI. Following the talks and demos, we then spread out between a set of four breakout discussion groups. The afternoon saw a poster session that was offered in a unique format, where posters were displayed on 55-inch high-definition flat screen televisions instead of the traditional posters printed on paper. The day culminated in a reception at the Florida Museum of Natural History at Powell Hall on the University of Florida campus, where a sensational Megalodon exhibition had just opened to the public. Overall, the Summit offered valuable insight into the ongoing multi-dimensional digitization and archival processes and the efforts to make them openly accessible, along with networking opportunities in this respect.

A few interesting webpages that were highlighted at the Summit:

  1. The Society For The Preservation of Natural History Collections: http://www.spnhc.org/
  2.  Digital Morphology library: http://www.digimorph.org/
  3.  Photosynth, a software application that analyzes digital photographs and generates a three-dimensional model of the photos and a point cloud of a photographed object: https://photosynth.net/preview/

 

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014
Rich Glor

Treefrog found on a farm in eastern Kansas.

We recently received the photograph above from Steven Hallstrom, who owns and operates a sustainable farm just north of Tonganoxie. These photographs are of a frog that Steven observed in abundance earlier this season. Steven notes this frogs apparent similarity with the Pine Barrens Treefrog (Hyla andersonii) and is wondering if this identification could be correct given that this species isn't known from anywhere even close to Kansas (it occurs only in a few isolated patches of pine barren habitat along the Gulf and eastern coasts of the United States). 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Rich Glor

Photographs of the two new species of Philippine monitor lizards in life.
A team of KU herpetologists and KU herpetology alumni have just described two new species of monitor lizards from the Philippines. These impressive new species were described using an integrative taxonomic approach that combines molecular genetic, morphological, and biogeographic data. Check out their full report in ZooTaxa.

Monday, October 27, 2014
Rich Glor

Snake spotted on levee 4km S of downtown Lawrence.

A Lawrence resident spotted the snake seen above on a walk along a levee about 4km S of downtown Lawrence. In this resident's opinion, the pattern and headshape were somewhat atypical for a Kansas snake. Who knows what species it is?

Monday, October 27, 2014
Rich Glor

Johnson County Salamander
[caption]

A resident of Gardner, in Johnson County, KS just sent us this image of a salamander. They photographed this salamander after catching it on their porch on Oct. 23, 2014 (which was a pretty cold night). Who knows the species and its life history?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Rich Glor

Herpetologists and ornithologists unite
over beers at a reception for
visiting LSU professor Brant Faircloth.

Brant Faircloth, LSU Professor and co-inventor of the protocol for sequencing ultraconserved elements that is now widely used by KU researchers, is in town this week for a seminar and workshop. This afternoon (Wednesday, Oct. 22nd) at 4PM, Rob Moyle will be hosting a workshop by Brant on UCE probe set design. This workshop will be held in the 7th floor conference room of Dyche Hall. If you don't have access to the 7th floor of Dyche Hall, please contact someone in the BI for assistance or meet on the steps to the 7th floor at 4PM.

Monday, October 20, 2014
Rich Glor

The sister of KU Herpetology student Karen Olsen took the photograph above at her house in Florida. Anybody know the species of snake that was in her mailbox?

Thursday, October 16, 2014
A. Townsend Peterson

Doctoral student Abdallah M. Samy has just published a paper entitled Mapping the Potential Risk of Mycetoma Infection in Sudan and South Sudan Using Ecological Niche Modeling in the prestigious open access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Mycetoma is a fungal pathogen that infects and cripples far too many people worldwide. This paper represents one of the very few attempts to produce risk maps for this disease, which remains mostly unknown, in terms of geographic distribution, modes of infection, and many other crucial details. Abdallah assembled 4-country, 3-continent team to carry off these analyses, and the paper appears poised to lead to a number of follow-up analyses, the ultimate goal of which is a global risk map for the disease. The paper can be accessed at http://goo.gl/nxwtcl.