Tuesday, August 19, 2014

LAWRENCE — It’s not a monkey. It’s not a lemur. It’s not an African Bush Baby or even a Madagascan Mouse. Meet the Philippine tarsier: a tiny, adorable and downright “cool” primate from Southeast Asia.

“It’s really not like any animals that Americans are familiar with,” said Rafe Brown, curator-in-charge at the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute. “A tarsier has giant eyes and ears; an extremely cute, furry body; a long tail with a furry tuft at the end; and interesting expanded fingers and toe tips that look a bit like the disks on the digits of tree frogs.”

Brown said the tarsier (tar-SEER) has become the “flagship” iconic species for promoting environmental stewardship and ecotourism in the Philippines, a nation suffering from large-scale destruction of natural habitat.

“They’re threatened with habitat loss due to development, mining and deforestation from the timber industry,” Brown said. “On Bohol, where they are a big part of the tourist economy, literally thousands of animals are taken out of the wild, essentially harassed by tourists, and die in captivity due to the stress and inability of their captors to feed them an appropriate diet of live small animals. Tarsiers must eat an enormous amount every night to fuel their high metabolism.”

Because of threats to the tarsier, conservation efforts are mounting for the charismatic animal. But these have been thwarted by a lack of research: Too little has been known about the tarsier’s taxonomic diversity; there have been too few field studies; and a scarcity of genetic samples and voucher specimens in biodiversity repositories has left advocates of the tarsier in the dark. In short, to save the tarsier, experts have needed to know much more about the species.

“Basically, we can not legally protect something if we do not know that it exists,” Brown said.

Today, research by Brown and colleagues published by the journal PLOS ONE will shed new light on the animal’s genetic diversity and distribution. Additionally, the KU researchers have verified the presence of a new variety of tarsier, one heretofore only suspected to exist — the Dinagat-Caraga tarsier.

“Previously tarsiers were one species, divided into three named subspecies,” Brown said. “Our data disagree with that subspecies arrangement and instead demonstrate that the Philippine tarsiers are divided into three genetic units — but these units are from different localities than the named taxa. So our data provide an objective way to restructure conservation efforts and point the resources where they need to go, in order to really have an effective impact on preserving genetic diversity in the group.”

Brown’s student Anthony Barley performed genetic sequencing of the tarsiers’ mitochondrial DNA at KU, while fellow student Karen Olsen characterized the nuclear microsatellite loci variation of the animals.

According to Brown, the results “tell us that we need a protected area — such as a national park — in the ranges of each of the genetic units if our goal is to maximally preserve the genetic underpinnings of that biodiversity. Currently, the newly discovered entity, the Dinagat-Caraga tarsier, has no protection. It is known from a small island that is being extremely heavily mined. Thus, it emerges as a new lineage — and a new major conservation urgency.”

They question of just how many Philippine tarsiers exist has been “left sort of hanging” for 25 years until now, according to the researcher. The newly discovered Dinagat Island and Caraga Region tarsier was first recognized as possibly distinct by the Filipino biologist Dioscoro Rabor in the 1970s, and now is confirmed by the KU genetic analysis.

“The confirmation of Rabor’s early suspicions about the Dinagat Island tarsier population was extremely exciting, and it was very satisfying to affirm his very perceptive early observations,” Brown said. “He commented that it looked larger to him and had different shaped fingers and toes. I’m just glad we were able to bring new, modern tools to this problem and identify the Dinagat-Caraga tarsier as a real conservation priority.”

Brown and Filipino colleagues have called for the establishment of separate tarsier sanctuaries and protection programs within the range of “at least” the three genetic entities established by the research at the Biodiversity Institute. Each, he said, merits unique strategies and programs, along with identification and remediation of conservation threats — for instance “mining in Dinagat versus unregulated tourist industry on Bohol,” he said.

To do less, Brown said, would harm the tarsier’s long-term prospects, potentially depriving the Philippines and the rest of the world of one of nature’s most charming and curious mammals.

“They move very rapidly and jump from tree trunk to tree trunk with ‘ricochet locomotion,'” Brown said. “They bounce from small sapling trunk to trunk, then leap down to pounce on their prey. They’re completely carnivorous. This is relatively unique among primates. The tarsier is famous for not eating any vegetable material of any kind. They eat insects, small snakes, lizards, small mammals and birds. They communicate with ultrasonic calls outside the range of human hearing. The tarsier is so cool!”    

The National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration and the National Science Foundation supported the research. -Brendan Lynch, KU News service

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, August 15, 2014

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has been at the forefront of the open-access movement, an international effort aiming to ensure that peer-reviewed journal articles are available to all, not just those who can afford subscriptions. Three KU authors have published a new article and provided early comments on a white paper calling for the end of “parasitic models” of publishing and describing a phased approach toward a practical dissemination model that would make scholarship open and free.

Traditionally, the cost of accessing academic journals has fallen to the universities in the form of subscription fees. With growing interest in models of scholarly publishing where the contents are “open” without subscriptions, open-access journal publishing is beginning to demonstrate its viability as a model, with different business models supporting it. While those subscription fees still exist for traditional journals, the new costs of running an open-access publishing system are shifting increasingly to authors, who are often required to pay up to $3,000 or more to publish in the most prestigious open-access journals. Town Peterson, Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Ada Emmett, associate librarian for scholarly communication; and Marc Greenberg, professor of Slavic languages and literatures, are among the leaders of a shift to a truly open-access system, where scholarship is open to anyone who wants to access it, not just those with money or subscriptions.

“The future is open access. But how that gets played out is in question,” Emmett said. “There is an attempt to shift the cost of publishing from the reader to the author. That’s inadequate for many reasons. We don’t want to right one wrong by creating another wrong.”

The authors published their study in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication (available openly from the publisher here). The article grew out of an ongoing conversation among the three about how they could best apply their efforts, as an interdisciplinary group of scholars, to advancing open access in scholarly communication. For their most recent project, they decided to assemble a group of colleagues from around the world to contemplate barriers to open access in their countries and academic systems. They discovered that while author fees were the largest obstacle, there were additional hurdles. Psychological barriers to publishing in open-access journals were relevant as well. Some scholars from less wealthy countries or institutions, knowing they would have to apply for a publication fee waiver, which carries with it some degree of indignity, didn’t submit their manuscripts.

The researchers also documented experiences where colleagues had to travel to other countries at their own time and expense to access facilities and resources published in traditional and closed-access journals to perform their research. Others reported that while some journals claim they will waive fees for authors from certain countries, they had applied and been given only a 10 percent discount.

The issue of money can’t be ignored, however. Peterson cited a colleague working in Cuba who earns less than $1,000 a year, less than the average cost of an author processing charge for publishing in open access journals that leverage such fees. Some scholars in other countries only earn per month about 25 percent of the cost of publishing one article in a for-profit open-access journal, whose fees for open access can run to $3,000. Compounding the problem, some nations require their faculty members to publish in the so-called “elite” or “top 10” journals to receive promotion or tenure. Those elite journals may be closed access — therefore with limited readership — or open access, but with high author fees.  Some universities such as KU have funds to help authors defray such costs, but many more, including small schools and those not located in wealthy nations, do not.

Greenberg, Peterson and Emmett argue that, just as Ivy Leagues and elite universities should not have exclusive control of scholarship, neither should a select few institutions control how open access is developed and instituted in the future. That goal has led them to seek input from researchers across the country and globe.

“We’ve found that there are all sorts of bottlenecks in the system. We’re hoping to help level the playing field for all,” Greenberg said.

The KU authors’ concerns and efforts tie into national efforts to design a funding model for openly accessible scholarship where neither readers nor authors need to pay. A white paper, available online, is under development that describes the need and a framework for the establishment of a universal fund to help implement true open access for scholarship, with an initial focus on the humanities and social sciences, disciplines that have had greater difficulty adopting open-access practices in their publishing venues. The group behind the white paper has organized a board of directors, on which KU’s Dean of Libraries, Lorraine Haricombe, also a strong national and internationally known advocate for open access, serves as chair. The fund would start with scalable payments from universities predominantly from the U.S. and Europe. While the payments would be relatively small, taken together, they could create a sizable fund that could cover costs associated with scholarly journal publishing.

“The payment is modest relative to the overall budget of most institutions, but, when spread broadly across all institutions, results in a sum substantial enough to sustain a vibrant and open scholarly communication environment,” the authors wrote.

Such a fund would help transition to an open-access system that is not driven by profits for publishers and does not require wealth to participate. The current system allows commercial publishers that offer “hybrid” open access to “double dip” by both charging universities for subscriptions and charging authors to be able to publish their one article as “open" in an otherwise subscription-only access journal. Add to this the free services that commercial publishers get from faculty volunteers in terms of time spent as editors and reviewers. In addition, public money is often part of funding for research projects, access to which can be blocked by exorbitant costs.

“That is a huge discredit to the rather noble idea that research and knowledge should be open and available for all,” Peterson said.

While publishers often argue that switching to open access would put them out of business, the KU authors argue that even in the face of the National Institutes of Health’s open access policy, there is no evidence that any for-profit journals have had to cease operation. Peterson likens the situation to Lawrence, Kansas, restaurant and bar owners who fought bitterly against smoking bans. Many argued that they would be harmed financially if they weren’t able to allow smoking, but after bans passed none have proven that a ban was a reason they closed.

KU was the first public institution to enact a policy (http://policy.ku.edu/governance/open-access-policy) that all faculty-produced journal articles should be available in an open access repository. KU faculty and librarians also helped to lead the formation of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions, which started with more than 20 universities, including Harvard University, Duke University and Concordia University in Montreal. It has since grown to include 62 North American institutions. Haricombe serves on several national and international boards and advisory committees related to open-access efforts, and she is chair of the steering committee for SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.

A recent editorial in The Chronicle of Higher Education described the open-access movement, and the COAPI group in particular, as “termite change.” The term refers to change that proceeds almost undetected from without, but fundamentally transforms the system from within. As William Allen White famously said, “When anything is going to happen in this country, it happens first in Kansas.”

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hylarana centropeninsularisLAWRENCE — Recently, Malaysian herpetologist Juliana Senawi puzzled over an unfamiliar orange-striped, yellow-speckled frog she’d live-caught in swampland on the Malay Peninsula.

She showed the frog to Chan Kin Onn, a fellow herpetologist pursuing his doctorate at the University of Kansas. They wondered — was this striking frog with an appearance unlike others nearby in the central peninsula an unidentified species?

Poring over records to find out, the researchers saw that a comparable frog had been collected in the area 10 years earlier, but it was written off then as a species from an Indonesian island about 450 miles to the west. The distance and geography between the two habitats made them suspect their frog might have been formerly misidentified.

“The frog was originally confused with the Siberut Island Frog, which is a species that occurs on Siberut Island off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, due to their similar appearance in color-pattern,” Chan said.

They wondered if genetic code from the exact same frog species could have jumped eastward from a remote island across 150 miles of Indian Ocean — then over the whole of Sumatra — then across the Strait of Malacca into the Malaysian interior?

“Despite their similarities, we had a strong suspicion that the frog from Malaysia wasn’t the Siberut Island Frog,” Chan said.

Later, extensive genetic analysis performed in the lab of Rafe Brown, curator of herpetology at KU’s Biodiversity Institute, would determine whether the Malaysian frog was indeed new to science — genetically distinct from its doppelgänger on Siberut Island.

“The lab is very high-tech and is able to run a number of different types of genetic analyses,” Chan said. “It’s also able to run the latest in cutting-edge genetic analysis called Next Generation Sequencing, which a lot of researchers are currently utilizing. We also have a very powerful bioinformatics lab that can analyze extremely large and computationally expensive datasets. The great thing about the lab is that we have the equipment and expertise to run everything from initial DNA extractions to the final data analyses without having to rely on any outsourcing.”

When testing was complete, the first hunch of the Malaysian team proved right: “Sure enough, results from Rafe’s genetic analysis showed that the frog from Peninsular Malaysia was genetically too distant from the Siberut Island Frog to be considered the same species, so we decided to describe it as a new species.”

As lead author, Chan published the team’s findings in a recent issue of the journal Herpetologica.

“We decided to call it ‘Hylarana centropeninsularis’ because it’s currently only known from central Peninsular Malaysia,” he said. “The name is constructed from the Latin word ‘centro’ that means center and ‘peninsularis,’ in reference to Peninsular Malaysia.”

To date, Chan has described seven species of frogs and three species of lizards, all from Peninsular Malaysia, that are new to science.

Born and raised in Malaysia, Chan took interest in nature as a child, interacting with jungle plants and animals — then keeping snakes and lizards as pets.

“At one point, I had as many as 25 species of pet snakes in my room,” said the KU researcher.

At the National University of Malaysia, Chan found himself under the tutelage of herpetologist Norhayati Ahmad and Lee Grismer of La Sierra University, California, a world-renowned herpetologist with research interests in Malaysia.

“I knew about Rafe Brown and KU through their research and publications and first met him at a conference in Borneo,” Chan said. “My research interests aligned well with Rafe — we both work on frogs in Southeast Asia and are generally interested in answering the same type of questions.”

For would-be herpetologists looking to follow in Chan's species-finding footsteps, the KU researcher had words of advice: “Do it the old-fashioned way. Wade through the mud and get dirty!” - Brendan Lynch, KU News Service

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, July 24, 2014

"If you wish to live and thrive, let the spider run alive." This proverb starts off the latest edition of Academic Minute, by Inside Higher Ed. In this segment, Distinguished Professor Paul Selden of the KU Paleontological Institute uses this simple phrase to highlight how spiders have been not only a source of fascination and fear, but are intrisic to the health of an ecosystem by eating insects. Selden studies ancient ecosystems to better understand species today.  
 

News Type:
Research News
Thursday, June 26, 2014

LAWRENCE — The instinct for mothers to protect and nurture offspring is rooted in more species than scientists have understood before now.

In a new study published in the Journal of Natural History, University of Kansas researcher Caroline Chaboo details how some leaf beetles — a huge group of about 40,000 separate species that usually are solitary insects — show self-sacrificing maternal care for their young.

"Maternal care is a phenomenal behavior, whether it's a beetle, a shark or a monkey," Chaboo said. "The investment of mothers with their time, their vigilance, their grooming and cleaning, finding and providing food, putting their own lives at risk, often not eating for themselves — it's remarkable that parental care is so one-sided."

Dubbed by scientists as "subsociality," active parenting among leaf beetles is notable because the insects usually live out their lives alone, without the more complex social behavior seen in bees, ants, wasps and termites — which scientists call "eusociality."

But the exception to the loner's life of a beetle is motherhood, where the solitary insects become more like "helicopter moms."

"A leaf beetle mother will keep an eye on the eggs, grooming and guarding them," Chaboo said. "She will oversee her herd of larvae as they eat, while she keeps watch for flying attackers, like wasps, and also pedestrian attackers, like ants. She moves between the attacker and the babies, and will stamp her foot and try to shoo off the intruder."

The leaf beetle's active mothering is critical to the survivability of the next generation, according to Chaboo.

"If she is removed or lost, all the babies die," she said. "It’s pretty crucial that she is around to ensure some of the offspring survive and reach adulthood."

After a century of research focus on eusociality by William Morton Wheeler, Susan Batra, Edward O. Wilson and KU's own Charles Michener, James Costa brought focus to the poorly known phenomenon of beetle subsociality with his 2006 book, "The Other Insect Societies." Chaboo worked to expand knowledge of leaf beetle parenting with her own fieldwork and an extensive review of literature.

"Leaf beetles have fascinated me since I first looked at these extremely colorful beautiful beetles in a museum drawer," said the KU researcher. "During fieldwork in my native country, Trinidad, I found female leaf beetles guarding their babies. This discovery led me to start pulling on the thread. I was already writing this new paper when Costa's book appeared. To make a truly paradigmatic shift in research on leaf beetle subsociality, I needed to make the paper synthetic by pursuing every bit of what we may already know about parental care in leaf beetles, more comprehensive by pursuing more fieldwork to discover species I suspected were subsocial, and more paradigmatic by developing evolutionary models to organize the information we have and to accelerate future research."

Indeed, Chaboo's paper on leaf beetle subsociality has received praise from fellow scientists for its comprehensiveness and new insights into how insects' social lives have contributed to their evolution.

"It’s an important paper, because it extends the records of subsociality in insects and in particular in the Coleoptera," said Bert Hölldobler, the Pulitzer Prize-winning evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University, using the scientific name for beetles. "Subsociality is generally considered the evolutionary precursor of eusociality, which is so prevalent in ants, and some bee and wasp species and termites. But there are also some beetle species known that have evolved eusociality. The kind of work Caroline has just published is extremely important for all of us who want to understand the evolution of social life on this planet.” In addition to the extensive literature review, Chaboo and her colleagues spent countless hours in the field, discovering many species with subsociality.

"We're searching for species in tropical forest habitats — the needle in the haystack," Chaboo said. "Even though we had educated guesses on the host plants, it is still serendipitous when a subsocial species is discovered. My co-authors, Rob Westerduijn in northern Peru and Fernando Frieiro-Costa in Brazil, have more frequent access to the habitats and are walking the trails a lot. Each new species we report represents tenacious work — to search out the plants, turn over leaves, scan vegetation for mothers and babies, and keep returning to study the behaviors."

Chaboo’s own fieldwork took her to Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Peru. She says that in the midst of the research she gained even more understanding of the maternal instinct common to so many species by becoming a mother herself. "During the course of writing this paper, my co-author Jesus Gómez-Zurita in Spain and I each had a child," she said. "I think our respect for these leaf beetle mothers grew enormously with our own experience as first-time parents."

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Rich Glor

In the Summer of 2015, KU Herpetology will host the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. The meeting will take place in the Kansas Memorial Union, which is located adjacent to KU Herpetology headquarters in the KU Natural History Museum. Some social events will be hosted just down the road at the Oread Hotel. Preliminary details can be found in an announcement published in Herpetological Review. Stay tuned for more details.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, May 23, 2014

Scientists from the University of Kansas and more than 60 other international research institutions spanning six continents have responded to a recent paper in Science, which questioned the practice of collecting and preserving scientific specimens.

KU biologists Rafe Brown and Andrew Short, along with other researchers, argued that the value of scientific collections is vast and their effect on natural populations is minimal. The response also stresses the immense value of scientific collections – such as those held by the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum – across a wide range of disciplines.

In the original paper, "Avoiding (Re)extinction," the authors had argued that the collection of scientific specimens has played a significant role in species extinction, pointing to examples of now-extinct birds, frogs and plants to support this claim.

Today’s response paper, led by Luiz Rocha, a fish biologist from the California Academy of Sciences, emphasizes the minimal effect that research-based specimen collecting actually has on populations. Rocha, Brown and Short, and other scientists, argued that the value of scientific collections is vast and their effect on natural populations is minimal.

“This is a delicate topic because none of us like to think about the death of a beautiful bird or colorful frog,” said Brown, curator of herpetology at the Biodiversity Institute.  “But as conservation scientists, we are primarily concerned with species preservation and the long-term viability of populations.  It’s not the several individual frogs that are sacrificed humanely for the global good that make me sad…I get emotional about the many hundreds of thousands that will die this year en masse as we cut down forests and pave over the last of their habitat; we know that many of those individuals will be the last of their species."

The authors point to several examples that illustrate the role scientific collections have played in understanding such things as the effects of climate change on populations and the spread of disease. In one such analysis, scientists looked at specimens from a wide range of taxa, collected over the past several decades or more, and found a significant correlation between an increase in daily temperatures and a decrease in body size — a response that might limit the ability of some species to tolerate more dramatic swings in future temperature extremes.

Scientists have also analyzed amphibian specimens collected over the past five decades or more, including many hundreds of specimens in KU’s herpetology collections, to track the origin and spread of the frog-killing chytrid fungus in hopes of preventing its further spread.

It is only by investigating information about specimens collected across time that scientists can answer questions about species and the environment in a changing world, said Short, entomology curator at the Biodiversity Institute. Such collections are not the cause of extinctions.

“Responsible collecting of scientific specimens is the only way to identify most of the world’s species,” Short said. “These collections are critical to assessing water quality, habitat degradation and the impact of climate change. It is not a conservation threat and treating it as such distracts from the real drivers that are imperiling our biodiversity, such as habitat loss and invasive species.”

In the original paper, the authors went on to recommend alternatives to standardized collection methods used today, namely photography, audio recordings and non-lethal tissue collection. Although in many cases these methods are employed in species identification, scientists point out that they will often fall far short of the wealth of information that scientific specimens provide. Species identification, they write, is not the only — and is often not the most important — reason to collect voucher specimens.

In other cases, genetic data from decades-old scientific specimens has even been used to identify current species that were thought to be extinct.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, May 23, 2014

Scientists from the University of Kansas and more than 60 other international research institutions spanning six continents have responded to a recent paper in Science, which questioned the practice of collecting and preserving scientific specimens.

KU biologists Rafe Brown and Andrew Short, along with other researchers, argued that the value of scientific collections is vast and their effect on natural populations is minimal. The response also stresses the immense value of scientific collections – such as those held by the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum – across a wide range of disciplines.

In the original paper, "Avoiding (Re)extinction," the authors had argued that the collection of scientific specimens has played a significant role in species extinction, pointing to examples of now-extinct birds, frogs and plants to support this claim.

Today’s response paper, led by Luiz Rocha, a fish biologist from the California Academy of Sciences, emphasizes the minimal effect that research-based specimen collecting actually has on populations. Rocha, Brown and Short, and other scientists, argued that the value of scientific collections is vast and their effect on natural populations is minimal.

“This is a delicate topic because none of us like to think about the death of a beautiful bird or colorful frog,” said Brown, curator of herpetology at the Biodiversity Institute.  “But as conservation scientists, we are primarily concerned with species preservation and the long-term viability of populations.  It’s not the several individual frogs that are sacrificed humanely for the global good that make me sad…I get emotional about the many hundreds of thousands that will die this year en masse as we cut down forests and pave over the last of their habitat; we know that many of those individuals will be the last of their species."

The authors point to several examples that illustrate the role scientific collections have played in understanding such things as the effects of climate change on populations and the spread of disease. In one such analysis, scientists looked at specimens from a wide range of taxa, collected over the past several decades or more, and found a significant correlation between an increase in daily temperatures and a decrease in body size — a response that might limit the ability of some species to tolerate more dramatic swings in future temperature extremes.

Scientists have also analyzed amphibian specimens collected over the past five decades or more, including many hundreds of specimens in KU’s herpetology collections, to track the origin and spread of the frog-killing chytrid fungus in hopes of preventing its further spread.

It is only by investigating information about specimens collected across time that scientists can answer questions about species and the environment in a changing world, said Short, entomology curator at the Biodiversity Institute. Such collections are not the cause of extinctions.

“Responsible collecting of scientific specimens is the only way to identify most of the world’s species,” Short said. “These collections are critical to assessing water quality, habitat degradation and the impact of climate change. It is not a conservation threat and treating it as such distracts from the real drivers that are imperiling our biodiversity, such as habitat loss and invasive species.”

In the original paper, the authors went on to recommend alternatives to standardized collection methods used today, namely photography, audio recordings and non-lethal tissue collection. Although in many cases these methods are employed in species identification, scientists point out that they will often fall far short of the wealth of information that scientific specimens provide. Species identification, they write, is not the only — and is often not the most important — reason to collect voucher specimens.

In other cases, genetic data from decades-old scientific specimens has even been used to identify current species that were thought to be extinct.

 

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, April 24, 2014

PhilippinesIn November 2013, as Super Typhoon Haiyan produced landfall in the Philippines with the highest-ever recorded wind speed for a Category 5 tropical cyclone, it wreaked near complete devastation for miles. The expense was dear for each humans and wildlife.

Rafe Brown, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, already had spent years researching biodiversity in the country. He said watching the Tv coverage of Haiyan was "one particular of the most profoundly saddest events in my life."

"The death toll was so high, the calculations of loss of life so obviously underestimated—it was like the international disaster relief neighborhood had no notion what they had to deal with," Brown stated. "A important metropolitan location and university town exactly where I had spent several fine days interacting with colleagues and students —Tacloban City—had been reduced completely to rubble. And the devastation in more far-flung regions of the archipelago was totally unknown. I found myself asking yourself: What about all these forests? What happened to the sites we had surveyed in the last 5 years? Had been the locations exactly where we established survey transects flattened absolutely? What species nevertheless remained in the most devastated forests?"

Mainly because Brown, who also serves as curator-in-charge of the Herpetology Division at KU's Biodiversity Institute, had compiled such an in depth record of biodiversity in the Philippines by way of prior investigations, he realized he could be of aid to the nation and the scientific neighborhood if he have been able to characterize the extent of Haiyan's toll on wildlife in the location. Now, he has secured a one particular-year, $125,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a grant designed to address a distinct need of higher urgency in a rapid time frame.

"A number of of the locations we have surveyed prior to the typhoon are viewed as specifically biodiverse, with higher numbers of mammal species, birds, amphibians and reptiles," mentioned Brown. "We now have to have an immediate 'after' glimpse of the diversity ideal after the storm. Our project is aimed at delivering that picture of the aftermath…such that followup research can be conducted at 5, ten and possibly 15 or 20 years from now, to document how recovery transpires in these all-natural systems."

Brown, along with KU colleagues Robert Moyle and A. Townsend Peterson, will train a field group of personnel and graduate students to survey habitat impacted by Haiyan where biodiversity datasets had already been created ahead of landfall of the storm. Comparing the "prior to" and "right after" information will reveal the extent of the super typhoon's destruction, as properly as the capacity of various species to bounce back from catastrophe.

"The solutions we will employ will be the very same techniques we undertook for the earlier surveys, applying the same trails, the same transects and sampling measures, and even the very same individuals who carried out the operate," mentioned Brown. "We'll standardize the work so that statistical comparisons can be made, and then encourage future researchers to use these identical approaches once more over the next decade or two."

Whilst it is impossible to predict all of the aftereffects of Haiyan on the wildlife of the Philippines, the KU researcher said some species truly could be scattered to the winds.

"These typhoons are usually devastating to low-lying regions since storm surge can scour coastal plains and eradicate anything that lives there," Brown said. "They are normally also heavily damaging to mid- and upper-montane locations for the reason that the heavy rainfall causes landslides and flattens forests if winds are powerful enough. There is no doubt that they also transport species from a single region to another—small animals, literally blown from a single island to the next—but these specifics have seldom been quantified to date. This is an ancillary target of our new project, to measure the quantity of storm-associated translocation of populations of land vertebrates from one particular island to yet another."

Brown stated that the Philippines is an desirable nation in which to study biodiversity since of the stark contrasts, such as habitable islands versus inhospitable intervening seaways, along with the recognized geological history of the archipelago, the rich legacy of data compiled by scientists over centuries to draw upon, and the incredibly clear and, at instances, simplified communities of vertebrates that inhabit the 7,one hundred landmasses of the archipelago.

Even so, he stated that his findings could shed light on how species thrive or fail in the aftermath of all-natural disasters anyplace on Earth.

"This award addresses a unique higher-urgency need to have for surveys post-Haiyan but fits into the general framework of our investigation plan in that we seek to fully grasp how such exceptionally high levels of land vertebrate diversity can exist in the island archipelagos and biodiversity hotspots like the Philippines," said Brown. "It may perhaps relate to the frequency of all-natural disturbance. That is, if chronic and periodic natural disturbance is standard of a forest community, it is conceivable that such a forest neighborhood may perhaps stay specifically diverse since it contains a combination of steady, resident neighborhood species and also a cohort of 'edge' species or species that invade an area following the effect of natural disturbance. Our information may present a direct measure of the predictions of this 'intermediate disturbance hypothesis' in a actual-time empirical method. Such an chance is really rare—only coming along as soon as or twice in a lifetime."

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, April 24, 2014

While there is wide agreement on the importance of a complete inventory of all organisms on Earth, the public is partly unaware of the amount of known and unknown biodiversity. A recent study co-authored by entomology graduate student Laura Breitkreuz asked 300 visitors to vote on a name for a new species and out of four preselected options, Ampulex dementor Ohl n. sp. was selected. The name, derived from the ‘soul sucking’ dementor from the popular Harry Potter books, is an allusion to the wasps’ behavior to selectively paralyze its cockroach prey. In this example, public voting on a scientific name has been shown to be an appropriate way to link museum visitors emotionally to biodiversity and its discovery.
Full Article

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, April 18, 2014

A new Mandarin translation of Charles Darwin’s "On the Origin of Species" is flying off bookstore shelves in China. The book previously was unavailable in that country except as translated from its sixth edition, which specialists today view as flawed.

 "There have been at least half a dozen of versions available since the early 1950s, all based on the sixth — and the last — edition," said Desui Miao, collection manager with the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas, who authored the new translation. "But the sixth edition represents Darwin’s back-paddling from his original views, concessions to some unfounded criticisms, and retreats from its earlier editions, and thus is now considered less favorably by Darwin scholars and evolutionary biologists."

On the Origin of SpeciesPublished last October to critical and academic acclaim, Miao’s Chinese translation already has sold about 10,000 copies — "phenomenal" sales for a book considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Miao said that the concept for the translation began with a publishing house looking for the right person to bring Darwin’s ideas to a modern Chinese readership.

"The Darwin 200 Beijing International Conference was held at Peking University in fall of 2009 to commemorate Darwin’s 200-year birthday and the publication of the 'Origin of Species' for 150 years," he said. "A renowned publisher specialized in translation of foreign language books — mainly literature and humanity — into Chinese, Yilin Press, came to the conference to solicit a translator to translate the ‘Origin’ for their ‘Essential Ideas’ series. Although I was not present at the conference, my name was recommended to the publisher by several distinguished Chinese colleagues."

The KU researcher said that initially he felt reluctant to take on the work of translating the father of modern biology.

"I was approached by the publisher, and I first turned them down out of the fear it of being too time-consuming, which turns out to be correct," said Miao. "I later changed my mind after the publisher had convinced me of its importance to the Chinese audience."

Indeed, the effort took Miao about two years. He drew upon his expertise as a biologist as well as his skills with both the Chinese and English languages.

"Mandarin Chinese is my mother tongue; however, English has been my everyday working language for more than 30 years," he said. But even with Miao’s bilingual ability and scientific expertise, he found translating some of Darwin’s passages to be demanding. "Of course, it’s difficult to find the right words, mot juste, in Chinese to convey the exact meaning of their English counterparts," said Miao. "For example, ‘descent with modification’ was very difficult to translate, and I’m not entirely happy with what I’ve come up with. There are convoluted sentences in places throughout the book, but overall Darwin wrote clearly — because his thinking was crystal clear."

Unlike in the U.S., where Darwin’s theories have touched off controversies since their publication in the 19th century, Miao said China has never seen dissent over evolution "because the lack of religious zeal." But, he said there have been misunderstandings of the book. Perhaps the researcher’s new translation could help to clear up Darwin’s ideas and further boost China’s growing status in the field of evolutionary biology.

"They have strengths in several areas, such as paleobiology, vertebrate zoology and conservation biology," said Miao. "The 'Origin' is not an easy read, even in its English original, and thus is widely talked about but seldom read from cover to cover. This translation is more faithful to the original, easier to read and hopefully will encourage people to finish reading the book."


Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A researcher at the University of Kansas is part of a team to uncover strong evidence of brood-care parenting strategy in 450-million-year-old crustaceans — the oldest verification of ovarian-to-juvenile brood care in the fossil record.

The new species of ostracod exhibiting brood care, which the team named Luprisca incuba, are held at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History and were collected in central New York state.

“These are beautiful specimens,” said Úna Farrell, invertebrate paleontology collection manager at KU’s Biodiversity Institute. “Preservation of delicate soft parts, like the limbs and eggs in these specimens, only occurs in exceptional circumstances. Usually, only the more robust outer ‘shell’ survives in the rock record. These fossils allow us a glimpse of life on the ocean floor at a time in Earth’s history when N.Y. state was partially under water and south of the equator.”Ostracod fossil

The research team, headed by Professor David Siveter of the University of Leicester, has termed their find a “nursery in the sea” because the fossilized scene reveals a mother actually carrying her eggs and offspring.

“Some kinds of ostracod lay their eggs into the ocean and hope for the best, but this particular group take care of their young by brooding the embryos under the protection of their shell,” said Farrell. “This specimen has multiple eggs within its shell and even some newly hatched individuals, which are already equipped with a shell of their own.”

The ancient ostracods are relatives of a group alive today that exhibit similar brood-care strategies, indicating that it was effective for millions of years.

“Ostracods are crustaceans, like shrimp, lobster and crabs, and they are very common today — tens of thousands of species of ostracod live in modern oceans, lakes and rivers,” said Farrell. “The modern relatives of Luprisca also take care of their young by brooding, indicating that it was clearly a successful mode of life.”

The team’s findings recently appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology.

Farrell said the fossil discovery is significant because it pushes back the first instance of brood-based parenting known anywhere on the planet. Farrell’s contribution to the work involved excavating some of the delicate fossils, along with co-author Markus Martin, from rocks of Ordovician age from upstate New York.

“I spent several summers collecting fossils and measuring rock sections at Beecher’s Trilobite Bed site,” she said. “The site has been known for its exceptionally preserved fossils since the late 1800s. The fossils are preserved in pyrite, or ‘fool’s gold,’ which gives them their striking color.”

Farrell also was involved in CT scanning of the fossils at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“The pyrite contrasts nicely with the surrounding shale so that the fossils show up very well in an X-ray,” she said. “A CT scanner takes several X-rays in very thin slices through the fossil, which can then be assembled into a three-dimensional model.”

Farrell said the researchers were able to pin down the age range of the fossils because the ages of rocks in the area are known through isotopic dating and by correlating the fossils with others in the beds. Indeed, part of the difficulty was finding the fossils at the outset. “These fossils are tiny, around one to two millimeters, so spotting them in the first place is a challenge,” said Farrell.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, March 7, 2014

A recent paper co-authored by KU Biodiversity Institute scientists demonstrates the possible effects of climate change on molluscan fauna. While numerous studies have examined potential responses of terrestrial biotas to future climate change, fewer have considered marine realms. The group forecast how marine molluscan faunas might respond to environmental change over the remainder of this century. They tested the hypotheses that suitable areas will shift northwards for studied species, and that species will show varied responses to future climate change. The article, authored by Erin E. Saupe,  Jonathan R. Hendricks, A. Townsend Peterson and Bruce S. Lieberman, was published in the Journal of Biogeography here.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Matt Davis, Nancy Holcraft, Ed Wiley, Leo Smith and John Sparks, have learned that their research paper, "New Study Links Species Specific Bioluminescence with Increased diversification in open ocean," has been published in the journal Marine Biology

From the American Museum of Natural History news release: “Scientists have shown for the first time that deep-sea fishes that use bioluminescence for communication are diversifying into different species faster than other glowing fishes that use light for camouflage. The new research indicates that bioluminescence—a phenomenon in which animals generate visible light through a chemical reaction—could promote communication and mating in the open ocean, an environment with few barriers to reproduction." 


Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Though present in more than 6,000 living species of fish, the adipose fin, a small appendage that lies between the dorsal fin and tail, has no clear function and is thought to be vestigial. However, a new study analyzing their origins finds that these fins arose repeatedly and independently in multiple specie

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, February 17, 2014
Jen Humphrey

Research by former KU EEB/BI student Cameron Siler (now an Assistant Professor at University of Oklahoma), current student Andres Lira, and Rafe Brown recently has been covered in depth in a Science Magazine article “Genetic forensics wakes a dragon." In this study, Brown, Siler and Filipino colleagues Arvin Diesmos and Emerson Sy (National Museum of the Philippines) collected genetic samples from animals in the illegal pet market trade of a major metropolitan area (Manila) and compared traders reported origins of the species to the genotypic match of these samples from animals collected in the wild from throughout the Philippines. The authors found that virtually all of Manila’s poached animals came from a particular area (The Bicol Peninsula) where a genetically distinct lineage occurs with almost no protected area coverage.  Collaborations With KU’s Andres Lira modeled the species habitat suitability and demonstrated that very little of available habitat overlaps with protected areas, demonstrating a new conservation urgency, identified with an integrative combination of forensic science, ecological niche modeling, and covert black market surveys in the back alleys of Manila. This work comes on the heels of an earlier study by former KU student Luke Welton in which trade forensics of Monitor Lizards revealed that, when asked, traders misrepresent the origins of their animals more than 50% of the time, presumably in an effort to increase the perceived value of their illegal wares.  Both articles can be located at: http://www.nhm.ku.edu/rbrown/PublicationsMain.htm

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Saturday, February 1, 2014

In 2014 a new fossil plant genus (pollen cone Ediea) was named for Dr. Edith L. Taylor in honor of her numerous contributions to the study of fossil plants from Antarctica.
 READ MORE

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Spider discovery

Once upon a time, a Jurassic spider fossil was an extremely rare find.  These days, Paul Selden, the Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor of Invertebrate Paleontology with the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas, can count hundreds of such discoveries -- including one that he co-authored about a giant among those spiders from the Jurassic.

News Type:
Research News
Sunday, December 1, 2013

A group of University of Kansas researchers working with Chinese colleagues have discovered a venomous, birdlike raptor that thrived some 128 million years ago in China. This is the first report of venom in the lineage that leads to modern birds.

“This thing is a venomous bird for all intents and purposes,” said Larry Martin, KU professor and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute. “It was a real shock to us and we made a special trip to China to work on this.”

The KU-China team’s findings will be published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science this week.

“We think it’s going to make a big splash,” said Martin.

The article’s authors are Enpu Gong, geology department at Northeastern University in Shenyang, China, and researchers Martin, David Burnham and Amanda Falk at the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute.

The dromaeosaur or raptor, Sinornithosaurus (Chinese-bird-lizard), is a close relative to Velociraptor. It lived in prehistoric forests of northeastern China that were filled with a diverse assemblage of animals including other primitive birds and dinosaurs.

“This is an animal about the size of a turkey,” said Martin. “It’s a specialized predator of small dinosaurs and birds. It was almost certainly feathered. It’s a very close relative of the four-winged glider called Microraptor.”

The venom most likely sent the victim into rapid shock, shrinking the odds of retaliation, escape or piracy from other predators while the raptor manipulated its prey.

“You wouldn’t have seen it coming,” said Burnham. “It would have swooped down behind you from a low-hanging tree branch and attacked from the back. It wanted to get its jaws around you. Once the teeth were embedded in your skin the venom could seep into the wound. The prey would rapidly go into shock, but it would still be living, and it might have seen itself being slowly devoured by this raptor.”
The genus had special depressions on the side of its face thought by the investigators to have housed a venom gland, connected by a long lateral depression above the tooth row that delivered venom to a series of long, grooved teeth on the upper jaw. This arrangement is similar to the venom-delivery system in modern rear-fanged snakes and lizards. The researchers believe it to be specialized for predation on birds.

“When we were looking at Sinornithosaurus, we realized that its teeth were unusual, and then we began to look at the whole structure of the teeth and jaw, and at that point, we realized it was similar to modern-day snakes,” Martin said.

Sinornithosaurus is represented by at least two species. These specimens have features consistent with a primitive venom-delivery system. The KU-China research team said it was a low-pressure system similar to the modern Beaded lizard, Heloderma, however the prehistoric Sinornithosaurus had longer teeth to break through layers of feathers on its bird victims.

The discovery of features thought to be associated with a venom-delivery system in Sinornithosaurus stemmed from a study of the anatomy and ecology of Microraptor by the joint Chinese-KU team. They now are seeking to discover if Microraptor may have possessed a similar poison-delivery system.

 

 

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Sunday, October 13, 2013

IslandSeasick, cold and lugging around 3,000 pounds of equipment during her first research venture upon Alaska’s Aleutian Islands 20 years ago, Dixie West nonetheless fell in love with unearthing history in the frigid, remote archipelago. Now, the KU researcher has earned a new three-year, $425,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue her research in the Islands of the Four Mountains, perhaps the most isolated and treacherous isles in the Aleutian chain.

Divison:
Archaeology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paleontologists at the KU Biodiversity Institute are excited at the chance to study the bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

A St. Louis museum determined it would no longer keep the collection, and gave it to KU for care and study.

David Burnham, fossil preparatory, says the fossil's age isn't clear but it's not believed to be full grown. To determine the age, Kansas paleontologists will search for more remains where the fossil was found in Jordan, Mont.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, September 23, 2013

Leo Smith has joined KU as an assistant curator of ichthyology at the Biodiversity Institute and as assistant professor of systematics and evolution at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He comes to KU from the Field Museum in Chicago. Smith's research focuses on the evolutionary biology of fishes. He is interested in the large-scale phenomena that have shaped the history and diversification of fishes in both geographic space and geologic time. He uses a combination of phylogenetic or "family" trees and detailed anatomical and genomic analyses to understand the evolution and diversification of fishes.

Research associate Matt Davis has also joined the ichthyology division. Matt's research program focuses on the evolution of fishes that inhabit the deep sea, as the extreme habitats of this environment have produced fascinating evolutionary events among the 4000-6000 species of marine fishes that have invaded this realm (e.g., telescopic eyes, bioluminescence, hermaphroditism). He uses phylogenetic hypotheses as frameworks to investigate a breadth of evolutionary questions related to organismal diversity and diversification. His work focuses on exploring a number of evolutionary topics related to fishes that inhabit the deep sea, including; estimating divergence times, temporal changes in diversification rates, character evolution, correlations between speciation rates and evolutionary adaptations, ecological habitat shifts, and biogeography.


Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, September 13, 2013

Birds are subjects of great interest to many people. They are often easy-to-spot, charismatic and beautiful. Because of this interest, birds tend to be well-studied, and most years see only a handful of new bird species discovered and described in scientific journals. However, this past year has seen 23 new birds described so far.

Remarkably, three of those new birds have been introduced to science by researchers at the University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute. And a KU graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, Pete Hosner, has co-authored two of those.

"I think these discoveries reflect the opportunities I've had to work in tropical forests, where most new bird species are found," said Hosner. "Since I began my doctorate in 2007, KU ornithology has had active field research in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania. Even though undescribed bird species are a rare find, with such a broad search radius, new things are bound to turn up."

The KU researcher's most recent find is dubbed the Sierra Madre Ground-Warbler, a ground-dwelling forest bird that lives on Luzon Island of the Philippine archipelago. Its description is published in the August issue of The Condor, a scientific journal of the Cooper Ornithological Society.
"The ground-warblers are very unique birds," said Hosner. "They're only known from the northern Philippines, and they have no close relatives. As the name suggests, they're ground-walking songbirds - rotund, with strong legs and weak wings - and it appears that they can barely fly. They tend to inhabit dense forest understory, where they feed on insects. Their song is extremely high in pitch, and ventriloquial - it's almost impossible to locate the source of the sound in the forest - they always sound like they are far away, even when they are almost at your feet."

Hosner said the new species of ground-warbler looks similar to the other two species of ground-warblers in the Philippines, so it wasn't recognized as an independent species at first.

"The three species of ground-warblers now recognized are essentially identical in size, shape and juvenile plumage coloration held in their first year of life, but they differ from one another in adult plumage coloration," he said. "The reason that this new species remained undescribed for so long was that the adult plumage of the very first ground-warbler to be described was unknown. That species, Cordilleran Ground-Warbler, was documented only from a single juvenile until our recent fieldwork. As a result, the 'discovery moment' was when we saw an adult individual of the known species."
Examination of its DNA was key to differentiating the new ground-warbler once it was spotted in the field. The DNA sequence data was collected in KU Biodiversity Institute's Molecular Phylogenetics Laboratory, which was recently renovated with investment from the National Science Foundation, the state of Kansas and KU.

"When we noted the different plumage coloration between adult birds in the Cordillera and the Sierra Madre in northern Luzon, we sequenced DNA to determine if the plumage differences were individual variation within a species, or if the two plumage forms were also genetically diagnosable," Hosner said. "We found that Cordillera and Sierra Madre birds were highly divergent in their DNA, almost as different as the distinctive Bicol Ground-Warbler in southern Luzon."

However, it was the basic legwork of searching in the field for new birds that ultimately brought the Sierra Madre Ground-Warbler to the attention of the world.  

"Most of the authors participated in fieldwork in the Philippines," Hosner said. "Working in the Philippines is awesome. We hike out into the forests and establish field camps - usually about two weeks per site -where we survey the birds and other organisms. No electricity, no road noise, just the forest. Usually it's hot, sweaty and dirty work, but we always camp near a stream for a water source, which helps. Sometimes our visits coincide with typhoons, which adds some excitement, especially when you are trying to keep your tent dry. One of the sites where we found the Sierra Madre Ground-Warbler, Mount Cagua, is an active volcano with thermal vents and mud pots."
The new bird species' scientific name honors Max Thompson, a retired professor from Southwestern College in Winfield and a research associate in the KU Biodiversity Institute.

"He received his master's degree from KU in the '60s for his studies on the birds of Borneo, and he has conducted avian research on every continent," Hosner said. "When Max retired a few years ago, his extensive research collection came to the KU Biodiversity Institute. We wanted to name the bird after Max for his decades of avian research around the world and thank him for his contributions to KU ornithology."

Hosner's co-authors are Nikki C. Boggess, Carl H. Oliveros and Robert G. Moyle from KU's Biodiversity Institute and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Luis Sanchez-Gonzalez from KU's Biodiversity Institute and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico; Phillip Alviola from the University of the Philippines Los Baños; and Rolly Urriza from the Philippine National Museum.  

A five-year Biotic Surveys and Inventories Grant from the National Science Foundation, headed by KU herpetologist Rafe Brown, funded the field research. As of this year, the grant has funded 22 expeditions to the Philippines, and data collected on these expeditions has contributed to more than 120 scientific publications.



Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Once, during a night time trek through a remote patch of Philippine rainforest to record frogs and collect their eggs for his doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas researcher Rafe Brown found himself alone, far ahead of his colleagues on the trail.

That’s when his headlamp died.

“I had to sit on a log for an hour in the dark,” Brown recalled. “Already, I’d spent a couple of hours trying to record all the frogs in the area, and I was pretty sure there were just three species. But when forced to just sit there and listen to them, I found that there were seven or eight different calls in the area.”

Such is the importance of sound to biologists and naturalists: It can help distinguish one species of animal from another, even when two species might look nearly identical.

That’s one reason why scientists for generations have lugged recording gear into the field, capturing all manner of animal signal, from croaking frogs to chirping insects to singing birds. Unfortunately, over the years, many hard-won recordings have moldered on back shelves of museums and offices, often in outdated audio formats, such as reel-to-reel tape.

Today, Brown is an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator-in-charge of the herpetology division of the KU Biodiversity Institute. In that role, he is helping to lead a new, $200,000 effort, funded by the National Science Foundation, to digitize, archive and make available thousands of field recordings of animal sounds at KU, and tie them with the voucher specimens that were recorded.

“In the past, if someone wanted to get a call of a recording of a species of frog from Central America that was recorded 30 years ago, it was a complicated process,” said Brown. “They’d have to contact us, and one of us would have to go back and try to sift through all the material to try and find the tape and the segment of the tape with the frog, and then record it to a cassette tape and send it to them.”

The KU researcher said the new grant would upgrade data accessibility for the Internet era.

“The idea is to take all off this ancillary material and put it online,” said Brown. “You’ll go look at the record for the frog, and you’ll see there are digital photos of it and its habitat, and then you can click on a link and instantly hear the sound that it made.”

KU is one of a consortium of 11 research institutions to digitize audio recordings through this effort. Other major contributors include the Smithsonian, Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science and the Texas Natural Science Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The work at KU’s Biodiversity Institute will focus on the strength of its herpetology and ornithology collections, the latter of which is curated by co-investigator Mark Robbins.

Ultimately, Brown said the grant would speed the process of discovering, cataloging and naming species for academic researchers and naturalists. Also, many of the animal sounds will be made available to the public, helping to underscore the importance of sound to biology — and conveying the mysteries of animal communication.

“Species are making sounds to mark their territory, to attract mates, to scare away predators, to call to their offspring, and even in some cases to send signals to other species,” Brown said. “And there are things that people still debate. Why do birds sing at dawn? Are they marking their territory? Are they happy that the sun is up and making noise because they can? There still are questions about why organisms make sounds, sometimes in a context that we can’t really understand.”

The project, which will fund several new positions for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, should run through 2017. - Brendan Lynch

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, March 1, 2013

At the International Paleobotany Conference in Tokyo, Japan (2013), a special symposium was dedicated to Dr. Thomas N. Taylor; the presentations were subsequently published in a special edition of the International Journal of Plant Sciences.

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
Research News
Monday, December 10, 2012

A recently discovered new species of insect larva with its specialized pack of plant remains indicates that a complex camouflage behavior used by insects today dates to at least 110 million years ago.

The discovery by a team of Spanish researchers and Michael S. Engel, a KU Biodiversity Institute entomologist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was based on the study of an amber piece found in 2008 in the El Soplao outcrop (Cantabria, Northern Spain), the Mesozoic’s richest and largest amber site in Europe.  The study is being published this week in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The fossil, about four millimeters long, is a predatory larva of the order Neuroptera (lacewings and their relatives). It is covered by a tangle of plant filaments that it collected with its jaws to form a defensive shield and camouflage itself. This survival strategy, sometimes called “trash carrying,” is observed in current species to render them nearly undetectable to predators and prey.

Related to current green lacewings, the fossil represents a new genus and species designated Hallucinochrysa diogenesi. The name alludes to its “mind-blowing appearance,” the researchers said, and its resemblance to Diogenes syndrome, a human behavioral disorder characterized by compulsive hoarding of trash. 

The research identified the filamentous plant remains composing the larval trash packet as trichomes, or plant hairs with diverse shapes and functions. The trichomes are thought to belong to a specific group of ancient ferns.

Today green lacewing larvae harvest plant materials or even detritus and arthropod remains and carry them on their backs, nestled among small tubercles with hairs. On the contrary, Hallucinochrysa diogenesi possessed a bizarre characteristic: it possessed extremely elongate tubercles, with hairs that had trumpet-shaped endings acting as anchoring points. All this structure, completely unknown until now, formed a dorsal basket that retained the trash and prevented it from sliding when the insect moved.

Hallucinochrysa diogenesi demonstrates that camouflage strategy and its necessary morphological adaptations appeared early and was well developed during the era of the dinosaurs. In the case of green lacewings, this complex behavior has been around for at least 110 million years. This is significant for evolutionary studies pertaining to animal behavior and the adaptative strategies of organisms throughout Earth’s history.

The study also shows an ancient and close plant-insect interaction — possibly an example of mutualism: the predatory larvae saved ferns from plagues, whereas ferns provided larvae with a habitat and protection. In a Cretaceous environment where resin forests in the ancient Iberian Peninsula were razed by wildfires, this larva collected remains from a fern that grew abundantly after wildfires.

The El Soplao outcrop, where the discovery was made, is one of the most important localities aiding researchers to unravel questions about Earth history, ancient forest ecosystems, and the evolution of major invertebrates lineages such as the insects.

In addition to Engel, the researchers who participated in the study are: Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente and Xavier Delclòs, of the University of Barcelona (Spain); Enrique Peñalver, from the Geomineral Museum in Madrid; and Mariela Speranza, Carmen Ascaso and Jacek Wierzchos, from the National Museum of Natural Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, December 10, 2012

A recently discovered new species of insect larva with its specialized pack of plant remains indicates that a complex camouflage behavior used by insects today dates to at least 110 million years ago.

The discovery by a team of Spanish researchers and Michael S. Engel, a KU Biodiversity Institute entomologist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was based on the study of an amber piece found in 2008 in the El Soplao outcrop (Cantabria, Northern Spain), the Mesozoic’s richest and largest amber site in Europe.  The study is being published this week in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The fossil, about four millimeters long, is a predatory larva of the order Neuroptera (lacewings and their relatives). It is covered by a tangle of plant filaments that it collected with its jaws to form a defensive shield and camouflage itself. This survival strategy, sometimes called “trash carrying,” is observed in current species to render them nearly undetectable to predators and prey.

Related to current green lacewings, the fossil represents a new genus and species designated Hallucinochrysa diogenesi. The name alludes to its “mind-blowing appearance,” the researchers said, and its resemblance to Diogenes syndrome, a human behavioral disorder characterized by compulsive hoarding of trash. 

The research identified the filamentous plant remains composing the larval trash packet as trichomes, or plant hairs with diverse shapes and functions. The trichomes are thought to belong to a specific group of ancient ferns.

Today green lacewing larvae harvest plant materials or even detritus and arthropod remains and carry them on their backs, nestled among small tubercles with hairs. On the contrary, Hallucinochrysa diogenesi possessed a bizarre characteristic: it possessed extremely elongate tubercles, with hairs that had trumpet-shaped endings acting as anchoring points. All this structure, completely unknown until now, formed a dorsal basket that retained the trash and prevented it from sliding when the insect moved.

Hallucinochrysa diogenesi demonstrates that camouflage strategy and its necessary morphological adaptations appeared early and was well developed during the era of the dinosaurs. In the case of green lacewings, this complex behavior has been around for at least 110 million years. This is significant for evolutionary studies pertaining to animal behavior and the adaptative strategies of organisms throughout Earth’s history.

The study also shows an ancient and close plant-insect interaction — possibly an example of mutualism: the predatory larvae saved ferns from plagues, whereas ferns provided larvae with a habitat and protection. In a Cretaceous environment where resin forests in the ancient Iberian Peninsula were razed by wildfires, this larva collected remains from a fern that grew abundantly after wildfires.

The El Soplao outcrop, where the discovery was made, is one of the most important localities aiding researchers to unravel questions about Earth history, ancient forest ecosystems, and the evolution of major invertebrates lineages such as the insects.

In addition to Engel, the researchers who participated in the study are: Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente and Xavier Delclòs, of the University of Barcelona (Spain); Enrique Peñalver, from the Geomineral Museum in Madrid; and Mariela Speranza, Carmen Ascaso and Jacek Wierzchos, from the National Museum of Natural Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Division of Paleobotany concluded a successful field season in Antarctica during October and November in 2012. From this expedition more than 5000 lbs of fossil plant materials were collected, and are currently the focus of research projects by members of the Division.

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
Research News
Friday, August 31, 2012

Bees

A male (above) and female (below) of Thyreus denolii, one of the new species discovered. Image credit: Jakub Straka and Michael
The biota of island archipelagos is of considerable interest to biologists. These isolated areas often act as 'evolutionary laboratories', spawning biological diversity rapidly and permitting many mechanisms to be observed and studied over relatively short periods of time. Such islands are often the places of new discoveries, including the documentation of new species.

The Republic of Cape Verde comprises 10 inhabited islands about 570 kilometers off the coast of West Africa and have been known since at least 1456. Although the bee fauna of the islands was thought to be moderately well known, research by Jakub Straka of Charles University in Prague and Michael S. Engel of the KU Biodiversity Institute have shown that this is not the case. A recent study published in the open access journal ZooKeys documents the cuckoo bee fauna of the islands, revealing that their entire fauna of cuckoo bee species is in fact new to science.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, August 2, 2012

As scientists have toiled to chronicle of the evolution of insects, a frustrating blank spot in the fossil record has masked one of the most critical points in insects’ development — the Devonian, or roughly 365 million years ago.

The biodiversity of insects, the greatest radiation of all life today, during the Devonian is captivating to researchers because it was around this period when insects first diversified. They developed novel feeding strategies and first evolved wings, becoming the original organisms on Earth to evolve powered flight.

“Insects do have a good fossil record, but unfortunately not from this critical time period,” said Michael Engel, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas. “Prior to this, only two definitive insects have been recorded from the Devonian, and both are exceptionally fragmentary.”

Now, Engel and colleagues have described the first complete insect fossil from the Devonian. The specimen illuminates the timing of changes to insect biology that resulted in flight. Their findings appear in the Aug. 2 issue of Nature.

“The current fossil is much more complete than any other record from the Devonian and comes from the Late Devonian — somewhat younger than the other two Devonian fossils, but far more complete,” said Engel, who also serves as senior curator at KU’s Natural History Museum. “The features of this fossil indicate that it, like a fossil I described in 2004, was not of the most primitive lineages of insects, which are largely wingless. This indicates that significant diversification had already taken place and that winged insects were present at the time, supporting the notion that wings evolved much earlier than was believed.”

“It helps close a giant gap in the fossil record — namely the lack of fossil material from the early Devonian fossils through to the much better deposits of the mid-Carboniferous,” said Engel. “It helps to narrow this gap in the fossil record of the most diverse lineage of life on this planet.”

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, August 2, 2012

Insect

Photo by Dan Bennett

Dr. Volker Puthz, a longtime collaborator of the KU Entomology division, has previously described more than 100 staphylinid species using KU's entomology collections, and he recently published his largest work yet.  In  "On the New World species of Megalopinus," he describes 205 new species of staphylinids, or Rove beetles, of which approximately 160 descriptions were based on KU specimens.

The beetles are visual predators on the underside of logs with fungus. KU has the world's best collection due to the routine use of an unusual collection method: pyrethrin fogging. The late Steve Ashe (and his staff/students) used the techinque extensively on his expeditions, building an amazing collection of what otherwise would be rarely encountered beetles.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Frgo

A red-eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas) from Barro Colorado Island in Panama (photo © Christian Ziegler)

Many of the world’s tropical protected areas are struggling to sustain their biodiversity, according to a study just published in Nature by more than 200 scientists from around the world.

Professor William Laurance, from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, said that “these reserves are like arks for biodiversity.”

“But some of the arks are in danger of sinking,” he said, “even though they are our best hope to sustain tropical forests and their amazing biodiversity in perpetuity.”

Professor Laurance and his team studied more than 30 different categories of species—from trees and butterflies to primates and large predators—within protected areas across the tropical Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

They estimated how these groups had changed in numbers over the past two to three decades, while identifying environmental changes that might threaten the reserves.

Laurance said their conclusion was that while most reserves were helping to protect their forests, about half were struggling to sustain their original biodiversity. 

“The scariest thing about our findings,” said Carolina Useche of the Humboldt Institute in Colombia, “is just how widespread the declines of species are in the suffering reserves.” 

“It’s not just a few groups that are hurting, but an alarmingly wide array of species.”  

These included big predators and other large-bodied animals, many primates, old-growth trees, and stream-dwelling fish and amphibians, among others.

The researchers found that reserves that were suffering most were those that were poorly protected and suffered encroachment from illegal colonists, hunters and loggers.

Kadiri Serge Bobo of the University of Dschang in Cameroon, Africa, said that it was not just what was happening inside a reserve that was important.

“Almost as important is what’s going on outside it,” he said.

“Eighty-five percent of the reserves we studied lost some nearby forest cover over the past two to three decades,” said Dr Bobo. “But only two percent saw an increase in surrounding forest.”

Deforestation is advancing rapidly in tropical nations and most reserves are losing some or all of their surrounding forest. 

The team found many nature reserves acted like mirrors—partially reflecting the threats and changes in their surrounding landscapes.

“For example, if a park has a lot of fires and illegal mining around it, those same threats can also penetrate inside it, to some degree,” Ms Useche said.  

The bottom line, the researchers say, is that a better job needs to be done in protecting the protected areas - and that means fighting both their internal and external threats, and building support for protected areas among local communities. Such efforts will help ensure protected areas are more resilient to future threats such as climate change.

“We have no choice,” said Professor Laurance, “tropical forests are the biologically richest real estate on the planet, and a lot of that biodiversity will vanish without good protected areas.”

Among the dozens of scientists involved in the research was the Biodiversity Institute's curator of mammals, Robert Timm.

News Type:
Research News
Thursday, July 26, 2012

This week, the National Science Foundation announced that DataONE, the Data Observation Network for Earth, released technology capable of providing researchers access to globally distributed, networked data from a single point of access. 

The increasing volume of environmental and Earth science data, from historic observational field notes to recent remotely sensed data, is challenging scientists to locate and integrate pertinent information in a manner that addresses important questions. By providing a single search interface that queries data repositories distributed globally, DataOne can help scientists investigate and answer questions such as: How is the spread of invasive species affected by patterns of land use?  What factors predict the distribution of emergent infectious diseases, and what are the associated health risks?  Are climate models sufficiently predictive?  

DataONE enables scientists around the world to easily discover data wherever the data reside and to make their own data available for innovations over the long term. The Biodiversity Institute played a major role in designing, building and deploying the infrastructure for DataONE. 

Dave Vieglais of the BI is a co-investigator for the project and the director of development and operations for it. A distributed team of software engineers and architects designed, implemented and deployed DataONE.

“The services provided by DataONE are well aligned with the goals of the Biodiversity Institute," Vieglais said. "We expect there will be both content contributions to DataONE from the Biodiversity Institute, and significant opportunities for Biodiversity Institute researchers through increased availability of data relevant to biodiversity research." 

“It has been a privilege to work with such a dedicated team of engineers," he continued, "and really quite amazing to step back and review the design and implementation work that has gone into the underlying infrastructure of the DataONE federation in such a short period of time”

For more information, visit the National Science Foundation.

News Type:
Research News
Thursday, July 12, 2012

The term “biodiversity informatics” may not set the average person’s heart aflutter. Yet, this emerging field is revolutionizing conservation efforts, public health and agriculture in parts of the world. Now, a researcher at the University of Kansas is ready to bring comprehensive training in biodiversity informatics to students and scientists across Africa.

“Biodiversity informatics is about how to develop, integrate and use information about life on Earth,” said Town Peterson, University Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and curator in the Biodiversity Institute. “We have a lot of raw data about biodiversity, which is to say we know places where particular species have been seen. But turning those raw data into usable information is a much bigger challenge.”

In Africa, as in much of the world, there is scant availability of training in this important discipline. This is about to change. With funding from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Peterson will lead multiple training sessions in four African nations: Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt.

“The people doing the training will come from around the world, and the trainees will be a range of people, from people in decision-making situations, such as a ministry of natural resources, to professors, graduate students and undergrads,” said Peterson. “We’re going to focus on people with the promise to take this training and put it to good use.”

What’s more, Peterson and his team will make videos of the training sessions, along with other learning materials, available on the Internet for anyone to access. He calls it a free online “biodiversity informatics university.”

“You have a field that’s relatively new,” said the KU researcher. “Being able to analyze biodiversity patterns worldwide is not something that’s been feasible in terms of data availability for very long. This field emerged just in the last 10 to 20 years. It requires a fair amount of technology and access to the Internet. So not just Africa, but people all over the world, including in the U.S., are looking for means of obtaining quality training in terms of how you learn these techniques. The in-person training will be in Africa, but the training materials will then be made available worldwide.”

The training could significantly enhance efforts in Africa and elsewhere in several important fields.

“Say a country has the will to protect its natural resources in biodiversity, but may not have good information about where protection should be focused,” said Peterson. “If you want to have maximum effect, you need to know where each species is. Think of the national parks in the U.S.: here you have the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Great Plains and California. But if you were starting from zero and setting up a national park system, where would you protect first? Take that question to any number of countries in Africa, and there are data out there, but they are raw. So you need to organize the data and have a framework for analyzing and interpreting the results.”

Peterson also said that public health officials could use biodiversity informatics to track transmission of infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue, while agricultural experts could know better what insects and weeds could pose a threat to crops.

This work is funded by a three-year grant from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation.

Divison:
Informatics
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Invertebrate collection specimens

Invertebrate collection specimens

For hundreds of years, paleontologists have added fossils to museums around the world, amassing meticulous records of ancient biology, such as the invertebrate paleontology collection at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute.

There, thousands of drawers hold a record of ancient life that could be especially useful today in predicting how climate change could alter our planet’s biodiversity and distribution of species.

Alas, for years, such collections have come to be known as “dark data” — information that can prove difficult for far-flung researchers and non-academics to access and use.

“When I was in graduate school, if you wanted to track down material at an institution, well, maybe you got lucky and found it,” said Bruce Lieberman, KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior curator with the division of invertebrate paleontology at the museum. “But to get access to the data, you’d have to contact the collections manager there, and if you wanted to gather data, it would require that a researcher there gather it for you — or you’d have to secure funds to travel yourself sometimes. So when data is hidden like that, it’s like there’s no data at all.”
 
Now, Lieberman is heading a $600,000 effort funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program to digitize thousands of fossils collected over hundreds of years and housed at the KU institute.

Soon, valuable information about fossils’ temporal and geographic distribution in deep time will be available to anyone on the Internet, accessible with a few keystrokes.

Lieberman said that partnerships with other institutions under the NSF grant would allow scientists to complete a fossil record that will more accurately show how climate change could impact species on Earth going forward.

“We know there are certain issues facing the biosphere today and we can sort of measure in ecological time what’s going to happen to the flora and fauna today,” he said. “But if we want a deeper time scale perspective, these fossil data will allow us to look at analogous time periods and analogous climate changes so that we can predict with more accuracy what may happen to life on the planet.”

The digitization process, which will employ undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and a biodiversity informatics developer, will focus on three important time periods — the Ordovician, Pennsylvanian and Neogene — from three major paleobiogeographic regions: the Cincinnati region, American mid-continent and Gulf/Atlantic Coastal Plains.

“I’m focused on invertebrate fossils,” Lieberman said. “Those are species that don’t have a backbone, like snails, clams and their relatives. We have very strong holdings in the Carboniferous period, the time about 290 million years ago. Much of the rock you’d see around this part of Kansas comes from that period. Our deposits are centered on the entire American mid-continent. We have so much information about where those species were found and their distribution through time.”

The endeavor will expand “Specify,” a database program, as well as make the fossil data available online and via portable device digital atlases aimed at amateur paleontologists and K-12 students for use in the field.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A new exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art features creative projects made by University of Kansas researchers who traveled to the Peruvian Amazon last summer.

Co-sponsored by KU's Biodiversity Institute, 39 Trails is on view through July 22 in the Museum's Gallery 318 South, and shares the work of a research team that included seven undergraduate students and two graduate students under the direction of KU curator/professors Caroline Chaboo, entomology, and Steve Goddard, Spencer Museum of Art. "Everyone involved relied heavily on a small map of the base of their activity, the Los Amigos Biological Research Station," Goddard says. "The map detailed 39 trails, underscoring the human presence in the rain forest, as well as the difficulty of navigating it."

A full description of the exhibition is available on the Spencer's exhibition page.

Three of the undergraduate students were part of a pilot program: the Rudkin Undergraduate Scholarships for International Interdisciplinary Research Experiences. This new scholarship strives to give the students an arena for integrating disciplines and synthesizing knowledge across the sciences, arts and humanities in a global setting.

In addition to sharing the creative work by the three Rudkin Scholars, Goddard says the goal of the exhibition is to include contributions from all members of the cohesive research team to give a fuller account of the different ways the rain forest experience touched everyone involved.

The installation consists of small acrylic cases — one for each team member — that the researchers have individually curated to summarize their experiences.  In addition to the items in these cases and the written and pictorial creative work of the Rudkin Scholars, the exhibition includes printed leaves, photographs, insect specimens and audio recordings made at the Los Amigos Biological Research Station where the group spent 10 days in focused work.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, March 12, 2012

Mexican President

Jorge Soberon, was commended by President Felipe Calderon.

p>Felipe Calderon, president of Mexico, commended the biodiversity research and leadership of a University of Kansas scientist and five other international researchers at a formal ceremony in Mexico on March 15.

Jorge Soberon, senior research scientist at the KU Biodiversity Institute and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, spoke on behalf of all the awardees at the ceremony held in the gardens of the president's residence.

From 1992 to 2005, Soberon was the executive secretary of CONABIO, the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity of Mexico. Established in 1992, the commission is dedicated to increasing the knowledge of Mexico's biodiversity as well as its conservation and sustainable use.  At CONABIO, Soberon was in charge of programs to inventory the biodiversity of Mexico,  digitize biodiversity collections and develop bioinformatic tools to analyze it. At KU, he directs the Biodiversity Modeling and Policy research laboratory of the KU Biodiversity Institute.

In addition to Soberon, Calderon acknowledged the services of Arturo Gomez-Pompa, distinguished professor at the University of California at Riverside; Gonzalo Halffter and Jerzy Rzedowsky, both of the Institute of Ecology, in Xalapa, Mexico; Peter Raven, member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and Director Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden and Francisco Takaki, of the Mexican National Institute of Geography and Statstic 

Several prominent American and Mexican biologists, researchers and leaders attended the ceremony, among them Paul and Anne Ehrlich of Stanford University; Rita Colwell, former President of the National Academy of Sciences; Thomas Lovejoy of the Heinz Foundation; Russell Smith of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Cristian Samper, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, among several others. The dean of the National University of Mexico, the Director of CONACyT, the Mexican version of National Science Foundation, and many distinguished Mexican scientists also attended.

News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giant flea

A giant flea from the Middle Jurassic

Writing in the journal Nature this week, KU entomologist Michael Engel and an international research team have described the oldest definitive fleas to date: giant fleas from the Middle Jurassic and Early Cretaceous of China.

The findings by Engel, André Nel and colleagues show that these ancient fleas were wingless and distinctly larger than recent fleas with body lengths of 14–20.6 mm (.5 to almost an inch) in females and 8–14.7 mm (about .25-.5 inch) in males. They also had many defining features of fleas while they retained primitive traits, such as non-jumping hind legs.

Their most impressive feature, however, was their long and serrated suctorial siphon, which was used for piercing the hides of their hosts. These were longer in females than in males. The authors note that an apparent difference between these and modern fleas is the size of the mouthpart, which are relatively shorter in today’s examples. However, they are proportionally about the same length relative to overall body size in both the ancient and modern flea.

The discovery also provides a clue as to the development of chosen hosts for fleas. The fleas’ special morphology suggests that they had hairy or feathered ‘reptilian’ hosts before moving on to mammals and birds later on.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A University of Kansas researcher and scientists from China and the United Kingdom have again played what may be the world’s oldest love song.

Using an exquisitely preserved mid-Jurassic katydid fossil found in China, the researchers have recreated the insect’s mating call produced by “stridulation” — the rubbing together of musical wing parts. Their findings appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We were actually able to recreate that sound,” said Michael Engel, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior curator of entomology at KU. “The structures used to produce sounds generally aren’t preserved in katydid fossils. There’s a scraper and file on their wings that they run together. We found a specimen where you could see these structures in great detail. You can look and tease out what these two structures will produce in terms of sound.”

The team completed a paleobioacoustical analysis of the katydid fossil and using computers recreated the mating call created by the nocturnal katydid some 165 million years ago. It turns out that the song of Archaboilus musicus, the ancient species, could sound familiar to anyone who’s heard a modern cricket or katydid on a summer’s evening.

“During that time period it would have been a warm evening and, just like in the modern-day forest, it would have been teeming with life,” Engel said. “These were nocturnal insects, and at night there were probably a lot of activity in terms of insects and their predators. The katydids want to be able to call out to the mate, to sing their love song — but at the same time they don’t want to attract a predator like a frog or lizard.”

The KU researcher collaborated with Jun-Jie Gu, Ge-Xia Qiao, and Dong Ren from the Capital Normal University and Institute of Zoology in Beijing, along with Fernando Montealegre-Zapata and Daniel Robert at the University of Bristol.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A collaborative research team that includes a KU post doctoral associate in botany has learned that their National Science Foundation proposal to study camas and rush lilies has been recommended for more than $850,000 in funding.

The proposal is entitled "Understanding diversity in camas and rush lilies: can a unified approach resolve species boundaries in difficult groups?" The co-PI for the project are Jenny Archibald at KU, Susan Kephart of Willamette University and Theresa Culley of the University of Cincinnati.

The research team will study the integrative species delimitation in the plant genera Camassia (camas) and Hastingsia (rush lilies). These diverse and systematically complex taxa allow tests of multiple criteria of species boundaries, as well as investigation of the evolutionary processes at play. Morphology, phylogeny, ecology, and pre- and post-zygotic reproductive isolation will all be examined.

Divison:
Botany
News Type:
Research News
Monday, December 19, 2011
Jennifer Humphrey 785.864.2344

Among the 51 new members to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in December 2011 is Dr. Zhonghe Zhou, who earned his doctorate in 1999 at the University of Kansas.

Zhou is the Director of Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), CAS, Beijing, China, which is an internationally known paleontological research institution.

Zhou studied at KU between 1995 and 1999 with Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Biodiversity Institute and professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Zhou is regarded one of the most distinguished vertebrate paleontologists in the world. His research on early evolution of birds and flight has been published in several science journals, and he was elected a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2010. He is also the Vice President of International Paleontological Association and of Paleontological Society of China.

At 46, he is the youngest member in the Division of Earth Sciences of CAS. Membership in CAS is considered the pinnacle of achievement for a scientist in China.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, December 19, 2011

Among the 51 new members to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in December 2011 is Dr. Zhonghe Zhou, who earned his doctorate in 1999 at the University of Kansas.

Zhou is the Director of Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), CAS, Beijing, China, which is an internationally known paleontological research institution.

Zhou studied at KU between 1995 and 1999 with Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Biodiversity Institute and professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Zhou is regarded one of the most distinguished vertebrate paleontologists in the world. His research on early evolution of birds and flight has been published in several science journals, and he was elected a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2010. He is also the Vice President of International Paleontological Association and of Paleontological Society of China.

At 46, he is the youngest member in the Division of Earth Sciences of CAS. Membership in CAS is considered the pinnacle of achievement for a scientist in China.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, October 10, 2011

The Specify Software Project is enthused to announce a software co-development collaboration with the Swedish Museum of Natural History (NRM) to create extensions to Specify for the web. NRM scientists and software developers will share the design vision and engineering tasks with Project staff in the Biodiversity Institute to produce a Specify web client (program) for browser-based access to remote Specify databases. The web client will complement the three desktop software versions of Specify currently available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux computers. The web client will enable new kinds of collaborations among collections institutions--a single Specify installation will now be accessible over the internet for querying, data entry and other analytical functions with data from multiple collections and institutions. The effort will also produce a web portal for Specify which will be a more traditional web site for open access to specimen data held in Specify databases. The Specify web client and web portal will be available and supported as open source extensions to Specify in 2012.

Divison:
Informatics
News Type:
Research News
Monday, October 10, 2011
James Beach 785.864.4645

The Specify Software Project is enthused to announce a software co-development collaboration with the Swedish Museum of Natural History (NRM) to create extensions to Specify for the web. NRM scientists and software developers will share the design vision and engineering tasks with Project staff in the Biodiversity Institute to produce a Specify web client (program) for browser-based access to remote Specify databases. The web client will complement the three desktop software versions of Specify currently available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux computers. The web client will enable new kinds of collaborations among collections institutions--a single Specify installation will now be accessible over the internet for querying, data entry and other analytical functions with data from multiple collections and institutions. The effort will also produce a web portal for Specify which will be a more traditional web site for open access to specimen data held in Specify databases. The Specify web client and web portal will be available and supported as open source extensions to Specify in 2012.

News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bird

A new discovery by researchers from the University of Kansas and China pushes back by millions of years proof that birds’ digestive systems have ancient origins. The investigators found fossil evidence of a crop — the muscular pocket in the esophagus that most modern birds use to store and soften seeds — in two avian species from the Early Cretaceous, the most recent period of the Mesozoic Era, about 130 million years ago.

Their discovery is to be published in a forthcoming edition of the influential journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

“We think that perhaps the development of a gizzard and a crop are specialization for eating seeds, and it was eating seeds that may have been one of the great motivations for birds to lose their teeth,” said Larry Martin, professor and senior curator at the KU Biodiversity Institute. “It shows that seed eating was an important driving force in the early diversification and radiation of modern-type birds.” 

The two species showing evidence of crops, Sapeornis and Hongshanornis, were located in the collection of the Tianya Museum of Nature in Shandong Province, China. Fossils of both species contained preserved seeds in the anatomical location of the crop in modern birds. Additionally, some specimens show a soft tissue structure that closely matches the outline of a crop in birds today.

According to Martin, the crop is an important clue to how birds evolved from the Mesozoic era, when the vast majority possessed teeth, to modern bird species that lack teeth.

“These animals that we’ve found that have crops and gizzards are also among the few Mesozoic birds that show a loss of teeth,” the KU researcher said. “So we think that development of a crop is related.”

Martin co-authored the paper with Xiaoting Zheng of Linyi University and the Tianya Museum of Nature, China; Zhonghe Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China; and KU colleagues David Burnham and Desui Miao.

The two species found to have crops go far back in the evolution of birds, showing birds to be specialized eaters from close to the beginning of their development.

“These birds in question are around 130 million years old,” Marin said. “This is very early in bird evolution, about 10 million years after what was thought to be the first bird, Archaeopteryx.”

Of the two species found to have crops, Martin said that one belonged to a long-extinct evolutionary side-branch, while the other was a relative of modern birds.
“Sapeornis was a pretty fair-sized bird, about the size of an ordinary chicken,” said Martin. “It belongs to a group of basal birds that are related to, but actually separate from, the line that leads to modern birds. The other bird that we have, Hongshanornis, is a very early example of the group to which all modern birds belong. It’s essentially a modern bird, but an awfully old one — one of the oldest modern birds.”

The finding is the latest accomplishment in the long relationship between paleontologists from KU and China, where government support and large quarrying efforts have led to a boom in fossil findings.

“We’ve been working in China in the Early Cretaceous since the beginning of research in that area,” Martin said. “KU has in fact been the central institution for much of the research that’s been done there, especially on fossil birds for the Early Cretaceous. This is the oldest avian fauna that we can study in detail, and it’s produced thousands of complete skeletons, often with feathers, stomach contents and internal organs.”

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, August 18, 2011

frog

An international team of researchers has completed the first major survey in Asia of a deadly fungus that has wiped out more than 200 species of amphibians worldwide. The massive survey could help scientists zero in on why the fungus has been unusually devastating in many parts of the globe-and why Asian amphibians have so far been spared the same dramatic declines.

From 2001 to 2009 to the present, an international team focused on Asia has surveyed more than 3,000 amphibians — mostly frogs — from 15 Asian countries, sampling skin from the undersides of frogs to attempt to detect the lethal fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (or “Bd”).  

frog

Rafe Brown of the KU Biodiversity Institute led the Philippine component of the study. Together with colleagues from the Philippine government and the National Museum of the Philippines, the team sampled skin from more than 1,000 specimens of the country’s 105 species of frogs. Some of the findings for this small island country were alarming.

It is possible that Asia, like the Americas of 20-30 years ago, may be on the verge of a chytridiomycosis epidemic, which could cause a cascade of species extinctions throughout the region. The group thinks that such an endemic, if about to occur, could be initially triggered in the Philippines.

“The prevalence and intensity of Bd infection is much higher (in the Philippines) than anywhere else in Asia,” said Vance Vredenburg of San Francisco State University. “Bd in the Philippines today looks similar to Bd in early outbreaks in California and South and Central America.”

The team found that the prevalence of Bd across Asia was very low, appearing in only 2.4 percent of the frogs. The Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea were the only countries with any Bd infection. But, as Arvin Diesmos of the National Museum of the Philippines emphasized, infection intensity was very high in some Philippine populations -- approaching the level that has caused die-offs in American amphibians populations.
“This study is extremely interesting but has amphibian biologists in the Philippines very concerned,” said Brown.

“There are so many unanswered questions,” said Mae Diesmos of the University of Santo Tomas (Manila) and a collaborator on the publication. “What is badly needed now is a massive study focused on the Philippines to determine the extent and distribution of the chytrid fungus, and to determine which amphibian populations may be at risk of extinction.”

The research was published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cicada

Cicada

Caroline Chaboo regularly fields phone calls and emails from homeowners, gardeners and even U.S. customs officials who ask her to help identify bugs. The University of Kansas entomologist is a leading expert on beetles and performs research around the world, including in Kansas.

And Chaboo takes the time to help people with their insect-related curiosities and concerns. 

“I ask them questions, and they send me pictures,” she said. 

But now, a new grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program will enable Chaboo to put photos, data and maps relating to thousands of insects such as such as aphids, hoppers and cicadas (collectively known to scientists as Hemiptera) onto the Internet. Also, information about their host plants and parasites will be digitized and put on the Web. Anybody will be able to access the information with a few keystrokes. 

“In the course of human evolution, we’ve asked these questions from the beginning,” said Chaboo. “We’ve always wanted to know what was around us, what things were useful to us, what was edible and what was poisonous. It’s a pretty fundamental part of the human experience. It’s probably part of our genetic code that we’re all taxonomists — we all want to know the names of things.” 

Indeed, generations of scientists have collected specimens of plants and animals in the field and stored them in institutions around the world. For instance, the KU Insect Collection has one of the preeminent university assemblages of Hemiptera, Coleoptera (beetles) and Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), amassed through the efforts of curators and students since it was established in 1870. 

At all institutions, examples of biodiversity are labeled, and then preserved in boxes and drawers within climate-controlled, fireproof steel cabinets. Usually, new species are described and named in academic journals.

The problem is that much of the biological information is “dark data.” It hasn’t been made straightforwardly accessible to non-scholars, and is at times unavailable even for experts. 

“If you know of a specialist working in an area, you would write to them — if they were still alive — and ask what have you gotten from Peru or South Africa of this particular group?” Chaboo said. “Or you would write to a collection and ask what they have of a certain species. But it’s skewed toward systematic and evolutionary biology and museum work.”

As an entomologist and curator at the KU Museum of Natural History and Biodiversity Institute, Chaboo herself has found difficulty hunting down information about insects in her field that were described by anthropologists, for instance, instead of evolutionary biologists. 

“I’m unable to access certain kinds of literature — not because I’m not searching, but because I’m unaware that it exists,” she said.

The grant to KU is a subcontract of a larger  $1.5 million NSF effort involving 15 botanical and 19 entomological collections around the nation. It is titled “Plants, Herbivores and Parasitoids: A Model System for the Study of Tri-Trophic Associations.” The effort will create online information and images for about 4 million specimens.

Cicada

Cicada

Chaboo will oversee specialists and undergraduate student workers as they verify species information in the KU Insect Collection and convert it into digital data and images. In the meantime, her colleague Craig Freeman, botany curator at KU’s MacGregor Herbarium, will lead a team digitizing information about the plants that are hosts of the insects. 

The results will be made available online in an easy-to-use format, making publically available the collection’s implications for genetics, the ecology and biological diversity, as well as quenching people’s thirst for a better understanding of nature.    

“For any end-user — for example you’re an amateur or farmer who just wants to know what bugs are in your garden or greenhouse — this will help you identify insects through photographs and also map where those things are,” Chaboo said.

Due to the strength of its insect collections, KU is involved in two of four NSF grants relating to digitization of biological records. A second KU entomologist, Andrew Short, is leading a separate effort funded by the same umbrella program called “InvertNet — An Integrative Platform for Research on Environmental Change, Species Discovery and Identification.”

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, August 1, 2011

Antartica

A remarkable find from plant fossils that date to approximately 240 million years ago predates the last known plant-fungi association that occurs in specialized root structures, termed nodules, by 100 million years. The find indicates that this specialized form of symbiosis has an ancient origin.

Only the roots of a few families of modern coniferous plants contain fungi that form this symbiotic association with the plant. In this association – called a mycorrhizal association -- the fungus obtains carbon from the plant and the plant obtains certain types of nutrients from the fungus.

Although the fossil record of these families can be traced back into the early Mesozoic era, the oldest fossil evidence of root nodules previously came from the Cretaceous era.

Andrew Schwendemann, a doctoral student mentored by Thomas N. Taylor, studied fossil plant root nodules containing fungi. The preservation is so extraordinary that it allowed Andrew to examine the individual cells of both the root nodules and fungi.

Close examination showed that mutual associations between the conifer root nodules and fungi date back to at least the Mesozoic era, the period during which most of the modern conifer families first appeared.

The research paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today.

Andrew spent this past December and January in the Transantarctic Mountains in Antarctica collecting plant fossils like those from which these nodules were described. He and other research team members anticipate that the 10,300 pounds of fossils that were collected during the expedition and transported back to KU to be deposited in at the KU Biodiversity Institute will yield additional significant discoveries.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mark Robbins — collections of wrens and other taxa across Nebraska and the northern Great Plains
Lynnette Dornak — censuses of Henslow's Sparrows across the eastern United States
Jaime Castro (Mexican student associate) — collections in Botswana with a team from Texas Tech University), planned for August
Town Peterson, Walter Wehtje (Research Associate), and Diego Roldan (Mexican student associate) — collections in western Mongolia with a team from the University of Nebraska
Robin Jones, Carl Oliveros, and Pete Hosner — collections at several sites in the northern part of the Philippines
Rob Moyle — collections in Bornean Malaysia with colleagues from Louisiana State University
Rob Moyle — exploring collaborations and permit arrangements in the Solomon Islands
Mike Andersen — collections in the Fiji Archipelago, including the remote Lau Islands.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mark Robbins — collections of wrens and other taxa across Nebraska and the northern Great Plains
Lynnette Dornak — censuses of Henslow's Sparrows across the eastern United States
Jaime Castro (Mexican student associate) — collections in Botswana with a team from Texas Tech University), planned for August
Town Peterson, Walter Wehtje (Research Associate), and Diego Roldan (Mexican student associate) — collections in western Mongolia with a team from the University of Nebraska
Robin Jones, Carl Oliveros, and Pete Hosner — collections at several sites in the northern part of the Philippines
Rob Moyle — collections in Bornean Malaysia with colleagues from Louisiana State University
Rob Moyle — exploring collaborations and permit arrangements in the Solomon Islands
Mike Andersen — collections in the Fiji Archipelago, including the remote Lau Islands.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Research News
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jurrasic Spider

With a leg span of more than five inches, a recently named Jurassic period spider from China is the largest fossil specimen discovered, and one that has modern relatives in tropical climates today.

A research team of KU and Capital Normal University (Beijing) researchers said the spider belongs to the living genus Nephila, or golden orb-weavers. An extremely long range for any animal genus, the nephilids are example of living fossils. Nephilids are the largest web-weaving spiders alive today (body length up to 5 cm, leg span 15 cm) and are common to the tropical and subtropical regions today. This suggests that the paleoclimate of Daohugou, China, where the specimen was found, was probably similarly warm and humid during the Jurassic.

Nephila females weave some of the largest orb webs known (up to 1.5 m in diameter) with distinctive gold-colored silk to catch a wide variety of medium-sized to large insects, but occasionally bats and birds as by-catch. Typically, an orb-weaver spider first weaves a non-sticky spiral with space for sticky spirals in between. Unlike most other orb-weaving spiders, Nephila do not remove the non-sticky spirals after weaving the sticky spirals. This results in a ‘manuscript paper’ effect when the orb is seen in the sunlight, because the sticky spirals reflect the light while the non-sticky spirals do not, thus resembling musical staves.

This fossil finding provides evidence that golden orb-webs were being woven and capturing medium to large insects in Jurassic times, and predation by these spiders would have played an important role in the natural selection of contemporaneous insects. 

The research was published in the online edition of Biology Letters as “A golden orb-weaver spider (Araneae: Nephilidae: Nephila) from the Middle Jurassic of China.” Paul A. Selden, Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor at KU and director of the Paleontological Institute, as well as ChungKun Shih and Dong Ren, professors from Capital Normal University, Beijing, China, authored the research.

In the image above, the figure on the left is of a fossil female golden orb-weaver spider (Nephila jurassica) from the Middle Jurassic of China. The body length about 1 inch, front legs about 2.5 inches (= leg span more than 5 inches). Next to it is an image of a living female golden orb-weaver spider (Nephila pilipes), in Queensland, Australia, on her golden orb web. It is about the same size as the fossil specimen.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The exciting scientific discovery was fried and served with tomato and lettuce on the side.

At least that’s how Biodiversity Institute graduate student Jesse Grismer first heard of a species of lizard heretofore unknown to scientists — it was featured on the menu of a restaurant in the remote Ca Mau province of southern Vietnam.

Grismer and his father — a herpetologist at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif. — jetted to Vietnam in search of the unknown lizard based on a lead by a fellow scientist and family friend, Ngo Van Tri of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology.

“He’s a real go-getter,” Grismer said of Tri. “He knew that I was working on Leiolepis for my master’s research. He took it upon himself to go to southern Vietnam. He went down there and collected a large series of these things and sent me tissue samples and also the specimens. They looked just liked the females of an already known species that existed there.”

But Grismer found it odd that all of the specimens sent by Tri were female and deduced that they were not commonplace Leiolepis reevesi. He sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of the tissue samples Tri had collected and demonstrated these lizards were more closely related to known asexual species of Leiolepis and not the known sexual species. After closely examining photos and specimens of the lizards, Grismer and his father determined that the lizards being served a la carte were likely new to science.

“We came to the conclusion that Tri had found a population of new asexual species,” said Grismer. “We were headed out there to collect some geckos for my father’s research and we figured we’d just make another pit stop with Tri to collect these lizards — we just had no idea what it would entail.”

Tri had informed Grismer and his father that the remarkable lizards were to be found on the menu at a particular restaurant in the Ca Mau region on Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

After landing at Ho Chi Minh City airport, Grismer and his father embarked on a harrowing eight-hour motorcycle trek southward, calling ahead to the owner of the restaurant to reserve the remaining supply of lizards. But at the end of the journey, the KU researcher and his father were met with disappointment.

“We get there and — I can’t blame him — he had a bunch of customers come in and he was like, ‘Oh well,’ and he cooked them all up and sold them,” said Grismer.

So the restaurant owner put the Grismers and Tri in touch with locals who were able to help the scientists find more lizards. After collecting enough specimens, the scientists were able to consume a plateful of the species, too.

“We went back to the restaurant and he actually had more,” said Grismer. “So we ate some of them.”

Grismer said the taste of the new species is “nothing like chicken.”

“It’s a taste that — unfortunately — only a herpetologist could relate to,” he said. “I can only describe it in a herpetological context, it tastes like a bag of wet lizards.”

Further research into the lizard confirmed for the KU researcher that the population of lizards were indeed new to science.

“When we got back to the lab, we were able to lay out all the other known asexuals, including this new one, and then laid out a set of morphological characteristics, then created a key to diagnose if from other populations,” Grismer said. “It turns out that there are some really unique characteristics that separated this from all the other asexuals. On top of that, it’s geographically isolated. It’s the only asexual species in southern Vietnam.”

Because the Grismers were the first to describe the new species, they also had the chance to name the newfound species. They chose to honor their “hard charging” Vietnamese colleague Tri by christening the new species Leiolepis ngovantrii.

Although Grismer is near the beginning in his scientific career, he’s already taken part in describing and naming 19 or 20 new species.

“It’s always an extraordinary thing to find a new species,” Grismer said. “You’re finding a new lineage of life that’s never been seen before. I don’t think anyone would turn their nose up at that.”

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For more than two decades, Ed Wiley has overseen collection and cataloging of fish specimens from all over the world in his role as curator-in-charge of Ichthyology at the University of Kansas’ Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Institute.

Now, frozen tissue from thousands of those collected fish will be source material for genetic sequencing in a huge new undertaking dubbed the “Genome 10K Project,” a plan to map genomes from 10,000 vertebrates — species that possess backbones.

“There has been a lot of genomic work centered around humans, and that’s very important,” said Wiley. “But we need a much broader sampling of the diversity of genomes in order to understand many things. There are evolutionary and very practical reasons to sequence these genomes. Let me give you one example — sharks don’t seem to get cancer. Is there something about their genome that is different from our genome that would explain this?”

Members of the Genome 10K Community of Scientists include representatives from major zoos, museums, research institutions and universities worldwide. Each will make a contribution to the project, but few as significant as the thousands of fish tissue samples KU will supply, which are expected to make up as much as 20 percent of the Genome 10K data.

“The KU Division of Ichthyology in the Biodiversity Institute has a large collection of fishes,” said Wiley. “But our unique aspect is to have a very diverse collection of tissues that we’ve collected over the past 25 years. We have these tissues in an ultra-cold freezer, and they’re associated with voucher specimens that we preserve in the regular, old-fashioned way. Almost half the total fish tissues that will be involved in this project will come from the KU collection.”

For a quarter-century, Wiley’s researchers have packed small tubes with muscle tissue from the backs of newly obtained fish specimens. Each tube then is frozen with a unique identification marker linking to its original specimen, which is preserved with formaldehyde and ethanol.

“We get requests from all over the world for little snippets of our tissue,” Wiley said. “We do a very active program of gifting internationally, because everyone sees our collection as being a truly international resource for genetic studies of fishes.”

The Genome 10K Project’s quest to sequence DNA from species representing every vertebrate genus will be years in the making, Wiley said. Much will depend upon future cost reductions in DNA sequencing. If successful, the effort should yield what scientists call “an unprecedented resource for the life sciences.”

“There may be features of the vertebrate genome that are so ancient that we can only stare in wonder at them,” said Wiley. “The point of trying to sample broadly is to understand the commonalities of the genome. If there are certain parts of the genome of fishes that do exactly the same things that human genomes do, then you have an understanding of the origin — it has to be a very ancient thing as opposed to a very recent thing.”

Wiley said that knowledge of such commonalities and differences in vertebrate genomes would lead investigators to a better grasp of evolution, morphology and disease in a host of creatures.

Wiley and 54 other scientists involved in the project met in April at the University of California-Santa Cruz and announced the project in early November. The KU researcher also co-authored an article describing the undertaking in the current issue of the Journal of Heredity.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Wiley said. “I’m really hoping that that the technological advances we saw at our meeting in Santa Cruz turn out to be industrial-strength. If they do, then sequencing of a genome per week is not out of the question.”

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, November 19, 2010

New species

A new legless species of lizard has been discovered from the Philippines by an international team of biologists, including Biodiversity Institute scientists, working together with the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources.   Although the new species looks and lives like a snake, it is technically a lizard.

The new species, called Lukban’s Loam-swimming Skink or Brachymeles lukbani in its scientific name, is 5-6 inches long and about 0.2 inches in diameter around the body. It spends most of its life underground, where it moves around by burrowing its body in soil. 

A single specimen of the legless lizard found at Mt. Labo in Camarines Norte province was known to biologists as early as 2006 but it was only in June 2008 when an expedition by a team from the University of Kansas, DENR and the National Museum went to the same locality yielded more specimens.  The official description of the species appears in a recent issue of the internationally recognized scientific journal Copeia, which is published by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

Cameron Siler, a Ph.D. student at the Biodiversity Institute and lead author of the species description, says the discovery of a limbless lizard from the Philippines is very exciting but not entirely new.  According to Siler, three other species of lizards in the same genus are limbless, two of which are found only in the Philippines.

The legless lizard from Bicol is only one of 15 species that Siler is describing from the genus Brachymeles, the subject of his doctoral dissertation.  “As a result of surveys we have carried out throughout the Philippines I expect the number of known species of lizards from this genus to more than double in the next few years,” he says.

Dr. Rafe Brown, Curator of Herpetology at the Biodiversity Institute, says “In the world of reptiles, limbs have been lost independently several times across the evolutionary tree.  The most widely known instance is the case of snakes but limblessness is known in several genera of lizards.”

The new lizard species is known only from Mt. Labo but Siler says further surveys are needed to determine if it is found in other parts of the Bicol peninsula or in the rest of Luzon.

“These lizards are very secretive that they escape notice of local residents.  Local people either don’t recognize them or confuse them with snakes and worms.  Quite often people don’t even have a local name for them,” Siler adds.

The lizard was named after General Vicente R. Lukban (1860-1916), a Filipino freedom fighter who was born in Labo, Camarines Norte, where specimens of the new species were collected.

Mundita Lim, Chief of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, says “This discovery underscores the idea that so much of our biodiversity, from giant, fruit-eating lizards to tiny legless ones, remains undocumented.”  According to her, the forest on Mt. Labo is being declared a Critical Habitat under the Wildlife Act, which will give government protection to the site.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Banana frog

KU Biodiversity Institute scientists recently announced the results of an extensive study of the genetics of the tree frogs in the Philippines. Their surprising results suggest that the Asian Tree Frog (known to biologists as Polypedates leucomystax and many Filipinos as Banana Frogs, or “Palakang Saging”) has spread throughout the Philippine islands in few centuries. Their finding of genetic uniformity throughout the Philippines suggests that humans have inadvertently transported these Asian tree frogs throughout the archipelago as “hitchhikers” or “stowaways” in agricultural shipments between islands by boats, ferries, and commercial shippers.

Biodiversity Institute herpetologists, in collaboration with the Parks and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Museum of the Philippines, published these findings in the international journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Their results suggest that the extraordinary Philippine tree frog species P. leucomystax has expanded its range throughout the Philippines, aided by humans and the constant inter-island trafficking of sugar cane, bananas, copra, rattan, rice and other goods.

“We know that this species is often found mixed in with shipments of agricultural products,” said Rafe Brown, curator of herpetology and leader of the team that published the recent scientific article. “It is reasonable to assume that humans, in the daily commerce of food products around the country, have contributed to the spread of the Asian tree frog throughout the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, scientists are baffled by the presence of the Asian tree frogs on nearly every island in the Philippines that has been surveyed by biologists. The species’ recent arrival on many hundreds of islands defies a natural explanation and suggests that humans must have been involved in the spread of its populations. Brown also cited a recent study by Japanese biologists who concluded that humans had brought Philippine Banana Frogs to the as far north as the rice fields of Japan.

“These findings suggest that Filipinos, in our every day comings and goings, have contributed to the expansion of Banana Frog populations throughout the country,” said T. Mundita Lim, Director of PAWB-DENR. “The results of this study reinforce the idea that humans may have a real impact on the distribution of animal life in the Philippines.”

On a more serious note, Lim emphasized that the new study by Brown and colleagues demonstrated how quickly an invasive species can spread if humans are not careful and take steps to prevent exotic species introductions. Lim cited the case of the American Cane Toad, which was introduced into the expansive sugar cane plantations on Negros a century ago in hopes that it would control insect pest species, only to become a major pest itself.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, August 30, 2010

Fossil

Fossil lacewings

A research team including Biodiversity Institute Entomology Curator Michael S. Engel has concluded that well-preserved lacewing fossils from northeastern China represent the earliest evidence of leaf mimicry among insects.

Many extant insects, including some mantises, treehoppers and butterflies mimic the leaves of flowering plants to hide from predators. The historical origin of this adaptive mimicry has remained unclear because of a dearth of fossil finds. The researchers found the remains of two lacewings whose features are strikingly similar to the leaves of certain Mesozoic gymnosperms thought to predate the evolution of flowering plants. These characteristics include elongated forewings that bear undulating margins, coloration resembling leaflets, complex venation and branches resembling leaf shafts.

In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers suggest that the lacewings likely rested and fed on the feather-like leaves, remaining still or swaying in the breeze to fool predators such as insectivorous dinosaurs, primitive birds, and mammals. When these gymnosperms gave way to flowering plants, the lacewings likely became prone to predation, suggesting that leaf mimicry evolved before the rise of flowering plants, according to the researchers.

Authors of the paper, “Ancient pinnate leaf mimesis among lacewings,” were Engel, who is professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU, and Professor Dong Ren, Post-doc Yongjie Wang, Visiting Professor Chungkun Shih, and Associate Professor Yunyun Zhao, all of the Capital Normal University;  Professor Zhiqi Liu of the China Agricultural University; and Dr. Xin Wang of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, August 12, 2010

A KU Biodiversity Institute scientist and his colleagues have found that copepod crustaceans, an extremely abundant sea dwelling creature, can be traced back to the late Carboniferous age –188 million years earlier than previously thought.

The finding, reported this week in the online science journal Nature Communications, helps to explain the origins of a creature that underpins the world’s marine ecosystems and is a sensitive bio-indicator of local and global climate change. 

Despite copepod crustaceans outnumbering every other group of multicellular animals on Earth, little is known about their origins. This is because they fossilize poorly due to their small size and fragility. Currently, fossils of these crustaceans have been found from as early as the Cretaceous period around 115 million years ago, but nothing previous to this.
 
Paul Selden, director of the KU Paleontological Institute, and colleagues now extend the fossil record of copepods with the finding of fossil fragments in Oman. The fragments are found in bitumen – a sticky, black material made up of condensed hydrocarbons – which the authors believe originated from an oil seep which flowed into a sub-glacial lake around 303 million years ago. The bitumen appears to have preserved the copepods well and even muscle fibres can be seen within the fragments.

News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rare frog

The rare Philippine flat-headed frog, Barbourula busuangensis

What do the highly celebrated Bornean lungless frogs and the rare Philippine flat-headed frogs have in common?  The answer, scientists revealed this week, is tens of million years of evolutionary history and potential isolation of their ancestors on a small “raft” of islands that split from mainland Asia 30 million years ago.

The surprising findings, the result of collaboration between scientists in four countries, were announced today in the international journal PLoS ONE.  Dr. David Blackburn, KU Biodiversity Institute researcher and the lead author on the findings, said that the results "reveal a very ancient origin to these enigmatic frogs and suggest a new interpretation for the origins and history of some animal species inhabiting the western islands of Philippines.”

“If our results are correct,” said scientist Arvin Diesmos, co-author on today’s paper and a curator at the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila, “the ancestors of lungless frogs may have become isolated on a small chain of islands that rifted from the Asian mainland 30 million years ago.  These highly distinctive, threatened frogs may have acquired their unique characteristics during the period that they were isolated on the Palawan raft.”

The subject of the new study is the evolutionary origins of the lungless and flat-headed frogs, known to scientists as Barbourula kalimantanensis (from south-central Borneo Island) and Barbourula busuangensis (from Palawan Island in the western Philippines).  The study involved scientists from the University of Kansas, the National Museum of the Philippines, the National University of Singapore, and the Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia.  The team sequenced a large number of genes and performed molecular clock analyses to date the evolutionary origins of lungless and flat-headed frogs.  

“Our findings have the potential to turn the  “Palawan Paradigm” on its head, stated Rafe Brown, KU curator of herpetology and recipient of the National Science Foundation grant that funded the research. “Given our new data, we must consider the possibility that these unique amphibians survived 20 million years in the Philippines before dispersing to Borneo—and not the other way around.”

Brown also emphasized several other recent studies which, together with the new findings, emphasize the evolutionary uniqueness of the western Philippines and reject the past 150 years’ prevailing interpretation of the western Philippines as simple, unremarkable “faunal peninsula” of Borneo.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Frog

A significant new collection of photos has been added to AmphibiaWeb by the KU Biodiversity Institute's Herpetology scentists. Of the 559 photos contributed, 328 species were not previously represented by photos in AmphibiaWeb, and 108 are holotypes. AmphibiaWeb is an online system that provides access to information on amphibian declines, conservation, natural history and taxonomy. All copyrights are held by KU's Division of Herpetology.

AmphibiaWeb recognized Dave Blackburn, KU post-doctoral associate, for organizing the photo additions, Bill Duellman, curator emeritus, for contributing so many of his own photos, and curators Rafe Brown and Linda Trueb.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Through loss or modification of habitats, infectious disease and climate change, declines and extinction of amphibians are happening all around the world. Unlike other regions of the earth, there are few documented cases of discovering large die-offs of frogs in sub-Saharan Africa. Recently a team of scientists including the Biodiversity Institute's David Blackburn investigated an unusual die-off in Cameroon.

Blackburn, together with colleagues from the United States and Canada, documented the mortality event of the critically endangered Lake-Oku clawed frog (Xenopus longipes). The frog is known to only live near a small crater lake high in the mountains of the west African country. Unlike almost all other vertebrate species, this small frog is biologically unique in having twelve sets of chromosomes (instead of the two sets that people have).

The team sought to document the unexplained die-off event and attempt to determine whether this species has also fallen victim to the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which is responsible for many mass mortality events elsewhere in the world.

Using both molecular and anatomical techniques, Blackburn and the team did not find presence of the fungus or the equally deadly ranavirus. Instead, the team’s analysis indicates that the animals may have been exposed to a source of skin irritation that caused large wounds which subsequently became infected.

At present, the causes of these deaths remain unclear, but the observations of the team have led to the development of a conservation action plan in collaboration with the non-government organization, Amphibian Ark.

The findings were published in the African Journal of Herpetology.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, August 2, 2010

Marine biodiversity of the United States is extensively documented, but data assembled by the United States National Committee  for the Census of Marine Life demonstrate that even the most complete  taxonomic inventories are based on records scattered in space and time. Measures of biodiversity other than species diversity, such as ecosystem and genetic diversity, are poorly documented. In a paper recently published in the journal PLoS ONE, a large team of researchers, including Biodiversity Institute Curator Daphne Fautin, summarized the knowledge—and some of the major gaps in  knowledge—of marine biodiversity of the United States as of late 2009.

Among the research team’s recommendations were:

More information must be obtained through field and laboratory research and monitoring that involve innovative sampling techniques (such as genetics and acoustics), but data that already exist must be made accessible.

All data must have a temporal component so trends can be identified.

As data are compiled, techniques must be developed to make certain that scales are compatible, to combine and reconcile data collected for various purposes with disparate gear, and to automate taxonomic changes.

Information on biotic and abiotic elements of the environment must be interactively linked.
The paper, "An Overview of Marine Biodiversity in United States Waters," is available on the PLoS ONE web site.

News Type:
Research News
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lizard

Lizard

University of Kansas researchers are members of a team of international scientists who have discovered and documented a new species of monitor lizard in the Philippines that can grow up to 2 meters long.

Through the analysis of its physical features and its DNA, scientists have determined that the new species is distinct from other similar species. It spends most of its time in trees in the forests of the Northern Sierra Madre mountain range of Luzon.

Although the species had been seen as early as 2001, it was only last year that a joint KU-National Museum of the Philippines expedition to Aurora Province yielded a large, adult specimen and good DNA samples. The scientific description of the reptile has been published this week in Biology Letters, an international journal published by the Royal Society of London.

Luke Welton, a KU graduate student and one of the coauthors of the scientific description, was one of the first biologists to see a living Northern Sierra Madre Monitor Lizard in Aurora Province.

“I knew as soon as I saw the animal that it was something special,” says Welton. “I had seen specimens of the other two species of fruit-eating monitors, but neither of the other known species are nearly as spectacular as the Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor.”
Giant fruit-eating monitor lizards are found only in the Philippines. It is one of three giant fruit-eating monitor lizard species that are threatened by destruction of their forest habitats and, to a lesser degree, by hunting for their meat and the pet trade.

“We hope that by focusing on protection of this new monitor, conservation biologists and policy makers can work together to protect the remaining highly imperiled forests of northern Luzon” said Rafe Brown, assistant professor of biology at KU and curator of Herpetology at the KU Biodiversity Institute.

“The new species can serve as a convenient ‘Flagship Species’ for conservation, focusing the attention of the public and affording protection to many unrelated species if its habitat is preserved,” said Brown, who led the research team that discovered the new species.
Brown also said that it was extremely rare to discover a new, large vertebrate species.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ethiopian amber

Ethiopian Amber

A scientific team including students and faculty from the University of Kansas has discovered the first amber fossils from Africa. The tree resin entombed tiny parasites, predators and decomposers at a time when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.

The amber fossil is about 95 million years old and was found in Ethiopia. It dates to a time of great change and diversification for the first flowering plants, or angiosperms. Remains of early flowering plants and ferns are preserved, as are parasitic fungi that lived on the resin-bearing trees and served as a food source for insects.

Thirteen families of insects have been found in the amber, including hymenopterans, thrips, barklice, zorapterans and remains of moths and beetles. All of them are among the earliest fossil records of these groups from Africa. Particularly intriguing are the oldest African ant and a sheet-web-weaving spider.

Twenty researchers from Germany, France, Austria, Ethiopia, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States investigated the amber, its contents and the geological setting. Team members from KU were graduate student Erin Saupe, former postdoctoral student Vincent Perrichot and Paul Selden, the Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor of Geology. The research was published in the April 5 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The KU team investigated the ant and spider specimens in the amber. The fossils will be extremely important in understanding the evolutionary history and biological distribution of these lineages. One specimen, a spider, is the second-oldest sheet-web weaving spider (Linyphiidae) discovered to date and only the third fossil spider species to be described from the African continent. Similarly, the ant is one of the oldest representatives of this now diverse and ecologically dominant group and the earliest from Gondwana.

Ethiopian amber is unusually clear and colorful. The largest pieces reach a size of 25 cm.

Most ambers are found in North America and Eurasia. In contrast, few ambers have been found on the southern continents that formerly formed Gondwana, making the Ethiopian deposit particularly scientifically valuable. Researchers will now study the amber fossils in detail, revealing new insights into the evolution of various groups of organisms.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fish

Giant plankton-eating fishes roamed the prehistoric seas, including those over the land now known as Kansas, for more than 100 million years before they were wiped out in the same event that killed off the dinosaurs, new research shows.

 An international team that includes researchers from the University of Kansas describe how new fossils from Asia, Europe and the United States reveal a previously unknown dynasty of giant bony fishes that filled the seas of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, between 66 million and 172 million years ago. The team reported their findings in the Feb. 19 edition of the journal Science.

Several of the most important new fossils came from the famous chalk deposits of western Kansas, with other remains from as far afield as Japan and from Dorset and Kent in the United Kingdom. Some members of this filter-feeding fish group are estimated to have been up to 30 feet long, a similar size to modern plankton-eating giants such as the basking shark. Revisiting previously collected fossils netted evidence that these fishes thrived for millions of years and colonized many parts of the globe.

The research team included Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the KU Biodiversity Institute, and researchers from Oxford University, DePaul University, Fort Hays State University, the University of Glasgow, Triebold Paleontology Inc. and the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Research Centre.

Matt Friedman, lead author of the research and a lecturer at Oxford, said that because modern giant plankton feeders — such as baleen whales, basking sharks and manta rays — include the largest living vertebrate animals, scientists had long wondered why such animals were missing from the fossil record for hundreds of millions of years.

“We used to think that the seas were free of big filter feeders during the age of dinosaurs, but our discoveries reveal that a dynasty of giant fishes filled this ecological role in the ancient oceans for more than 100 million years,” Friedman said.

The big fishes were overlooked or misidentified because over time, the amount of bone in their skeletons diminished, probably to save weight. The only parts routinely found in the fossil record are their well-developed forefins. Martin said that this changed when the KU Biodiversity Institute acquired a more complete skeleton that revealed the unusual features of the giant fish’s head.

“Instead of finding a head with a long sword-like snout and jaws lined with predatory fangs, they found something completely different: long, toothless jaws supporting a gaping mouth and long, rod-like bones that contributed to the huge gill arches needed to filter out enormous quantities of tiny plankton,” Friedman said.

The team named the fish Bonnerichthys, after the Marion Bonner family. The Bonners are a Kansas family of fossil collectors who discovered the fossil fish as well as many other important specimens now housed at KU and the Sternberg Museum in Hays. The research was titled “100-Million-Year Dynasty of Giant Planktivorous Bony Fishes in the Mesozoic Seas.”

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Friday, February 12, 2010

Spider

Fossil spider

Scientists have discovered new, detailed fossil spider specimens that date to the Jurassic period 165 million years ago and reveal a connection to modern spiders.

The remarkably well-preserved specimens are about 120 million years older than known spiders in the same family.

The research findings by Paul Selden, the Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor of Invertebrate Paleontology in the Department of Geology at the University of Kansas, and his colleague Diying Huang at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology were published in the Feb. 6 edition of the journal Naturwissenschaften.

The specimens, which were discovered in Inner Mongolia, China, are exceptionally detailed. The males show all the features of the modern members of the family Plectreuridae.

“What is interesting about their identification in the family Plectreuridae is that the family is known today only from California, Arizona, Mexico and Cuba,” Selden said. “Yet these were on a small continent called the North China Block in the Jurassic.”

That means that much of the family’s distribution has contracted considerably, while the family has changed little over that time.
Selden is director of the Paleontological Institute at the Biodiversity Institut

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, January 25, 2010

MIcrofossil

Microraptor fossil

A joint team from the University of Kansas and Northeastern University in China says that it has settled the long-standing question of how bird flight began.

In the Jan. 25 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the KU-China researchers push their research into the origins of bird flight and the early evolution of birds with decisive flight tests of a model of the four-winged gliding raptor, called microraptor.

The team is led by David Alexander, KU assistant professor of biology and an expert on modern animal flight. Alexander is joined by KU colleagues Larry Martin, David Burnham and Amanda Falk, along with Enpu Gong from Northeastern University in China, who are engaged in a comprehensive study of the functional morphology and ecology of early birds from China.

“We’ve done the scientific work and flight tests to show that microraptor was a very successful glider,” said Burnham. “In 2003, they found one that was so well-preserved that you could count the feathers on its wings.”

A debate involving the KU scientists, recently documented by the PBS program “NOVA,” had flared over the question of whether evidence supported the theory that animals developed flight as ground dwellers, as a majority of paleontologists had asserted. But Martin and Burnham argue that flight originated above, in the trees. Such animals would have been gliders. The researchers say that fossils of the hawk-sized microraptor shore up their theory.

“The controversy was that these animals couldn’t spread their hind-wings to glide,” said Burnham. “But we’ve been able to articulate the bones in their hip socket to show that they could fly.”

The new flight model created by Martin and Burnham comes directly from a skeleton composed of casts of the original bones of a microraptor and the preserved impressions of feathers from specimens in Chinese museums. These astonishingly preserved fossils give a detailed image of the plumage in the gliding raptor and make possible the construction of an accurate model.

The fossils also show that an essentially sprawling posture was a plausible hind-limb wing position to provide stable flight with gliding parameters better than those of modern “flying lemurs.”

The competing “biplane posture” advanced by other researchers suggested that an upright stance provided for successful glides. But the KU-China team argues that this stance required an impossibly heavy head to maintain a proper center of gravity. Furthermore, the presence of seven-inch-long flight feathers on the feet would prohibit any extended stay on the ground. Thus, microraptor must have been completely arboreal.

“We decided that we would take the skeleton we had, put wings on it from the feather pattern and show that it could fly,” said Burnham. “If others think that it was a terrestrial runner, they should make a model and put it on a treadmill and show that it could run with those long feathers on its hind legs.”

Successful flight tests were conducted in the open air and under more controlled conditions in the Anschutz Sports Pavilion at KU. A video of some of the tests is available through KU University Relations.

Indeed, the KU-China team’s work provides such strong support for the trees-down model for the origin of avian flight that the alternative terrestrial (ground up) origin now may be abandoned.

Researchers Martin, Burnham and Falk, along with Gong, recently made headlines for their discovery of a venom-delivery system in sinornithosaurus, a cousin of microraptor. A paper detailing that finding was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Monday, January 25, 2010

MIcrofossil

Microraptor fossil

A joint team from the University of Kansas and Northeastern University in China says that it has settled the long-standing question of how bird flight began.

In the Jan. 25 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the KU-China researchers push their research into the origins of bird flight and the early evolution of birds with decisive flight tests of a model of the four-winged gliding raptor, called microraptor.

The team is led by David Alexander, KU assistant professor of biology and an expert on modern animal flight. Alexander is joined by KU colleagues Larry Martin, David Burnham and Amanda Falk, along with Enpu Gong from Northeastern University in China, who are engaged in a comprehensive study of the functional morphology and ecology of early birds from China.

“We’ve done the scientific work and flight tests to show that microraptor was a very successful glider,” said Burnham. “In 2003, they found one that was so well-preserved that you could count the feathers on its wings.”

A debate involving the KU scientists, recently documented by the PBS program “NOVA,” had flared over the question of whether evidence supported the theory that animals developed flight as ground dwellers, as a majority of paleontologists had asserted. But Martin and Burnham argue that flight originated above, in the trees. Such animals would have been gliders. The researchers say that fossils of the hawk-sized microraptor shore up their theory.

“The controversy was that these animals couldn’t spread their hind-wings to glide,” said Burnham. “But we’ve been able to articulate the bones in their hip socket to show that they could fly.”

The new flight model created by Martin and Burnham comes directly from a skeleton composed of casts of the original bones of a microraptor and the preserved impressions of feathers from specimens in Chinese museums. These astonishingly preserved fossils give a detailed image of the plumage in the gliding raptor and make possible the construction of an accurate model.

The fossils also show that an essentially sprawling posture was a plausible hind-limb wing position to provide stable flight with gliding parameters better than those of modern “flying lemurs.”

The competing “biplane posture” advanced by other researchers suggested that an upright stance provided for successful glides. But the KU-China team argues that this stance required an impossibly heavy head to maintain a proper center of gravity. Furthermore, the presence of seven-inch-long flight feathers on the feet would prohibit any extended stay on the ground. Thus, microraptor must have been completely arboreal.

“We decided that we would take the skeleton we had, put wings on it from the feather pattern and show that it could fly,” said Burnham. “If others think that it was a terrestrial runner, they should make a model and put it on a treadmill and show that it could run with those long feathers on its hind legs.”

Successful flight tests were conducted in the open air and under more controlled conditions in the Anschutz Sports Pavilion at KU. A video of some of the tests is available through KU University Relations.

Indeed, the KU-China team’s work provides such strong support for the trees-down model for the origin of avian flight that the alternative terrestrial (ground up) origin now may be abandoned.

Researchers Martin, Burnham and Falk, along with Gong, recently made headlines for their discovery of a venom-delivery system in sinornithosaurus, a cousin of microraptor. A paper detailing that finding was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Research News
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility, representing 51 countries and 42 international organizations, has elected Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Biodiversity Institute, as chair of its Science Committee and a member of its Executive Committee.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, provides free and open access to biodiversity data worldwide via the Internet--data on millions of museum specimens, and field observations of plants and animals in nature--for the benefit of science and society. The organization also provides computational tools and training to institutions in member nations in analyzing the biodiversity data to inform environmental policy.

Krishtalka, who is also Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU, has been the director of the Biodiversity Institute since 1995. The Institute is an international leader in biodiversity science and in the computational field of biodiversity informatics.

News Type:
Research News
Sunday, September 7, 2008

BatJake Esselstyn's recent discovery of Styloctenium mindorensis, or the "flying fox bat," made the Top 10 List on livescience.com.  Its discovery "highlights an increasing understanding of endemism on Mindoro, and the need for species exploration and conservation."  Mindoro is an island of the Philippines, an area with surprisingly rich biodiversity that has become an area of interest for Biodiversity Institute mammalogists, herpetologists and Ornithologists.

Divison:
Mammalogy
News Type:
Research News

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

With everything from microbial art to fluorescent geysers, a science festival atmosphere will permeate the galleries for this year’s Party in the Panorama at the KU Natural History Museum.

The museum will offer Party in the Panorama: a Science Soiree for Grown-ups from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18. The fundraising event includes science demonstrations and hands-on activities, food and drink, music, as well as opportunities to support museum outreach programs for schools, children and families.

Tickets are $40 each or two for $75 and available through the KU Alumni Association, at kualumni.org/panoramaparty.

With jazz playing in the Panorama gallery, home to the iconic exhibit that dates to the 1893 World’s Fair, attendees can try their skill at the museum’s life-size version of the game Operation, Anatomy Alex. They can practice their creative skills by making art with microbes or fish prints through the ancient technique of gyotaku. Museum staff will offer science demonstrations with ingredients found in any bar or saloon: the science of solvents, burning money and how light reflects, absorbs or transmits in alcohol. 

Attendees can “shop” in the galleries for projects that they want to help the museum achieve in the coming year. Using special markers to draw on exhibit glass, visitors vote with their support for items that will improve museum exhibits and programs, from restoration of the Panorama prairie dog to summer camp scholarships.

There also will be a photobooth where attendees can take their photo with the horse Comanche and Panorama creator Lewis Lindsay Dyche.

All proceeds from the event will benefit museum exhibits and children’s programs.

News Type:
Event News
Thursday, August 7, 2014

new exhibitsNew exhibits featuring spectacular artifacts of pre-Columbian archaeology, the dazzling expressions of the color red in nature, and the real bones of a new Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton are among those being highlighted by the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum during its first annual members day on Aug. 16.

The free event begins with an open house at 7 pm with hands-on activities for families. Visitors are encouraged to bring picnic blankets and stay for ice cream and an outdoor movie—at 8:30 p.m., the museum will show the classic 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on an inflatable screen on the lawn south of the museum. 

“This event is the museum’s hearty thank you to all of our members and friends,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. “The result of their wonderful support is an enormous transformation of our exhibits during the past year, from refurbishing classic dioramas with fresh paint and current information to renovating an entire wing for new, educational and adventurous exhibits.” 

Although the event is a celebration with museum members, those who are not yet members or curious about the museum’s membership program are most welcome to attend, Krishtalka said. 

Renovations include a two-year makeover of the sixth-floor wing of the museum. New exhibits there use art and science to display the beauty, diversity and functional form of mammal skulls, from bats to elephants. They display the otherworldly “faces” of parasites of sharks and rays, and the delicate, luminescent skeletons of fishes and frogs. 

Also on the sixth floor, a new exhibit of pre-Columbian artifacts from Costa Rica is the first of many planned exhibits that will again showcase for students and the public KU’s rich archaeology collection.

Divison:
Natural History Museum
News Type:
Event News
Thursday, December 12, 2013

Science and art converge in a new collaboration between the Spencer Museum of Art and the KU Natural History Museum. The venture is comprised of events, ideas and new ways of looking at exhibit and education opportunities at the two University of Kansas Museums.

On April 6th, the Spencer and the Natural History Museum will host an event focused on optical illusions — the science behind them, and what makes optical illusions so visually intriguing. The event includes activities at both museums, which are located within walking distance of each other.

The collaboration also highlights the fluid boundaries between art and science at both museums. At the KU Natural History Museum, several exhibits developed in the past year have focused on presenting specimens as art. They include the “Faces of Parasites,” a large installation of four colorized electron microscope images of parasites, as well as “Macro/Micro,” a photography exhibit of specimens by photographer Brian Goodman.

In addition to events, the collaboration is supported by advertising, including a new billboard on I-70 and through social media. It continues a long history of collaborations between the two organizations, including previous joint exhibitions, support for the Commons at KU, and an annual Halloween-themed event.

News Type:
Event News
Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The division of Invertebrate Paleontology is exited to welcome Dr. Michelle Casey as a new post-doc. Michelle spent a year teaching at Oberlin College after she completed her PhD at Yale University. She is broadly interested in how ecological interactions change in response to perturbation, and she will be involved in the "Paleoniches" digitization project.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Event News
Thursday, February 7, 2013

The KU Biodiversity Institute announces completion of a two-year, $3.5 million renovation that has modernized the laboratories in 110-year-old Dyche Hall for 21st century research and student training about the life of theplanet. A dedication reception and tours are planned from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

In the new facilitie, KU faculty, staff and students, and visiting scholars will be able to conduct innovative research in biodiversity science, from discovering and documenting the diversity of the world’s plants and animals; to exploring their genetics, anatomy, and evolution; to forecasting the potential spread of diseases and harmful invasive species; to investigating the environmental consequences of decreasing water on the Great Plains.

Through a partnership of federal, state, and private resources, the Biodiversity Institute created eight new laboratory spaces that will greatly increase the research capacity and capabilities of the institute. The renovation:

  • created an integrated five-laboratory complex where students and faculty can extract and sequence genetic material in a clean, secure environment, and clone ancient DNA from the institute’s vast historical collections of animals and plants
  • installed a liquid nitrogen cryogenic facility to preserve the institute’s irreplaceable and growing collection of tissues of worldwide animals and plants for genetic research
  • established two new biotic analysis laboratories where scientists and students can study and analyze an animal’s external, internal, and skeletal anatomy with the most modern tools
  • installed a modern Geographic Information Systems laboratory for modeling and forecasting environmental phenomena, such as the potential spread of diseases and pests, and the effects of climate change on animals, plants and ecosystems, both past and present.
  • established a modern, five-fold-larger data server room to provide the secure storage, computational analysis, and global access to terabytes of biodiversity informatio

The National Science Foundation awarded the Biodiversity Institute $1.5 million for the project through a program entitled Academic Research Infrastructure: Repair and Renovation. The institute was the nation’s only university biodiversity organization chosen for such a project; to qualify, an organization had to demonstrate its research excellence, and its potential for increasing that excellence by replacing antiquated or outmoded laboratories. In Dyche Hall, some of thesefacilitie were more than 45 years old.

Major state investments in the project allocated by the university included almost $2 million for electrical, HVAC and cyber connectivity. In addition, private funding helped equip the laboratories and create new spaces to accommodate graduate-student research.

Previous to the improvements, cyber bandwidth was insufficient for large-scale data access,complex geographic and modeling analyse, or research networking within KU and externally. Outmoded electrical transformers and overloaded circuits causedpower outages and shutdowns of critical equipment needed to preserve animal and plant tissues, and to archive and serve data to institute and global community networks. Many of the institute’s research and training laboratories had crowded, makeshift bench space and substandard fume hoods and sinks.

“This antiquated research infrastructure kept the Biodiversity Institute from advancing its national and international leadership and innovation in biodiversity research, informatics and research-training, particularly at a time when biodiversity science is recognized as one of society’s grand challenge research imperatives of the 21st century,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “This federal, state and private investment in our scientists and students will enable us to tackle more complex research problems facing science and society, from discovering the diversity of Earth’s animals and plants, to forecasting the effects of climate change on this biodiversity, to informing its conservation and wise use.”

To attend, please RSVP to biodiversity@ku.edu.

News Type:
Event News
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What do we know about what is under the skin?

The KU Natural History Museum invites the public to explore human anatomy through “Science Saturday: the Body,” an event for children, families and curious adults on Saturday, Dec. 15 from 1-3 p.m.

The free event includes activities and games such as Anatomy Alex, a life-size evolutionary take on the famous game "Operation" that was constructed by KU engineering staff and museum staff and students. Another game asks participants to vault pollen felt balls into a giant nose full of Velcro hairs.

In partnership with KU’s anatomy program, the event also includes a rare chance to see parts of the human body up close and learn more about them. David McLeod and his human anatomy teaching staff will have anatomical models and real organs for visitors to see such as the human heart, brain, lungs, ears, eyes and skeletal muscles. 

Launched in October 2012, Science Saturdays are monthly drop-in events held at the KU Natural History Museum. Each month features a different topic such as fossils, insects, birds, plants and physics.

News Type:
Event News
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What do you really know about matter? You know, the bits of stuff that make the world what it is.

For those who are curious about how those bits comprise everything from shoes to plants to iPhones, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum will offer a science program just for adults from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 7.

The hands-on workshop, “What’s the Matter? with Bekkah and Teresa” will introduce the states of matter, explore the size and properties of the smallest building blocks of matter and model what happens at the subatomic scale during a chemical reaction. Participants should bring their sense of humor and be ready for active participation for this introduction to physics.

What also sets this evening apart from your high school physics class is that there will be appetizers and beverages available, including wine for those over age 21.

Bekkah Lampe, museum educator, and Teresa MacDonald, director of education, will lead the workshop.

“Often the only opportunities for adults to learn about science occur through lectures and articles,” Lampe said. “We want to give adults the chance to explore science topics that they are unfamiliar with through hands-on experiences.”

Participants are asked to register for the workshop by 5 p.m. Nov. 5 by calling (785) 864-4173. Open to adults ages 18 and older, the workshop is $10 for museum members and KU students, and $12 for the public.

News Type:
Event News
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The KU Natural History Museum encourages both the Jayhawk faithful headed to Memorial Stadium and families looking for kid-friendly activities to come to the museum for fossil activities from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.

Fossil Event

The free event is the first in the museum’s “Science Saturdays” series of monthly events and is in honor of National Fossil Day. Visitors can make plaster casts of fossils and learn about vertebrate and invertebrate fossils displayed by University of Kansas paleontology staff.

The museum also will offer tours of the vertebrate paleontology preparation lab, where visitors can learn about volunteer opportunities in the lab and meet other volunteers.

Because there is a KU football game that day as well, parking near the museum will be limited. Museum visitors and football fans alike can use the Lawrence transit system to get to the museum. Both the north- and south-bound route No. 11 stops in front of the Kansas Union next door to the museum. Parking will be available in the Allen Fieldhouse parking garage, which is also near the bus route. Visit the Lawrence transit site for more information, or contact the museum at 785-864-4450.

News Type:
Event News
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The KU Natural History Museum is offering a free event for KU students who want to explore the suggestive side of natural history from 5-7:30 pm on Thursday, Sept. 13.

“Sexy Science” includes food, games, and a museum scavenger hunt that is for adults only. The scavenger hunt introduces visitors to facts about plants as aphrodisiacs; the penis bone, or baculum, in some mammals; and hermaphrodism among ocean animals.

“We developed the new Sexy Science scavenger hunt as a way to help adult audiences explore the natural history museum,” said Teresa MacDonald, director of public education at the museum. “Investigating the natural history of sex across a diversity of organisms provides a great opportunity to get visitors curious about and interested in science as they explore some fascinating, and perhaps unexpected, examples of the sexy side of science.”

The event isn’t limited to animals and plants, however. The KU Peer Health Education Group, co-sponsor of the event, will offer information and activities based on the “Condom Olympics.” Alice Hoyle, a sex and relationships education advisory teacher based in London, England, created the series of activities to emphasize safe sex information and demonstrate the properties of condoms.

Sexy Science also marks the start of new evening hours on Thursdays. Beginning Sept. 13, hours of operation will be Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays.

News Type:
Event News
Thursday, August 16, 2012

The museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd. in Dyche Hall, has more than a dozen events scheduled throughout the fall, beginning with a behind-the-scenes tour of the herpetology collection on Aug. 26.

New this year are Science Saturdays, a monthly family drop-in event with hands-on activities. The first such Science Saturday on Oct. 13 will commemorate National Fossil Day with fossil casting activities, displays of specimens, tours of the vertebrate paleontology laboratory and information about volunteer opportunities in the lab. Other Science Saturday themes focus on insects and body science.

To kick off extended hours on Thursdays, when the museum will be open until 8 p.m., the museum will offer an event for KU students called “Sexy Science” on Sept. 13. The event is co-sponsored by the KU Peer Health Educators and includes activities, games, chocolate deserts and coffee.

The events schedule also includes off-campus activities for adults such as the Science on Tap series of science and technology discussions held at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St., and Science on the Spot: Bar Edition, which brings science experiments out of the classroom and into the Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Massachusetts St.

In collaboration with the KU Memorial Unions and KU History.com, the museum will also offer a lecture and exhibition dedicated to the adventures of the naturalist and KU professor Lewis Lindsay Dyche, for whom Dyche Hall is named.

Full event details are available on the museum's events page and promoted via the museum’s Facebook page and Twitter. Some events require pre-registration by calling 785.864.4450, but most events are free:

Behind-the-scenes: herpetology tour
4 p.m. Sunday, August 26, 2012
Pre-registration is required by 5 p.m. August 24

Science on the Spot: Bar Edition
7 p.m. Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Massachusetts St.

Sexy Science
5 p.m. September 13, 2012
Dyche Hall

Saving Species: the critical role of zoos and aquariums (A Science on Tap event)
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.

Campus Art Walk 2012 kick-off
1:30 p.m. Friday, September 28, 2012 
Dyche Hall

Comanche and Other Unusual Taxidermy (A part of Lawrence Nerd Nite)
8 p.m. Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Pachamama, 800 New Hampshire St.

Science Saturday: National Fossil Day
1:00 p.m. Saturday, October 13, 2012
Dyche Hall

Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Expanding Universe (A Science on Tap Event)
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Free State Brewery

Drop-in and Draw: mammal skulls
5:00 p.m. Thursday, October 18, 2012
Dyche Hall

Exhibit opening: L. L. Dyche' "Magic Lantern" Revisited
6:00 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012
 RSVP requested by 5 p.m. Oct. 31 (785.864.4450)
Dyche Hall

The Adventures of Lewis Lindsay Dyche and the Advent of Kansas Conservationism
7 p.m. Sunday, November 4, 2012
The Commons in Spooner Hall

What’s the Matter?…with Teresa and Bekkah (no suggestions, please)
7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7
$10 members, $12 not-yet-members
Learn the principles of matter and mass at this workshop especially for adults.
Pre-registration required by Nov. 5: 785.864.4450

Mayan Myths: The end is near -- or is it? (A Science on Tap Event)
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.

Science Saturday: Insects
1:00 p.m. Saturday, November 17, 2012
Dyche Hall

Science Saturday: the body
1:00 p.m. Saturday, December 15, 2012
Dyche Hall

News Type:
Event News
Thursday, July 26, 2012

William Duellman, curator emeritus of herpetology, and herpetology curator Linda Trueb were invited to be plenary speakers at the IX Congreso Latinoamerican de Herpetologia in Curitiba, Brazil, 17–22 July 2011.

Duellman’s presentation was “Eggs, embryos, and evolution of marsupial frogs,” whereas Trueb’s talk was “Form, function and phylogeny & diversity of microhylid frogs.” Both talks were for one hour.

Among the more than 1000 attendees at the congress were eight former graduate students from the Division of Herpetology in the Biodiversity Institute at KU.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Event News
Friday, July 6, 2012

In the last two weeks of June, many cities in Kansas saw temperatures at or above 100 degrees nine times. To some people, that constitutes an extreme weather pattern – but is it? What about 115 degrees, as Hill City, Kan., saw one week?

The KU Natural History Museum invites the public to discuss extreme weather and its ramifications for agricultural, urban and natural environments at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10 at the Free State Brewing Company, 636 Massachusetts St. The event is a part of the museum’s ongoing series called Science on Tap.

Nathaniel Brunsell, associate professor of geography and atmospheric science, will lead the event and share information about how scientists determine what qualifies as extreme. He will also explore global climate change and its effect on extreme weather.

Science on Tap is modeled on science cafés, which are held in restaurants, coffee shops and other venues in cities worldwide. The events offer the chance to discuss science and technology topics in an informal setting with an expert in a particular subject.

News Type:
Event News
Friday, June 1, 2012

Displayed at the world’s fair almost 120 years ago in Chicago, the exhibit that eventually became the KU Natural History Museum’s Panorama was a testament to the taxidermy skills of its creator, Lewis Lindsay Dyche.

But the exhibit was also exemplary of the creativity demonstrated at world’s fairs across many decades.  

Using the 1893 Columbian Exposition as the centerpiece, Catherine Futter, curator of decorative arts at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, will examine innovation and the golden age of world’s fairs from 1851 to 1939 at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at the KU Natural History Museum. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The event will be followed by a private reception with Futter held for museum members. Dessert, coffee and wine will be served. Attendees are asked to RSVP for the reception by sending a message to biodiversity@ku.edu or by calling 785.864.2344.

Futtter orchestrated the exhibition Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs, 1851-1939, now on view at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

“The fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries were the most important vehicles for debuting advances in modern living and brought scientific discoveries, agricultural products, machinery, manufactured products, paintings, sculpture and architecture to the masses,” Futter said. “Fairs encouraged international competition as well as industrial and technical innovation.”

Dyche’s taxidermy display exemplified such innovation. The 121 mammals were arranged in life-like poses interacting with each other. On the advice of his mentor, William T. Hornaday, Dyche also added painted backgrounds to the exhibition and details such as leaves on the ground and trees in fall color. At the height of Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition, as many as 20,000 people per day visited the Kansas Pavilion, home to Dyche’s display. 

Many of these animals are still displayed at the KU Natural History Museum, 119 years after the fair.

News Type:
Event News
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Biodiversity group

On May 16-18, the Biodiversity Institute hosted the Semantics of Biodiversity Workshop which explored ways to link biodiversity information across all groups of plants, animals and microbes, including their genetic makeup. The workshop included 31 biologists, computer scientists, and philosophers from the U.S., Canada, England, Austria, and Australia, including three from the Biodiversity Institute.

News Type:
Event News
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The KU Natural History Museum and the Kansas Biological Survey invite the public for an impromptu field trip to experience butterflies, Kansas woodlands and science.

On Friday, May 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the public is welcome to visit with KU scientists at the Fitch Natural History Reservation located just north of the Lawrence Municipal Airport. Natural History Museum and Biological Survey scientists will be available to offer information and guidance to visitors.  

Ornithologist Mark Robbins expects to see thousands of Emperor Hackberry butterflies emerging at the property, which is part of the KU Field Station.

It is rare to see so many of the brown and gray butterflies appear so early in the spring. As caterpillars, the butterflies that are now emerging fed on the leaves of the many hackberry trees at the reservation. Robbins expects the trees to recover later in the season when there are not so many hungry caterpillars.  

Visitors should be prepared for wooded hiking conditions: wear loose-fitting clothing, bring water and use insect repellant. The Fitch reservation and the rest of the field station have very limited parking; carpooling to the site is encouraged. Visitors may park along E. 1600 Road near the entrance to the reservation. Directions to the site are available here. Visitors are also asked to stay on established trails. A map of the trails is available here.

For those who cannot attend the event, the KU Field Station welcomes the public any day at the Fitch reservation from dawn to dusk.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Event News
Saturday, May 12, 2012

In conjunction with exhibition 39 Trails now on view at the Spencer Museum of Art, Watson Library is exhibiting works that are written by KU staff who have conducted research in Peru. The research includes works by professors Caroline Chaboo (entomology), and Bill Duellman and Linda Trueb (herpetology).

This exhibition is in four display cases on the 5th floor of Watson Library until end of July 2012.

News Type:
Event News
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Elly Electron

Most young people have chatted on a cell phone, but how many of them know how energy relates to matter to make that phone call possible?

Now, researchers and educators at the University of Kansas are producing an animated video for upper elementary and middle school-aged youth to boost their understanding of superconductors and nanotechnology.

The project, funded by a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, is led by KU physics professors Judy Wu and Alice Bean, along with Teresa MacDonald, director of education at the KU Natural History Museum.

“We know from the research that there’s a really poor understanding of how electricity works overall,” MacDonald said. “People have a general idea that if you stick a plug in the wall, electricity comes out. But this video is intended to provide a basis of understanding of how electricity works, and how nanoscale engineering and material science can really improve the conductivity and efficiency of electricity.”

Superconductivity is the reduction or elimination of electrical resistance in materials.

The video project, titled “Nanoscale: Adventures in Superconductivity,” will feature young characters and their alter egos representing subatomic particles, whose adventures will teach concepts of electricity throughout a fun and engaging plotline. The characters will be frustrated when they can’t get a cell phone signal, because the closest cell phone towers lack efficient transmission.

“Video is very accessible,” said MacDonald. “People will look at things in a short video on a website or mobile phone, where they wouldn’t necessarily read a document or a book. It’s intended to be educational, but it also has a visual appeal and an entertainment value, which is important for reaching people.”

The project aims to better students’ ability to conceptualize energy and nanoscale, which can be difficult to grasp.

“It’s not just children — the research shows that people’s misconceptions of scale and energy persist well into adulthood,” said MacDonald. “It makes it difficult for people to reconcile the science with what they think about in everyday life. These seem to be difficult concepts, in part because you can’t see them. It’s a challenging subject, so one of the things we want to do with this video and a related NSF EPSCoR outreach project is to change the way that energy is typically taught.”

Bazillion Pictures in Kansas City, Mo., will create the animation after the KU team storyboards the educational content and tests the appeal of the storyline and characters with focus groups of students. Richard Varney, associate professor in the department of design, will serve as the animation and production leader.

Once completed, the video will be available online at two websites and air between children’s programming on KTWU, a public broadcasting station.

“The use of a story is a powerful connector in a lot of science education,” MacDonald said. “If you can engage people with a story — either with what you’re telling them or through a story they can put themselves into — it’s a powerful way of making a personal connection. If you can make a personal connection, they’re more likely to take that into their own point-of-view and maybe pass that along to other people.”

The new video also will integrate with “Quarked!” — an NSF-EPSCoR funded physics education website that drew 55,000 unique visitors last year.

News Type:
Event News
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sometimes things are so small, they’re quite hard to envision — especially for kids. For instance, nanotechnology deals with objects sized between one and one thousand billionths of a meter.

Now, that’s small.

Although not the smallest scale scientists study, a grasp of nanoscale is key to understanding a host of emerging technologies, especially those advancing clean energies such as next-generation solar cells. In a more competitive world, such knowledge is vital to creating a 21st-century workforce as well as inspiring would-be inventors and scientists.

Today, a suite of new educational material at the University of Kansas, as part of the Nanotechnology for Renewable Energy project, is introducing the world of nanoscale and energy to students in elementary and middle schools. Much of the effort focuses on a new hands-on program for schools at the KU Natural History Museum (part of the Biodiversity Institute), where visiting students explore energy through the world of cartoon physics, including falling anvils, giant rubber bands and TNT.

“It’s had great success and great reviews,” said Teresa MacDonald, director of education at the museum. “The Cartoon Guide to Energy program was created for grades 4 to 8. We taught this program to more than 700 students last fall as a special preview, and now it’s available to schools as part of our regular programming.”

Before introducing the new workshop, MacDonald and her colleagues pored over the research on educating students about energy, matter and scale, finding that much of what students learn about energy could be disjointed.

“We did a comprehensive literature review about how energy is taught across curriculum,” said MacDonald. “What are the science standards? What are the concerns about the misconceptions about energy? We learned that we need to teach these ideas earlier and really integrate them. A student might learn about the property of matter at one point in school and might learn about forces in another. Our objective was finding a way to integrate all these ideas you learn in school into one program about energy.”

In addition to developing the “Cartoon Guide to Energy” program, MacDonald and her colleagues added nanoscale elements to an already existing museum education program about size and scale, dubbed How Small is Small?

The KU educators and physicists also have developed new content for a successful website called Quarked! — including an expanded glossary and FAQ, a page of links to nanoscale and nanotechnology educational resources, and a series of videos called “Science Shorts” that explore solar energy and electricity.

“Nanotechnology for Renewable Energy” is an outreach component of a National Science Foundation EPSCoR-funded project led by Judy Wu, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at KU, as part of the Climate Change and Renewable Energy initiative, a $24 million research endeavor involving some 60 Kansas scientists at multiple institutions.

News Type:
Event News
Friday, March 30, 2012

"Cryptograph: An Exhibition for Alan Turing," March 24 - July 20, 2012, is organized at the Spencer Museum of Art in conjunction with the many celebrations taking place around the world in honor of the centenary of Alan Turing (1912-1954), the brilliant British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist.

Turing’s world-changing innovations include the Turing Machine, a conceptual machine that builds on the notion of the algorithm and lays the foundation of modern computing. As a cryptanalyst during World War II, Turing’s breakthroughs in logic allowed him to decipher the German encrypting device known as the Enigma Machine which was used extensively in communication between German U-boats. Turing was also deeply involved in the idea of “Machine Intelligence,” and he developed a test for artificial intelligence that is still in use today. Late in his career Turing became fascinated with the field of mathematical biology, a field that explores the mathematical underpinnings of morphogenesis, the origins and evolution of biological form.

The exhibition draws from the Spencer’s permanent collections seeking works that resonate with the kinds of questions that drove Turing’s research: finding meaning in patterns, and finding connections between mathematics and computing, intelligence and natural form. The exhibition is co-sponsored by and was conceived in consultation and collaboration with KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center and the Biodiversity Institute.

News Type:
Event News
Thursday, March 1, 2012

KU’s Biodiversity Institute holds 10.2 million specimens of animals, plants fossil material, and archaeological artifacts collected in Douglas County and across seven continents over 140 years -- and now the Natural History Museum is looking for people to adopt them.  

The museum has launched Adopt-a-Specimen, a program that encourages individuals, families and organizations to "adopt" a specimen of their choice. Gifts through the program help maintain the musuem's education programs, exhibits and scientific collections, which work together to bring Biodiversity Institute research to the public.

The program is paired with a larger effort to introduce the public to the collections, which are spread across seven buildings at the University of Kansas. The museum offers quarterly tours of the collections, focusing on a new group each quarter.

The museum's exhibits only display about 1 percent of the entire collections, so many people don't get the chance to see the specimens scientists and students use for their research.

For more information about the program, please visit the Adopt-a-Specimen program page or call us at 785.550.2344.

News Type:
Event News
Friday, November 4, 2011

To find the best information about a subject, you’ve got to know your facts from opinions, and data from assumption. It’s a skill that you may possess as an adult. But how do children learn to test arguments, or to ferret out the truth of a claim?

Janis Bulgren, associate research professor at the KU Center for Research on Learning, will lead a conversation about recent research on teaching children these skills at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, at the Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St. The free event is part of the KU Natural History Museum’s Science on Tap series of informal “science café” events.

Bulgren has been a part of research teams at KU has focused on developing ways of helping children learn the nuances between different kinds of information. Acquiring higher-order reasoning skills can help them in fields such as science, technology, engineering and math, but the skills also apply to other subjects such social studies and history, as well as articles from television, newspapers and even infomercials.

One way to develop these cognitive skills is through support for teachers and students as they incorporate argumentation into ongoing instruction. Another is to engage students in play, possible through an online game aimed at helping children ask: How do you know what you know? Bulgren and other team members have developed and tested the instructional procedures and are in the process of developing a game as part of their investigations into ways of learning argumentation.

News Type:
Event News
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The KU Natural History Museum is calling all amateur rock hounds, fossil hunters and meteorite enthusiasts for an identification event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23.

“What on Earth? Rocks, Fossils and Meteorites” will give visitors the opportunity to bring items from their home collections to KU experts for identification. The event will include the opportunity to visit the museum’s new exhibit on trilobites.

The event is timely for at least one group of researchers.

“Many of the fossils people bring us to be identified are the bones from the neighbor’s cow or horse, or even rocks,” said Larry Martin, curator of vertebrate paleontology. “But every once in a while, someone brings in a special find that we are very excited to see.”

One such special find is the skull of an Ankylosaur that fossil hunter Bob Detrich found in Montana. Martin, who will be looking at the fossil in a museum laboratory this week, hopes to be able to display it during the event.

The museum will also have on display dozens of invertebrate fossils such as ammonites, oysters, clams, crinoids and sponges, plus fossil plants, fossil animals, Kansas rocks and meteorites.

Admission for the event is free, but contributions for the museum are welcomed. The museum is located at 1345 Jayhawk Blvd. Please call (785) 864-4450 for more information.

News Type:
Event News
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let’s say you’ve been good all week, following your diet as best you can, and you completed a major project under deadline. Spying a slice of decadent desert, you think: I deserve this chocolate cake.

If you could peer into the brain, what kinds of processes would be involved in thinking of that slice of cake as a reward?

New research at KU has focused on the role of the brain in evaluating the rewarding properties of food, and how we make decisions about what to eat and how much. Using the technology of functional MRI, Cary Savage and his research team have been working toward understanding how brain function makes a diet successful.

Savage, who is director of the KU Center for Health Behavior Neuroscience at the KU Medical Center, will lead a discussion about this aspect of the brain and the implications for obesity research at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts Street. The free event is part of the KU Natural History Museum’s Science on Tap series of informal “science café” events.

Savage is the John H. Wineinger Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His research focuses on the roles of prefrontal cortex and limbic system in memory and motivational processes, and how activity in these brain regions contributes to health-related decision making. Areas of specific interest include brain mechanisms of eating, exercise adherence, and compulsive behavior.

For more information about the event, please visit naturalhistory.ku.edu/events.

News Type:
Event News
Friday, August 12, 2011

This summer, a new exhibit about the trilobites opened on the third floor of the KU Natural History Museum. The exhibit includes trilobite evolution, morphology (characteristics) and extinction. KU Invertebrate Paleontology staff and faculty, including curator Bruce Lieberman, helped develop the exhibit.  Specimens from the invertebrate paleontology collection are on display.

The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., and is located at 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Event News
Monday, May 2, 2011

Una Farrell, Ph.D., Yale University, will be joining the Invertebrate Paleontology this summer as collections manager. She was a Ph.D. student in Derek Briggs' lab at Yale and also interim collections manager in theD ivision of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. We are very excited that she will be joining us.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Event News
Friday, January 21, 2011

The KU Natural History Museum will present a film that explores the role of science, emotion and the media in the reported sighting of an extinct bird.

“Ghost Bird,” a 2010 documentary, will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, in the Panorama Gallery at the museum. Following the film, ornithologist Mark Robbins will lead a talk-back session titled “Conservation and the Ivory Bill Fantasy.”

Set in a murky swamp overrun with birders, scientists and reporters, “Ghost Bird” looks at the 2005 announcement that the ivory-billed woodpecker, a species thought to be extinct for 60 years, had been found in the swamps of eastern Arkansas.

The announcement made headlines globally and prompted the largest recovery effort ever undertaken for a lost species. Millions of dollars poured in while ornithologists and birders flocked to the swamps to find the bird.

At the same time, evidence mounted that the original video sighting was in error. The film weaves together the work of scientists who disputed the sighting with the characters of the small town of Brinkley, Ark., which was transformed by the hope, commerce and controversy surrounding the bird.

More information about the film and its theatrical trailer can be found at ghostbirdmovie.com.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Event News
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What do you really know about matter? You know, the bits of stuff that make the world what it is.

Matter graphic

For those who are curious about what those bits are made of, and how they comprise everything, the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is providing the opportunity to explore the basics of matter.

The museum will offer a hands-on workshop on matter for adults at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10. “What’s the Matter? with Dawn and Teresa” will review the states of matter, explore the size and properties of the smallest building blocks of matter and model what happens at the subatomic scale during a chemical reaction.

Dawn Kirchner, museum educator, and Teresa MacDonald, director of education, will lead the workshop.

“Often the only opportunities for adults to learn about science occur through lectures and articles,” Kirchner said. “We want to give adults the chance to explore science through hands-on experiences.”

Participants are asked to register for the workshop by 5 p.m. Nov. 8 by calling (785) 864-4173. Open to adults ages 18 and older, the workshop is $10 for museum members and KU students, and $12 for the public.

News Type:
Event News
Friday, September 17, 2010

The KU Natural History Museum will hold a three-day festival of food, music and science to benefit the museum Oct. 30, Nov. 3, and Nov. 5. 

Proceeds from SciencePalooza will provide vital support for renovating museum exhibits and assure the continued success of the museum’s hands-on education programs. The museum serves about 60,000 people annually through museum visits, programs for schoolchildren, and workshops and talks for adults.

The events of SciencePalooza are:

Tapas & Tours
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
$75 per person

Tapas & Tours is an exclusive evening at the museum that includes savory hors d’oeuvres that represent the international locations of KU biodiversity research, such as the Philippines, Venezuela, Peru, Mongolia, Libya and Egypt. The event includes special behind-the-scenes tours with museum curators and opportunities to “adopt” specimens from our collections. Tickets are available through the KU Natural History Museum at 785-864-2344.

The Science of Beer, with Free State Brewing Company
7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010
Free State Bottling Facility, 1927 Moodie Road 
$60 per person

At this event, participants will learn about the science of making and bottling beer from the brewers of Free State Brewing Company. Attendees will be invited to sample beers and culinary creations while discovering the evolutionary history of hops and the amazing properties of yeast. Brewers will be available to discuss the biochemistry of fermentation and the challenges posed by microorganisms in the brewing process. Tickets are available through the KU Natural History Museum at 785-864-2344.

The Elders in Concert
Featuring True North
8 p.m. Friday, November 5, 2010
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
$50 VIP tickets and $25 general admission

The KU Natural History Museum will welcome the internationally known Irish band The Elders for this rare Lawrence performance benefiting the museum. The Elders offer a skillful mix of amped roots rock, powerful vocals, blazing instrumentals and top-notch songwriting.

The Elders will be joined by modern country-rock favorites True North. True North incorporates a traditional rock and roll rhythm section atop fiddle, mandolin, accordion, lap steel and harmonica to forge their own unique sound. 

VIP tickets, available for $50 or sold in blocks of four per table, include seating in a special section in front of the stage and a chance to meet the performers prior to the event. Complimentary appetizers, wine and beer will be served. VIP tickets are available by calling 785.864.2344; general admission tickets ($25) are sold through Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., or through Ticketmaster.com.

For more information about these and other KU Natural History Museum events, visit naturalhistory.ku.edu/events.

News Type:
Event News
Saturday, November 7, 2009

Authors of what began at the University of Kansas in the 1940s as a modest two-volume encyclopedia are celebrating publication of their 49th volume — weighing in at 956 pages — with an international video conference today.

Known worldwide as the most comprehensive reference for the study of invertebrate fossils, the “Treatise of Invertebrate Paleontology” is an ever-expanding project of the KU Paleontological Institute, housed in Lindley Hall. It involves more than 300 authors worldwide.

“The treatise is the gold standard of the science of invertebrates,” said Paul Selden, the Gulf-Hedberg Distinguished Professor of Geology and director of the Paleontological Institute. “Everything in the treatise is written by the experts, so it’s the last word for anyone studying these animals.”

The treatise keeps changing as discoveries in the field occur, Selden said. The original two volumes, spearheaded by the late KU professor Raymond C. Moore, were revised and expanded into six, for example.

“Like a dictionary,” Selden said, “entries in the volumes change, disappear or are modified over time as new science yields new information in the field.”

The two main organizers of the latest revision, Scottish researcher Sir Alwyn Williams and KU professor Roger Kaesler, did not live to see the most recent volume published and will be honored today during the international teleconference, hosted by KU. Kaesler, who died in August, was the director of the Paleontological Institute at KU for more than 20 years.

The teleconference, which will involve Lawrence, London and Glasgow, will bring together researchers worldwide and mark the formal completion of the latest volume. It is the first volume to include a CD-ROM of information. Selden said future versions of the treatise will be online.

In the meantime, it’s already time to begin revising the information contained in the 49th volume.

“The day it arrived in our offices, we had already received a call from one of the authors calling for revisions,” Selden said.

The Paleontological Institute is a unit of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, a university research unit that also includes the Natural History Museum.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Event News
Monday, November 2, 2009

If you missed the chapter on DNA and inheritance in school — or it has been so long that you cannot recall your adenine from your guanine — the KU Natural History Museum is providing the chance to brush up on your science.

The museum will offer a hands-on workshop on DNA for adults at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11. “Dabbling in DNA” will begin with an overview of just what deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is and how it works. Participants will learn how to extract their own DNA using everyday household items, investigate simple inherited traits in humans and learn about how DNA sequencing works in crime scene investigations.

Dawn Kirchner, museum educator, and Teresa MacDonald, director of education, will lead the workshop.

“Children get many opportunities to learn through hands-on activities,” MacDonald said. “However, often as people get older, these more interactive experiences are replaced by lectures. We’re offering a workshop on DNA because it’s creates a fun and engaging way to learn about what can be an intimidating topic.”

Participants are asked to register for the workshop by 5 p.m. Nov. 9 by calling (785) 864-4173. Open to adults 18 and older, the workshop is $10 for museum members and students and $12 for the public.

News Type:
Event News

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Scientists in the field have collected voucher specimens since the 19th century. Today, most sit in research institutions around the world “dried, mounted, pickled, preserved, frozen and stuffed,” according to the creators of Lifemapper, an online species-distribution tool created at the University of Kansas.

Most specimens in natural history museums come with a label describing, among other things, where in the world it was collected. But where might these species migrate in the future in order to survive extreme weather, shifting seasons, invasive species, rising oceans and other threats linked to rapid climate change?

“Climate change is the most pressing problem of the 21st century, and Lifemapper provides tools to explore how climate change can impact individual species ranges as well as the species composition of communities,” said James Beach, assistant director for informatics with the Biodiversity Institute at KU. “Since human life and quality of life is dependent on the functions and services of ecosystems and natural communities, seeing how thousands and tens of thousands of species are being impacted by changing climate should be of interest to anyone interested in future generations' quality of life on planet Earth for future generations.”

To generate predictions, Lifemapper performs “species distribution modeling” based on records of where organisms have been spotted and collected, along with environmental layers such as elevation, precipitation and temperature. Then Lifemapper determines the preferred conditions for a species — and where those conditions are most likely to be found in the future under various climate settings.  

“Lifemapper has an agreement with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to use the species data they aggregate from natural history museums and collections worldwide,” said Aimee Stewart, who serves as lead software engineer on the project. “Lifemapper uses elevation and current climate data calculated from observation stations by the Worldclim project for modeling GBIF species data. For projected future climate scenarios, we use climate data predicted for the International Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports.”

Other KU Biodiversity Institute personnel working on Lifemapper include software engineers CJ Grady and Jeff Cavner.

In development since the early 2000s, Lifemapper today can help individual researchers anywhere in the world who lack the computing power needed to estimate the future distribution of plants and animals.

“The time and computational resources needed to perform calculations on hundreds or thousands of species can be prohibitive for an individual researcher on even a powerful desktop computer,” Stewart said. “Researchers can submit their own species and environmental data with the Lifemapper plugin to the GIS package QGIS for single or multi-species analyses with online Lifemapper tools. Lifemapper distributes these requests to one or more high performance computing environments running Lifemapper software, including the Advanced Computing Facility here at KU, where a divide-and-conquer approach allows computations to complete far more quickly than is possible on a single machine.”

Moreover, high school students are using Lifemapper’s website to analyze changes in habitat under various climate-change conditions.

“More advanced students might use the simplest species prediction tools available through the website or download data for further geospatial analysis,” said Stewart. “The ChangeThinking project, a collaboration with the University of Michigan School of Education and their Animal Diversity Web Project, created curricula and an online workbook using Lifemapper web services to teach middle and high school students about the effects of climate change. In 2014, ChangeThinking curricula were used in 130 schools in Michigan, Kansas and other states.”

Most of Lifemapper’s funding has been collaborative, as the project partners with experts in the fields of biology, macroecology, cyberinfrastructure, computer science and education. Additionally, the National Science Foundation and NASA have provided most of the support for Lifemapper.

“As part of a partnership with UTEP’s Cyber-ShARE Center of Excellence, we have been encouraged to seek support to connect and integrate Lifemapper’s models and computational services to other earth-science modeling systems with metadata and computer semantics,” Stewart said.

The KU researchers also collaborate with the Pacific Rim Applications and Grid Management Assembly, an international collaborative framework of Pacific Rim institutions working on bringing together science applications and cutting edge computer science research.

“As part of PRAGMA, we are working with UCSD’s San Diego Supercomputer Center and UF’s Advanced Computing and Information Systems Laboratory to further modularize our systems and speed our data computation, storage and retrieval systems,” Stewart said.

With an NSF award recently recommended for funding, the Lifemapper team hopes to further refine its ability to predict shifting habitats to supply scientists and conservationists with the best data to protect species around the world.

“Tools created as part of the new grant will allow further analyses of landscapes, identifying habitat fragmentation and how it can change over time with climate change, providing managers with the ability to pinpoint areas most at risk,” Stewart said. 

Divison:
Informatics
News Type:
In the News
Monday, June 23, 2014

Dan Crawford

Together with Jeffrey Doyle, Douglas Soltis, Pamela Soltis and Jonathan Wendel, Dan Crawford recently edited an issue for Philosophical Transactions B, entitled ‘Contemporary and future studies in plant speciation, morphological/floral evolution and polyploidy: honouring the scientific contributions of Leslie D. Gottlieb to plant evolutionary biology’. 

The publication recently interviewed Dan about the issue, available here

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brendan Lynch from the Office of Public Affairs recently interviewed Matt Davis and Leo Smith from KU Biodiversity Instutute’s Ichthyology for a research feature on ku.edu concerning their three-year, $575,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. With the grant, they will study evolutionary patterns and diversity in three lines of widespread deep-sea fishes: lizardfishes, lanternfishes and dragonfishes.

http://news.ku.edu/2013/11/13/research-will-shed-light-upon-family-tree-deep-sea-fishes

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
In the News
Friday, May 16, 2014

Over the weekend, two publications featured KU Biodiversity Institute related items. One was from the Clay Center Dispatch about the Schultz collection of archeological materials, and the other was an editorial by the Lawrence Journal-World on the Panorama and its value to the community. 

http://www.ccenterdispatch.com/news/article_1471d662-7a23-11e3-9a5c-0019...

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/jan/13/editorial-dyche-draw/?opinion

News Type:
In the News
Thursday, May 8, 2014

The KU Natural History Museum will welcome a new bee colony to its bee tree and observation hive on the sixth floor of Dyche Hall on Friday, May 9. 

Bees enter and exit the hive through a clear tube connected to an eastern-facing window.

The colony replaces bees that died as a result of unseasonably cold and snowy winter weather that closed KU for two days.

“Modifications have been made so that a shield can be inserted to block cold winds from entering directly into the hive during severe winter weather events," said Bruce Scherting, director of exhibits.

A gift from a KU alumna in honor of KU alumni Lawrence B. and Frances Moore of Lawrence funded the purchase of the new bee colony.

The Museum has improved the bee exhibit by placing a camera inside the hive that is connected to a live feed hosted by Grit Magazine. It is available online. Additional improvements are in the planning stages.

News about the struggles of pollinators — including bees, but also monarch butterflies and bats — has fueled interest in the bee tree exhibit. It remains one of the most popular exhibits of the museum.

News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

As anyone who has attended Kansas public schools can attest, the Western Meadowlark is the state bird, and the Wild Native Sunflower is its official state flower. Now they can add two signature Kansas fossil animals to the list of exemplary animals and plants that represent the state – one, an extinct reptile that swam the oceans that covered Kansas 85 million years ago, and one that soared the skies above the ocean.mosasaur

A new law, signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, designates Tylosaurus, a giant mosasaur, as the Kansas marine fossil, and Pteranodon, a winged pterosaur, as the Kansas flight fossil.

Geological deposits in Kansas provide among the most complete, fossilized skeletons of both Tylosaurus and Pteranodon, both found at the KU Natural History Museum, the Fort Hays State University Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and other major museums nationally and internationally.

“What dinosaurs are to Wyoming and Montana, mosasaurs and pterosaurs are to Kansas,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. “For scientists and the public at large, Tylosaurus and Pteranodon represent Kansas science and paleontology worldwide better than any other fossil animal.”

Reese Barrick, director of the Sternberg museum, said that the law was important recognition of the state’s fossil heritage and that many of the state’s spectacular fossils are exhibited in museums around the world.

Although Tylosaurus and Pteranodon lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, neither of these extinct animals are dinosaurs.pteranodon

Tylosaurus was a giant predatory lizard-like denizen of the sea that grew to lengths of about 45 feet and was the top predator of the oceans of that time. Although Tylosaurus is now known from many other places around the world, the most complete specimens have been recovered from the chalk beds in western Kansas that were deposited by the ancient ocean.

Pteranodon is a genus of extinct, giant flying reptile called pterosaurs that lived on the cliffs and coastal areas beside the oceans covering Kansas during the Late Cretaceous, and fed on fish and other marine life.

For those looking for examples of these fossils in Lawrence, the KU Natural History Museum’s lobby features one of the largest mosasaurs ever found, a Tylosaurus excavated near Scott City.  On the third floor of the museum, the newly renovated Pteranodon exhibit reveals the full wingspan of the animal.

In Hays, the Sternberg museum features both the type specimen of Pteranodon sternbergi and a complete Tylosaurus collected and mounted by George Sternberg in its Cretaceous fossil gallery.  Life-sized models of these Creatures are also prominent in their Cretaceous dioramas.


News Type:
In the News
Saturday, April 5, 2014

Panorama from above

Visitors to the KU Natural History Museum in March saw a research team conducting a major evaluation of the historic Panorama of North American plants and animals. A team headed by Ron Harvey of Tuckerbrook Associates surveyed the state of each of the Panorama’s animal mounts, plants and backgrounds, as well as lightly cleaned the animals, which have endured years of exposure to fluctuating temperature, humidity and light.

News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jewel Beetle & Weevil

Entomology Curator Michael Engel is among researchers quoted in an article in Wired magazine about determining the color of fossil insects; see article here.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Beginning Monday, March 10, visitors to the KU Natural History Museum will see a research team conducting a major evaluation of the historic Panorama of North American plants and animals. As part of a monthlong assessment of the Panorama’s condition, Tuckerbrook Conservation LLC of Lincolnville, Maine, will survey the state of each of the Panorama’s animal mounts, plants and backgrounds, as well as lightly clean the animals, which have endured years of exposure to fluctuating temperature, humidity and light.  The onsite assessment is scheduled to be completed Friday, April 4. 

Link: http://news.ku.edu/2014/03/05/museums-panorama-work-begins-month

Divison:
Natural History Museum
News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

K. Christopher Beard, the Mary R. Dawson Chair of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and a world-renowned paleontologist, is joining the University of Kansas as its latest Foundation Distinguished Professor. Beard is the second eminent scholar to join KU as part of the Foundation Professor initiative.

“By any measure, Professor Beard is one of the most outstanding intellects in his field and the epitome of the collaborative scholar,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “His peers use phrases like ‘most brilliant of his generation,’ ‘an excellent teacher’ and ‘most important of the last 30 years’ in describing his work. I’m thrilled to add ‘Foundation Distinguished Professor’ and ‘Jayhawk’ to that list.”

Beard has served as Dawson Chair at the Carnegie Museum, widely regarded among the nation’s top-five natural history museums, since 2008. In 2000, he received a MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as a “Genius Award,” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He has served at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History since 1989.

“For a paleontologist in my field, access to fossil specimens is key, and when you consider KU’s combination of one the top ecology and evolutionary biology programs, the excellent Biodiversity Institute and its outstanding collections, I had a very strong attraction to this university,” Beard said. “I have worked with a number of KU graduates over the years, so I am very familiar with the quality of the program. I have been greatly impressed with the positive, collaborative environment and am eager to begin working in Lawrence.”

Beard’s publication record contains more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, including in top-ranked journals such as Nature, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences and Proceedings of the Royal Society, and three books and edited volumes, including “The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey,” which received the 2005 W.W. Howells Book Award and the 2005 Science Book Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He serves as editor on three professional journals and as an executive committee member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Beard’s role at KU will be as a Foundation Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and senior curator at the Biodiversity Institute. He will contribute to a KU paleontology program ranked No. 7 in the nation in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings. He will join the KU faculty Tuesday, April 1.

“The addition of Professor Beard to one of our most outstanding disciplines promises to raise the level of comprehensiveness, authority and reputation of KU nationally and internationally,” said Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “KU has a proud history in paleontology and a tremendous current collection of faculty and research talent, and now an even brighter future thanks to our newest Foundation Distinguished Professor. He is an excellent addition as a researcher, educator and mentor and ideally suited to play a leadership role in advancing paleontology at KU.”

Beard earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a doctorate from the functional anatomy and evolution program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1990.

Joining Beard at KU will be his wife and frequent collaborator, Sandra Olsen, who will serve as professor of museum studies and senior curator at the Biodiversity Institute. She will join the KU faculty on Aug. 18.

KU’s Foundation Professor initiative is a unique partnership between the university and the state of Kansas to attract eminent faculty members to support one of the university’s four strategic initiative themes. Beard is the second of 12 such eminent scholars who will join KU. In his role as Foundation Distinguished Professor, Beard will play a leadership role in advancing KU’s strategic initiative theme Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
In the News
Thursday, January 30, 2014

The journal Vieraea has published an article by Mark Mort, Daniel Crawford and Jenny Archibald” identifying a new species from the Canary Islands. The abstract from the November 2013 journal article, "Tolpis santosii (Asteraceae: Cichorieae), a New Species from La Palma, Canary Islands" follows:

A distinctive new species, Tolpis santosii, is described from the Canary Islands. The new species is known from several collections in a humid zone near the coast of north-northeastern La Palma. In addition to morpho- logical characters such as stout stems and glabrous leaves, it is distinguish- able from T. laciniata by several molecular markers.

Divison:
Botany
News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Graduate students from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Joe Manthey and Andres Lira, recently published a paper in the journal Evolution. A link to the paper's abstract is here:

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
In the News
Monday, January 13, 2014

Over the weekend, two publications featured KU Biodiversity Institute related items. One was from the Clay Center Dispatch about the Schultz collection of archeological materials, and the other was an editorial by the Lawrence Journal-World on the Panorama and its value to the community.

http://www.ccenterdispatch.com/news/article_1471d662-7a23-11e3-9a5c-0019bb30f31a.html

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/jan/13/editorial-dyche-draw/?opinion

News Type:
In the News
Monday, January 6, 2014

The Lawrence Journal-World featured Leonard Krishtalka in an article pertaining to the restoration of the panorama:

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/jan/05/ku-natural-history-museum-begin...

News Type:
In the News
Monday, January 6, 2014

The Lawrence Journal-World featured Leonard Krishtalka in an article pertaining to the restoration of the panorama:

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/jan/05/ku-natural-history-museum-begin...

Divison:
Natural History Museum
News Type:
In the News
Saturday, December 21, 2013

As a part of continuing media coverage of the evaluation of the Natural History Museum's Panorama, the Topeka Capital-Journal interviewed Leonard Krishtalka about the Panorama’s restoration process. The article was published December 21, 2013.

 

News Type:
In the News
Monday, December 16, 2013

James Lamsdell, advised by Paul Selden of the Invertebrate Paleontology department, who received a post doctorate offer at Yale with Derek Briggs. He will focus on arthropod phylogeny and developmental biology.

Charles Michener, Entomology curator Emeritus, has learned that his former doctoral student, William Wcislo, has been appointed as the acting director of the STRI – the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.  William graduated from KU in 1991 with a PhD in entomology.  His specialty is the evolution and origin of social behavior in sweat bees (family Halictidae).

News Type:
In the News
Monday, December 9, 2013

Giant spider

Paul Selden, director of the Paleontological Institute, has learned that his paper will be in the upcoming issue of Naturwissenschaften

DOI 10.1007/s00114-013-1121-7. The paper isn't yet online, but the abstract follows, below. KU News will write about this later this week when Brendan Lynch is available. 

"A giant spider from the Jurassic of China reveals greater diversity of the orbicularian stem group."

Paul A. Selden & ChungKun Shih & Dong Ren

A large female spider, Nephila jurassica, was described from Middle Jurassic strata of north-east China and placed in the modern genus Nephila (family Nephilidae) on the basis of many morphological similarities, but, as with many ancient fossils, the single specimen lacked synapomorphies of the family (Selden et al. 2011). In order to test the placement within the nephilid phylogenetic tree, Kuntner et al. (2013) calibrated the molecular phylogeny using N. jurassica in three different scenarios based on inferred mitochondrial substitution rates. They concluded that N. jurassica fitted better as a stem orbicularian than a nephilid. Now, a giant male spider has been discovered at the same locality that yielded N. jurassica. The two sexes are considered conspecific based on their similar morphological features, size, and provenance. The male cannot be accommodated in Nephilidae because of its pedipalp morphology, so the new genus Mongolarachne and family Mongolarachnidae are erected for the species. Comparison with possibly related families show that Mongolarachnidae is most likely on the orbicularian stem, close to other cribellate orbicularians (e.g., Deinopoidea), which suggests a greater diversity of cribellate orbicularians during the Middle Jurassic.

News Type:
In the News
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ronald Harvey will lead Tuckerbrook Conservation LLC of Lincolnville, Maine to evaluate the Panoramic exhibit at the KU Natural History Museum on December 10. You can read more about the conservation assessment here:

http://news.ku.edu/2013/12/05/conservation-assessment-begins-ku-natural-...

News Type:
In the News
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ronald Harvey will lead Tuckerbrook Conservation LLC of Lincolnville, Maine to evaluate the Panoramic exhibit at the KU Natural History Museum on December 10. You can read more about the conservation assessment here:

http://news.ku.edu/2013/12/05/conservation-assessment-begins-ku-natural-history-museum-exhibit

Divison:
Natural History Museum
News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

As reported in Nature and Science, every year scientists describe thousands of new species, but the body that regulates this process and rules on disputes between taxonomists warring over animal names has been facing financial meltdown. Now, in a deal announced today, the ‘supreme court for animal names’ has been bailed out. The National University of Singapore will fund the secretariat of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for the next three years. KU’s Biodiversity Institute's Daphne Fautin is vice president of the ICZN and was interviewed for the articles:

http://www.nature.com/news/nomenclature-chaos-averted-with-financial-bai...

http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2013/11/zoological-naming-auth...

News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

As reported in Nature and Science, every year scientists describe thousands of new species, but the body that regulates this process and rules on disputes between taxonomists warring over animal names has been facing financial meltdown. Now, in a deal announced today, the ‘supreme court for animal names’ has been bailed out. The National University of Singapore will fund the secretariat of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for the next three years. KU’s Biodiversity Institute's Daphne Fautin is vice president of the ICZN and was interviewed for the articles:

http://www.nature.com/news/nomenclature-chaos-averted-with-financial-bailout-1.14191

http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2013/11/zoological-naming-authority-gets-new-lease-life

News Type:
In the News
Thursday, November 14, 2013

SVP Cover

Gloria Arratia of the KU Biodiversity Institute has learned that "Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 13 Gloria Arratia (2013) Morphology, taxonomy, and phylogeny of Triassic pholidophorid fishes (Actinopterygii, Teleostei)" will be published by the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Volume 33. Each year SVP has an open competition of proposal for memoirs and the selected subject. After passing the review process, the memoir will be printed by Francis & Taylor free of costs (except the color illustrations).  Gloria's proposal on fishes was selected among six proposals competing for Memoir 13, year 2013. Attached is a cover page image; contact Gloria if you would like to see the full version.

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
In the News
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Michael Engel has learned that his research, "The Earliest Known Holometabolous Insects" has been published in the Nov. 14 edition of Nature.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
In the News
Monday, October 28, 2013

The Lawrence Journal-World reported on the public event held yesterday at the museum and at the Spencer Museum of Art: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/oct/27/kansas-university-museums-collaborate-halloween-in/

A few days prior, a reporter attended the Science on Tap led by Brownie Wilson of the KGS: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/oct/23/kansas-geological-survey-research-looks-high-plain/

Divison:
Natural History Museum
News Type:
In the News
Friday, October 4, 2013

Andrew Short of the Biodiversity Institute has research featured by the Discovery Channel, a video clip is available here: http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/#clip1017400

His work has also been featured by National Geographic, via a blog about an expedition: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/author/andrewshort/

Caroline Chaboo of the Biodiversity Institute was recently interviewed by Wired magazine about insect collecting. Find the article here: http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2013/10/how-to/collect-creepy-crawlies

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
In the News
Friday, October 4, 2013

Andrew Short of the Biodiversity Institute has research featured by the Discovery Channel, a video clip is available here:

http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/#clip1017400 

His work has also been featured by National Geographic, via a blog about an expedition:

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/author/andrewshort/

Caroline Chaboo of the Biodiversity Institute was recently interviewed by Wired magazine about insect collecting. Find the article here:

http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2013/10/how-to/collect-creepy-cr...

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
In the News
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Jen Humphrey

Nature recently published a feature on Rafe Brown, Biodiversity Institute herpetology Curator and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor. The article focused on his research, its connection to a controversial KU scientist from the early 20th century, and the importance of species identification for conservation.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Lawrence Journal-World reported on the public event held yesterday at the museum and at the Spencer Museum of Art:

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/oct/27/kansas-university-museums-collaborate-halloween-in/

A few days prior, a reporter attended the Science on Tap led by Brownie Wilson of the KGS:

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/oct/23/kansas-geological-survey-research-looks-high-plain/

News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

KU’s Biodiversity Institute, both public programs and research, were featured in the Lawrence Journal-World:

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/aug/25/one-americas-treasures/

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/aug/25/biodiversity-institute-global-magnet-research-coll/

Digitized Collection Data to Give Scientists New Tools for Research

LAWRENCE — From bumble bees to blister beetles, the world-class University of Kansas entomology collection numbers 5 million insects pinned in drawers, each one with a tiny printed or handwritten label.

This week the staff and students of the Biodiversity Institute’s Entomology Division celebrated the capture of the data associated with 1 million of those insects. The information has been entered into a web-accessible and searchable database called Specify.  The data will help scientists study insect evolution and ecology, the transmission of insect-borne diseases, insects as essential plant and crop pollinators, and the impact of climate change on these essential insect functions.

“For 15 years, it’s been a priority at the Biodiversity Institute to bring this enormous volume of essential biological data on the planet’s insects into currency for science and society,” said Leonard Krishtalka, Biodiversity Institute director. “Serving this data on the web paves the way for powerful research and knowledge discovery in order to inform smart public policy.”

Since the late 1990s, a team of 50 undergraduate students and staff has been painstakingly digitizing the biological data associated with insect collections from both previous and current expeditions to the world’s forests, grasslands, deserts, rivers and lakes.  The process involves photographing the data labels, adding a bar code for each specimen, and entering the information accurately into the Specify database.

Specify was developed with research funding from the National Science Foundation, which also has funded part of the insect digitization project. Specify is also being used by 475 biodiversity collections worldwide, encompassing  tens of millions of plant and animal records now available to the global research, educational and policy communities.

News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

KU’s Biodiversity Institute, both public programs and research, were featured in the Lawrence Journal-World:

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/aug/25/one-americas-treasures/

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/aug/25/biodiversity-institute-global-m...

Digitized Collection Data to Give Scientists New Tools for Research

 LAWRENCE – From bumble bees to blister beetles, the world-class University of Kansas entomology collection numbers 5 million insects pinned in drawers, each one with a tiny printed or handwritten label.  

 This week the staff and students of the Biodiversity Institute’s Entomology Division celebrated the capture of the data associated with 1 million of those insects. The information has been entered into a web-accessible and searchable database called Specify.  The data will help scientists study insect evolution and ecology, the transmission of insect-borne diseases, insects as essential plant and crop pollinators, and the impact of climate change on these essential insect functions. 

 “For 15 years, it’s been a priority at the Biodiversity Institute to bring this enormous volume of essential biological data on the planet’s insects into currency for science and society,” said Leonard Krishtalka, Biodiversity Institute director. “Serving this data on the web paves the way for powerful research and knowledge discovery in order to inform smart public policy.”

 Since the late 1990s, a team of 50 undergraduate students and staff has been painstakingly digitizing the biological data associated with insect collections from both previous and current expeditions to the world’s forests, grasslands, deserts, rivers and lakes.  The process involves photographing the data labels, adding a bar code for each specimen, and entering the information accurately into the Specify database.  

 Specify was developed with research funding from the National Science Foundation, which also has funded part of the insect digitization project. Specify is also being used by 475 biodiversity collections worldwide, encompassing  tens of millions of plant and animal records now available to the global research, educational and policy communities. 

News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rich Glor

The news has been out for a while, but it's official now: Dr. Rich Glor has risen to the top as the successful candidate in our search for a new Curator of Herpetology at KU.  Rich will move to Lawrence in the summer of 2013 bringing his exciting lab group and research program to the University of Kansas by Fall, 2013.  Welcome to Kansas Rich!

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
In the News
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Andrew Short, Entomology curator, was elected this month to a 2-year term on the executive committee of the Coleopterists Society. More information on the entomology digitization project can be found here: http://news.ku.edu/2013/06/26/database-biodiversity-offers-peek-biologis...

Research and Graduate Studies has announced that Craig Freeman will be honored with the 2013 KU Research Achievement Award at 3:30 ­ 5 p.m., on July 8 at the Shankel SBC on west campus.  There will be a brief ceremony followed by reception, open to all Biodiversity Institute staff and students. The award, one of two this year, is the highest honor given annually to a full-time academic staff researcher working in a department or research center on KU’s Lawrence campus.

Other headlines include:

The Wilson Journal of Ornithology has published work done by Pete Hosner, a doctoral student of exology and evolutionary biology at KU; Town Peterson and Mark Robbins of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, and Thomas Valqui of the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science and the Centro de Ornitologia y Biodiversidad in Lima, Peru. The research describes a new species of Scytalopus tapaculo (Aves: Passeriformes: Rhinocryptidae) from the temperate humid montane forests of Peru.

Carl Oliveros and Rob Moyle of the KU Biodiversity Institute ornithology department, were part of a research team that documented a new species of bird, in the capitol of Cambodia, PhnomPenh. The researchers describe the Cambodian tailorbird in the OrientalBird Club's journal Forktail.

--Robert A. DePalma II, David Burnham, the late Larry Martin, Bruce M.

Rothschild, and Peter L. Larson authored an article that is in press in the journal PNAS about evidence of how a Tyrannosaurus rex hunted and killed prey. Brendan Lynch is also working on a release about that one as well. Both Burnham and Rothschild represent the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Kansas. According to the authors, the findings represent thef irst direct evidence of predatory behavior by T. rex.

News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Lawrence Journal-World has an article on a group of KU students who went to Washington, DC, for a model Organization of American States conference. Jorge Soberon, of the KU Biodiversity Institute, traveled with the group as their instructor. His son also attended. Link: 

  http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/apr/23/ku-students-find-real-success-m.../

Divison:
Biodiversity Modeling & Policy
News Type:
In the News
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In a recent issue of Palaeoworld, KU paleontologists and colleagues describe a new species of Microraptor from northeastern China that provides new information on the characteristics of the genus and anatomical details suggesting a gliding behavior.

In the paper, "A new species of Microraptor from the Jehol Biota of northeastern China," the authors assert that although specimens of Microraptor have been known for at least a decade, the completeness of the new fossil provides additional morphology that highlights the uniqueness of this taxon. The new specimen, Microraptor hanqingi, is the key to understanding the evolutionary significance of hindlimb wings. A four-winged structure present on an organism sharing an evolutionary lineage leading to modern birds implies that gliding was a stage in the development of avian flight.

M. hanqingi represents the largest known microraptorian from China with a total length of approximately 1 meter and was closely-related to the venomous form, Sinornithosaurus.

The authors of the article are En-Pu Gong, Larry D.Martin, David A. Burnham, Amanda R.Falk, and Lian-HaiHou. The article was published in the June 2012 edition of Palaeoworld.

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
In the News
Friday, March 30, 2012

The journal Biology Letters has announced the top most downloaded and most cited papers published by the journal in 2011. The first on the list is "A golden orb-weaver spider (Araneae: Nephilidae: Nephila) from the Middle Jurassic of China," authored by Paul A. Selden, director of the KU Paleontological Institute, and ChungKun Shih and Dong Ren.

The full list of the papers is available on the Biology Letters site.

News Type:
In the News
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Jennifer Humphrey 785.864.2344

Andy Bentley

Andy Bentley, collections manager for ichthyology at the KU Biodiversity Institute, has been voted as president-elect for the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections [SPNHC]. The organization is an international society whose mission is to improve the preservation, conservation and management of natural history collections to ensure their continuing value to society.

Andy Bentley

Presidential appointments at the society span a six-year commitment, with two years as president elect, two years as president and two years as past president.  The president oversees meetings and is responsible for executing policies determined by the organization, and the president acts as spokesperson for the Society, among other duties. 

At the Biodiversity Institute, Bentley manages the fishes collection of more than 660,000 fishes and 9,500 tissue samples.

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
In the News
Thursday, August 11, 2011

PhylogeneticsCurators Ed Wiley and Bruce Lieberman have updated "Phylogenetics: Theory and Practice of Phylogenetic Systematics," the first major update of the landmark publication in more than 25 years. 
 
 Since the publication of the first edition, phylogenetic systematics has taken its place as the dominant paradigm of systematic biology. It has profoundly influenced the way scientists study evolution, and has seen many theoretical and technical advances as the field has continued to grow.

Written for the practicing systematist and phylogeneticist, it addresses both the philosophical and technical issues of the field, as well as surveys general practices in taxonomy. Major sections of the book deal with the nature of species and higher taxa, homology and characters, trees and tree graphs, and biogeography—the purpose being to develop biologically relevant species, character, tree, and biogeographic concepts that can be applied fruitfully to phylogenetics. The book also has a focus on phylogenetic trees, including an in-depth guide to tree-building algorithms.

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
In the News
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

AmberKU Biodiversity Institute scientists Michael Engel and Jennifer Thomas co-authored a recently-released publication that sheds new light on the prehistoric life of India.

The study, also authored by 13 scientists among other institutions, examined amber in Gujurat state (western) India.  The group studied insects trapped in fossil amber, which is believed to be 50-52 million years old.  PNAS published the study this week.

The region was previously thought to have high numbers of endemic (native to only that area) species, but the new study found more than 100 species from other areas.  These findings suggest that the region was perhaps not quite as isolated as previously thought.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
In the News
Friday, July 23, 2010

New website

The Biodiversity Institute has a new home on the web and a new site for the institute's Natural History Museum.

Prominent on the institute's new web site, biodiversity.ku.edu, are the research, collections and discoveries of its scientists and graduate students who explore and document the life of the planet.

Through the site researchers worldwide will have immediate access to the biodiversity data associated with the institute's millions of research specimens of animals and plants as well as analytical tools. Blog posts from researchers on expeditions and highlighting research are among the new features.

The site for the KU Natural History Museum, naturalhistory.ku.edu, is tailored to actual and virtual visitors and includes information about the museum's exhibit, education and outreach programs. Feature articles and videos highlight the history, diversity and conservation of Earth's plants, animals and ecosystems.

Revamped websites for the Biodiversity Institute's research divisions, such as mammalogy, herpetology and botany, are also in development.

News Type:
In the News
Monday, April 5, 2010

After more than 50 years in the realm of print, the whole of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology is available in digital form (as searchable pdf files) through the Paleontological Institute web site. Downloadable PDF chapters of current volumes are available, as are single CDs of each volume, and a DVD or a set of 30 CDs of the entire Treatise series.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
In the News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A captivating opera singer, a groundbreaking geoarchaeologist and a renowned ecologist have been awarded the University of Kansas’ most prestigious faculty honor.

Faculty members Joyce Castle in the School of Music, Rolfe Mandel in anthropology and geoscience, and Jorge Soberón in ecology and evolutionary biology have been appointed University Distinguished Professors, an esteemed title bestowed on only about 60 individuals at the entire university.

"The title of University Distinguished Professor is a truly special honor, reserved for only a select few of our finest faculty,” Vitter said. “Professors Castle, Mandel and Soberón are three of our most esteemed faculty, and their receiving this title is a reflection of their many accomplishments and contributions to KU, ranging from excellence in the classroom to ground-breaking research.”

Jorge Soberon

Vitter noted the broad variance in academic disciplines was a testament to KU’s stature as a comprehensive research institution. While the three distinguished faculty members don’t share much in common in research, they have a common bond in their commitment to excellence for their students and for KU.

Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, noted Soberón’s record extended beyond his nine years at KU. “His record is clearly one of a distinguished scholar, mentor and teacher but seems to go well beyond his own research discipline, having a global benefit. At KU, he brings the experience of someone who has been among the most influential in developing his field and someone who has had a major influence on public policy.”

Soberón joined KU in 2005 and has carried with him advice he received from the provost at that time, David Shulenburger. “One phrase I have not forgotten is, ‘We expect you to help us to form good citizens,’” Soberón said. “These words have been in my mind since then, and I have reflected a lot about their meaning. They mean that you are expected to do much more than just teach good classes, and I have tried my best. I am thankful to this marvelous university for giving me the opportunity to help my colleagues and authorities in this most-important task.”

Through 2012, new University Distinguished Professors were appointed only when a position became vacant. KU has since opted to accept nominations for University Distinguished professorships on a biannual basis. The University Committee on Distinguished Professorships reviews nominations and forwards its selections to the provost for final approval. Major criteria for selection include record of scholarship, participation in university affairs and professional organizations, service to community and the success of their students, colleagues and institutions.

The first Distinguished Professors were established at KU in 1958. That year, four were awarded. In 1963, the first University Distinguished Professors were announced. A complete list is available online.

Soberón is a research scientist at the Biodiversity Institute and a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A world-renowned scholar in interdisciplinary biodiversity science and ecology, he is acclaimed for his creativity, novelty and synthesis across theoretical and empirical studies. His nomination packet for appointment as a University Distinguished Professor includes letters of support from a Nobel Prize winner, a former director of the National Science Foundation, members of the National Academy of Sciences and other luminaries in international science and policy.

Beginning with his appointment as executive secretary of Mexico’s national biodiversity commission in 1992, Soberón’s scope of research has encompassed global biodiversity and ecology and how the knowledge gained from this research could best inform local, national and international science and social policy. His specific research themes include theoretical and computational modeling of species’ richness across landscapes, as well as the past, present and future geographic distributions of species under scenarios of environmental change as well as the processes underlying those biodiversity patterns. His body of work has established him as a worldwide authority in these arenas, and his ideas and prototypes are now the gold standard in modeling and forecasting the richness and spatial distribution of plants and animals across habitats.

Soberón is co-author on the first synthetic book on ecological niche modeling, and his work on biodiversity patterns is revising the metrics used by the global community. His research has been funded by major grants from the NIH, NSF and Microsoft Research, and his papers have been published in the highest-ranking journals in his field.

Soberón’s work merges KU’s four strategic initiative themes. His research on environmental patterns and processes develops and utilizes the most advanced analytics and computational modeling tools for forecasting biotic phenomena, including the potential spread of invasive species, disease vectors and emerging diseases under different scenarios of climate change, and the social consequences to populations and habitats in different geographic regions. As such, his work is creating at KU the interdisciplinary research synergies that society needs to tackle the grand environmental challenges of the 21st century.

For example, during the past 15 years, he has grappled with the question how genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly crops, will affect native organisms in surrounding ecosystems. His research has similarly helped foster international policy regarding invasive species, cultural heritage, local economies and indigenous rights. More recently, he has also addressed Kansas-specific issues, such as prairie conservation, science education in the state and international educational opportunities at KU. Full news release on all 2014 Distinguished Professors available here: https://news.ku.edu/2014/06/23/ku-names-three-new-university-distinguish...

From his academic beginnings as a young professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), Soberón has been a superb teacher and mentor of students. At UNAM, he successfully mentored three doctoral students, three master's students and eight senior undergraduate thesis students. Some of his former students are now in academic posts; others serve as director of conservation of the Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability at the U.S. National Zoological Park and as regional director of Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas. Because of his record, Soberón was asked to serve as coordinator of graduate studies for UNAM’s science faculty.

In his second academic career at KU, Soberón is an accomplished teacher at undergraduate and graduate levels, team-teaching courses in ecology, conservation and wildlife biology, methods in quantitative biogeography, biogeography and topics in environmental studies for the IGERT program. He also developed his own courses in quantitative ecology for graduate students and international environmental policy for both undergraduate and graduate students. In one of his major teaching innovations, he leads an annual, year-round, interdepartmental graduate student/faculty working group in spatial ecology, which, to date, has resulted in six major papers published with students. Such teaching investments are well beyond what is expected given his appointments and speak well of his commitment to both the education and research training of the next generation of scientists.

While at KU, Soberón has led a paradigm shift among international biodiversity researchers to adopt open data-sharing, making species taxonomic data, occurrence data and environmental data freely accessible to the broader scientific and educational communities. In this vein, he was elected unanimously in October 2013 by more than 30 member countries as first vice-chair of the Executive Committee of the Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development intergovernmental platform.

As two of his nominators conclude in their nomination letter: “Professor Soberón is the quintessential distinguished professor, meeting and exceeding its expectations in character and career. He is a world-renowned researcher; he has international stature as a statesman for science, policy and environmental issues; since coming to KU, his achievements in teaching, training graduate students and course offerings have well exceeded what his position requires, and he has provided wise counsel and insightful guidance to both the Biodiversity Institute and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“Indeed, when the history of this science is written, KU and Professor Soberón will be credited with helping to develop and demonstrate ecological niche modeling as a powerful tool for predicting and testing environmental phenomena – a tool now adopted by biodiversity scientists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists and natural resource managers worldwide.”

Divison:
Biodiversity Modeling & Policy
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, May 15, 2014

The National Science Foundation has recommended full funding ($800,000) of a research grant in biodiversity informatics led by Jim Beach, Jorge Soberón and Aimee Stewart of the Biodiversity Institute. This is a collaborative project with University of Texas El Paso, which will receive an additional $174K.

Divison:
Informatics
News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, April 7, 2014

Kirsten Jensen, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Biodiversity Institute, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Henry Baldwin Ward Medal from the the American Society of Parasitologists (ASP). This award is in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of Parasitology. 

The award, established in 1959, is named for H.B. Ward, the society's first president and founder of the Journal of Parasitology, and is the highest research award presented by the society. Dr. Jensen will be the 51st H.B. Ward medalist, and the 3rd woman to receive this distinction, when she receives the award at the ASP’s 89th annual meeting, set for July 24–27 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

An exhibit about Kirsten's work, including parasite art made from hand-colored electron microscope images, is on view at the KU Natural History Museum.

Divison:
Invertebrate Zoology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Friday, February 28, 2014

Paleobotany Senior Curator Edith Taylor  has learned that a new Permian plant fossil has been named for her in honor of her long standing, high quality  research with Antarctic fossil plants.

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
Award Grant News
Friday, November 22, 2013

The deep sea could be the largest habitat for life on Earth yet to be methodically explored. Due to chilly temperatures, extreme depth and an eerie darkness below about 650 feet, it can be technologically arduous and very expensive to collect and observe the biodiversity that thrives in this mysterious ecosystem. 

“Collecting deep-sea fishes is engaging, challenging and rewarding work,” said Matt Davis, a research associate with the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas. “Often it requires a lot of dedication to long shifts  — 12 to 16 hours — on a boat where a ton of various activities are taking place simultaneously. The trawl net is being dropped and emptied on board 24 hours a day, leading to a near-constant stream of new specimens needing to be identified, photographed and measured. These trips often last anywhere from a week to months, and every trip brings new challenges and discoveries.”

Now, Davis and Leo Smith, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU, have earned a three-year, $575,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study evolutionary patterns and diversity in three lines of widespread deep-sea fishes: lizardfishes, lanternfishes and dragonfishes.

“We are very interested in what factors have shaped the present-day biodiversity that we observe in the deep sea,” said Davis. “One aspect of this involves studying patterns of how lineages have diversified and accumulated over time. In general, we are interested in identifying periods in evolutionary history where the evolution of a group is significantly altered in terms of rates of speciation and extinction.”

According to the KU researchers, who are working with colleague John S. Sparks at the American Museum of Natural History, many species associated with these lineages share common physical traits.

“There are a few anatomical features that a lot of people identify with deep-sea fishes that are, in general, great examples of evolution occurring in this environment,” Davis said. “Among these are large dagger-shaped teeth, which many predatory deep-sea fishes employ to trap and contain prey. It’s also very common for the body of deep-sea fishes to be either black or red. Few deep-sea organisms are capable of seeing the color red, as the wavelength for this color does not travel very far in water. Fishes that are bright red are effectively invisible to a lot of other organisms in the deep-sea.”

Another usual trait among deep-sea fishes is bioluminescence  — the ability of an organism to produce and emit light — which gives them advantages at great depths.

“This is incredibly common in marine environments, particularly in the deep sea where there is little to no penetrable sunlight,” Davis said. “Most deep-sea fishes emit and display bioluminescent light through a variety of fascinating anatomical structures, such as the lure of an anglerfish, or modified scales, called photophores, that can aid in the reflection and transmission of light. There are many hypothesized functions for bioluminescence, including attracting prey, communication and camouflage.”

Likewise, many fishes that inhabit waters below 650 feet or so are hermaphrodites, such as dragonfishes, which are capable of switching their sex over the course of their lifetimes. Others, like tripodfishes and lancetfishes, can produce both eggs and sperm at the same time.

“Some have hypothesized that being able to alter the type of gamete produced over the course of one's life history may provide a reproductive advantage in an environment where it may be difficult to find a mate,” Davis said. In addition to expeditions to collect deep-sea fishes, the KU researchers will rely on established collections of fossil fishes to trace how various deep-sea fish evolved.

“Because deep-sea fishes are quite difficult to collect, some of the biodiversity may only be known from a single collecting trip in one particular area of the world,” said Davis. “For this reason, museum collections are a fundamental aspect to understanding Earth’s biodiversity, including life in the deep sea. We will be working closely with the collections of many museums to accomplish our work, such as The Field Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Museum of Comparative Zoology and, of course, the Biodiversity Institute right here at KU.”

The KU researcher explained that Kansas, even though it is landlocked, has given researchers a trove of information about the ancestry of present-day deep-sea life.

“Many fossils that are attributed to deep-sea fishes are identified from deposits where there was a marine environment covering what is now exposed land,” Davis said. “Some of the most famous marine fossils in the world are actually known from Kansas, in the Niobrara Chalk. This Late Cretaceous formation is filled with marine fossils from the Western Interior Seaway that covered a large portion of what is now Kansas. Among these fossils are large marine reptiles, such as mosasaurs, and fishes, including Xiphactinus, a predatory fish that could reach lengths of up to 20 feet.” -Brendan Lynch

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, November 18, 2013

Researcher Dixie West, a research affiliate of the Biodiversity Institute, recently learned of the successful funding of a grant proposal to study in the Aleutian Islands. The news was featured by KU in a recent online magazine called Inside KU. Here's a link:

http://www.news.ku.edu/2013/10/21/researcher-extends-study-human-migrati...

In addition, KU Biodiversity Institute scientist Gloria Arratia has learned that she has been approved for the Fulbright Specialist Roster for the next five years. The Roster is a list of all approved candidates who are eligible to be matched with incoming program requests from overseas academic institutions for Fulbright Specialists who act as cultural ambassadors of the Fulbright and CIES. To become a member of Roster involves a careful review of the academic qualifications of the candidate who is evaluated by external reviewers and a panel of specialists of CIES.

Short after Gloria’s nomination, the first request was received and a proposal requiring her expertise in a special course/training for highly qualified doctoral and postdoctoral students of South American countries was submitted to Fulbright.  An international panel reviewed the proposal and it was approved as a Fullbright Specialist grant in Environmental Science at the University of Chile.  Consequently, Gloria will be giving an intensive 3-week course (“Fish Morphology and Systematics: Advances and Multidisciplinary Integration”) during March in Santiago, Chile.  Gloria has been informed that in her area of expertise Fulbright has special interest to develop collaborative programs with Brazil, Canada, and Colombia in the next few months.

The KU paleontology program is featured on the KU homepage rotation; a direct link to the feature on the program created by KU news is here:

http://features.ku.edu/article/king-fossilized-long-live-king

News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, November 11, 2013

Researcher Dixie West, a research affiliate of the Biodiversity Institute, recently learned of the successful funding of a grant proposal to study in the Aleutian Islands. The news was featured by KU in a recent online magazine called Inside KU. Here's a link:

https://www.news.ku.edu/2013/10/21/researcher-extends-study-human-migration-isolated-aleutian-islands

In addition, KU Biodiversity Institute scientist Gloria Arratia has learned that she has been approved for the Fulbright Specialist Roster for the next five years. The Roster is a list of all approved candidates who are eligible to be matched with incoming program requests from overseas academic institutions for Fulbright Specialists who act as cultural ambassadors of the Fulbright and CIES. To become a member of Roster involves a careful review of the academic qualifications of the candidate who is evaluated by external reviewers and a panel of specialists of CIES.

Short after Gloria’s nomination, the first request was received and a proposal requiring her expertise in a special course/training for highly qualified doctoral and postdoctoral students of South American countries was submitted to Fulbright.  An international panel reviewed the proposal and it was approved as a Fullbright Specialist grant in Environmental Science at the University of Chile.  Consequently, Gloria will be giving an intensive 3-week course (“Fish Morphology and Systematics: Advances and Multidisciplinary Integration”) during March in Santiago, Chile.  Gloria has been informed that in her area of expertise Fulbright has special interest to develop collaborative programs with Brazil, Canada, and Colombia in the next few months.

The KU paleontology program is featured on the KU homepage rotation; a direct link to the feature on the program created by KU news is here:

http://features.ku.edu/article/king-fossilized-long-live-king

News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, September 23, 2013

Research associate Matt Davis and Ichthyology Curator Leo Smith have learned that their proposal "Collaborative Research: Diversification in the Deep-Sea and the Evolution of Fangs, Bioluminescence, Hermaphroditism, and Marine Habitat Transitions" has been awarded $575,000 by the National Science Foundation. Of the grant, $425,000 was awarded to PI Davis and Co-PI Smith (University of Kansas), and $150,000 was awarded to PI J.S. Sparks of the American Museum of Natural History.

Grant summary: All animals that have evolved in the deep sea are under similar selective pressures as a result of the environmental extremes (e.g., little to no penetrable sunlight, high atmospheric pressure). This extreme habitat has led to massive convergence in animal morphology and behavior across deep-sea organisms ranging from the production and emission of light (bioluminescence) to the evolution of enlarged fangs and gaping mouths. This multidisciplinary project will investigate the processes that have impacted the evolution of deep-sea fishes and their success in this fascinating aquatic realm. This study integrates phylogenetic relationships based on genetic and morphological data, comparative morphology, ecology, and evolutionary biology in an effort to broaden our understanding of fishes that have evolved, thrived, and diversified in the deep sea.

This research will increase our understanding of a diverse array of deep-sea evolutionary adaptations, including bioluminescent structures that are used for predation, defense, species recognition, and sexual selection. These novel morphologies and behaviors have never before been studied within the context of a robust evolutionary framework based on molecular and morphological data. The resulting hypotheses will include a temporal component based on the fossil record that will allow us to explore, for the first time, whether these specializations are having potential effects on speciation in the deep sea. This project will support the training of postdoctoral, graduate, undergraduate, and high school students in marine biology, systematics, and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas and American Museum of Natural History. Findings from this work will continue to augment a new bioluminescence exhibit created and curated by PI Sparks and co-PI Smith (Creatures of Light).

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ichthyology Curator Leo Smith and postdoc, Matt Davis’ proposal "Collaborative Research: Diversification in the Deep-Sea and the Evolution of Fangs, Bioluminescence, Hermaphroditism, and Marine Habitat Transitions" has been awarded  $575,000 by the National Science Foundation. Of the grant, $425,000 was awarded to PI Davis and Co-PI Smith (University of Kansas), and $150,000 was awarded to PI J.S. Sparks  of the American Museum of Natural History.

Grant summary: All animals that have evolved in the deep sea are under similar selective pressures as a result of the environmental extremes (e.g., little to no penetrable sunlight, high atmospheric pressure). This extreme habitat has led to massive convergence in animal morphology and behavior across deep-sea organisms ranging from the production and emission of light (bioluminescence) to the evolution of enlarged fangs and gaping mouths. This multidisciplinary project will investigate the processes that have impacted the evolution of deep-sea fishes and their success in this fascinating aquatic realm. This study integrates phylogenetic relationships based on genetic and morphological data, comparative morphology, ecology, and evolutionary biology in an effort to broaden our understanding of fishes that have evolved, thrived, and diversified in the deep sea.

This research will increase our understanding of a diverse array of deep-sea evolutionary adaptations, including bioluminescent structures that are used for predation, defense, species recognition, and sexual selection. These novel morphologies and behaviors have never before been studied within the context of a robust evolutionary framework based on molecular and morphological data. The resulting hypotheses will include a temporal component based on the fossil record that will allow us to explore, for the first time, whether these specializations are having potential effects on speciation in the deep sea. This project will support the training of postdoctoral, graduate, undergraduate, and high school students in marine biology, systematics, and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas and American Museum of Natural History. Findings from this work will continue to augment a new bioluminescence exhibit created and curated by PI Sparks and co-PI Smith (Creatures of Light).

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ichthyology Curator Leo Smith and postdoc, Matt Davis’ proposal "Collaborative Research: Diversification in the Deep-Sea and the Evolution of Fangs, Bioluminescence, Hermaphroditism, and Marine Habitat Transitions" has been awarded  $575,000 by the National Science Foundation. Of the grant, $425,000 was awarded to PI Davis and Co-PI Smith (University of Kansas), and $150,000 was awarded to PI J.S. Sparks  of the American Museum of Natural History.

Grant summary: All animals that have evolved in the deep sea are under similar selective pressures as a result of the environmental extremes (e.g., little to no penetrable sunlight, high atmospheric pressure). This extreme habitat has led to massive convergence in animal morphology and behavior across deep-sea organisms ranging from the production and emission of light (bioluminescence) to the evolution of enlarged fangs and gaping mouths. This multidisciplinary project will investigate the processes that have impacted the evolution of deep-sea fishes and their success in this fascinating aquatic realm. This study integrates phylogenetic relationships based on genetic and morphological data, comparative morphology, ecology, and evolutionary biology in an effort to broaden our understanding of fishes that have evolved, thrived, and diversified in the deep sea.

This research will increase our understanding of a diverse array of deep-sea evolutionary adaptations, including bioluminescent structures that are used for predation, defense, species recognition, and sexual selection. These novel morphologies and behaviors have never before been studied within the context of a robust evolutionary framework based on molecular and morphological data. The resulting hypotheses will include a temporal component based on the fossil record that will allow us to explore, for the first time, whether these specializations are having potential effects on speciation in the deep sea. This project will support the training of postdoctoral, graduate, undergraduate, and high school students in marine biology, systematics, and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas and American Museum of Natural History. Findings from this work will continue to augment a new bioluminescence exhibit created and curated by PI Sparks and co-PI Smith (Creatures of Light).

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Brendan Lynch

Once, during a night time trek through a remote patch of Philippine rainforest to record frogs and collect their eggs for his doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas researcher Rafe Brown found himself alone, far ahead of his colleagues on the trail.

That’s when his headlamp died.

“I had to sit on a log for an hour in the dark,” Brown recalled. “Already, I’d spent a couple of hours trying to record all the frogs in the area, and I was pretty sure there were just three species. But when forced to just sit there and listen to them, I found that there were seven or eight different calls in the area.”

Such is the importance of sound to biologists and naturalists: It can help distinguish one species of animal from another, even when two species might look nearly identical.

That’s one reason why scientists for generations have lugged recording gear into the field, capturing all manner of animal signal, from croaking frogs to chirping insects to singing birds. Unfortunately, over the years, many hard-won recordings have moldered on back shelves of museums and offices, often in outdated audio formats, such as reel-to-reel tape.

Today, Brown is an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator-in-charge of the herpetology division of the KU Biodiversity Institute. In that role, he is helping to lead a new, $200,000 effort, funded by the National Science Foundation, to digitize, archive and make available thousands of field recordings of animal sounds at KU, and tie them with the voucher specimens that were recorded.

“In the past, if someone wanted to get a call of a recording of a species of frog from Central America that was recorded 30 years ago, it was a complicated process,” said Brown. “They’d have to contact us, and one of us would have to go back and try to sift through all the material to try and find the tape and the segment of the tape with the frog, and then record it to a cassette tape and send it to them.”

The KU researcher said the new grant would upgrade data accessibility for the Internet era.

“The idea is to take all off this ancillary material and put it online,” said Brown. “You’ll go look at the record for the frog, and you’ll see there are digital photos of it and its habitat, and then you can click on a link and instantly hear the sound that it made.”

KU is one of a consortium of 11 research institutions to digitize audio recordings through this effort. Other major contributors include the Smithsonian, Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science and the Texas Natural Science Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The work at KU’s Biodiversity Institute will focus on the strength of its herpetology and ornithology collections, the latter of which is curated by co-investigator Mark Robbins.

Ultimately, Brown said the grant would speed the process of discovering, cataloging and naming species for academic researchers and naturalists. Also, many of the animal sounds will be made available to the public, helping to underscore the importance of sound to biology — and conveying the mysteries of animal communication.

“Species are making sounds to mark their territory, to attract mates, to scare away predators, to call to their offspring, and even in some cases to send signals to other species,” Brown said. “And there are things that people still debate. Why do birds sing at dawn? Are they marking their territory? Are they happy that the sun is up and making noise because they can? There still are questions about why organisms make sounds, sometimes in a context that we can’t really understand.”

The project, which will fund several new positions for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, should run through 2017. 

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Andrew Short, Entomology curator, was elected this month to a 2-year term on the executive committee of the Coleopterists Society. More information on the entomology digitization project can be found here: http://news.ku.edu/2013/06/26/database-biodiversity-offers-peek-biologists%E2%80%99-field-notes-photographs

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Research and Graduate Studies has announced that Craig Freeman will be honored with the 2013 KU Research Achievement Award at 3:30 ­ 5 p.m., on July 8 at the Shankel SBC on west campus.  There will be a brief ceremony followed by reception, open to all Biodiversity Institute staff and students. The award, one of two this year, is the highest honor given annually to a full-time academic staff researcher working in a department or research center on KU’s Lawrence campus.

Divison:
Botany
News Type:
Award Grant News
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Carl Oliveros, a KU Ph.D ecology and evolutionary biology student, has learned that his DIGG proposal has been recommended for funding. The title of the project is "Disentangling phylogenetic relationships in an explosive bird radiation." Oliveros, who is mentored by Rob Moyle,  will be using next-generation DNA sequencing to generate hundreds of markers for phylogenetic analysis of the bird family Zosteropidae.  This family has one of the fastest diversification rates among terrestrial vertebrates, and standard DNA sequencing has proven insufficient to decipher relationships in this group.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ed Wiley, curator emeritus; Teresa MacDonald, museum education director; and several other team members have helped create "A fisheye view of the tree of life," an interactive fish tree on the Understanding Evolution website. The project was developed for the NSF-funded Euteleost Tree of Life grant. Included is a curriculum unit that was developed for high school students that was also developed for the project.

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Friday, August 3, 2012

The National Science Foundation has funded "Georeferencing U.S. Fish Collections: a community-based model to georeferencing natural history collections," aFishNet collaborative georeferencing and data enhancement project. This project will result in doubling the number of and geospatially referencing records within the network, further enabling researchers to address important scientific and societal questions in areas such as endangered species conservation, environmental restoration, and global climate change.

The grant, totaling about $2 million awarded to 12 collaborating partner institutions, includes $150,000 for research at KU, including support for equipment, travel and to hire a georeferencing technician. Ed Wiley, curator emeritus in ichthyology, is PI of the grant portion awarded to KU, and Andy Bentley, colllections manager of ichthyology, and Nancy Holcroft-Benson, research affiliate, are the co-PIs.

In addition to KU, the institutions that will work together to expand and improve data quality within the FishNet network are the Academy of Natural Sciences, the California Academy of Sciences, Cornell University, the Field Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum, Tulane University, the University of Florida, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, the University of New Mexico and the University of Texas at Austin.

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Friday, July 13, 2012

A National Science Foundation (NSF) program that aims to bring "dark data" to the light has funded four research programs - two of them tied to the KU Biodiversity Institute.  Craig Freeman, botany curator, and Caroline Chaboo, entomology curator, are both collaborators involved in "Plants, Herbivores and Parasitoids: A Model System for the Study of Tri-Trophic Associations." Andrew Short, entomology curator, is one of the collaborators involved in "InvertNet--An Integrative Platform for Research on Environmental Change, Species Discovery and Identification." 

The NSF Thematic Collection Networks awards program is based on the idea that biological diversity is critical to the future of our planet, but incomplete information on species, their distributions and environmental and biological changes over time make it difficult to assess the status of and changes in biodiversity.

Much of the relevant information exists in the nation's research collections, but the majority isn't integrated and isn't readily available online. It's "dark data"--inaccessible to most biologists, policy-makers and the general public.

To answer this need, the program is expected to result in more efficient and innovative ways to provide access to information in biological research collections, and to speed up the process of integrating diverse information on the genetic, ecological, organismal and molecular biology of specimens in collections.

The Tri-Trophic Associations grant of $1.5 million will unify  about 8 million records in 34 collections to answer how the distributions and phenologies of the plants, pests and parasitoids relate to each other, in a Tri-Trophic Databasing and imaging project, known as TTD. The data will benefit basic scientific questions and practical applications in the agricultural sciences, conservation biology, ecosystem studies and climate change and biogeography research. Specimens from the University of Kansas Insect Collection and the MacGregor Herbarium will be digitized and imaged as part ofthis effort, with re-curation as needed.

The InvertNet project will develop new ways to digitize, collate, and serve specimen and collections data for 56 million specimens across 22 midwest arthropod collections. KU's portion of the grant will be $210,000.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, May 3, 2012

isotelus

Museum collections hold millions of fossils representing information on the distribution of species over space and immense spans of time. They provide large amounts of data useful for studying what causes species to migrate, go extinct, or evolve.

These collections are of great relevance, scientists say, for considering how global change has and will continue to affect life on this planet. However, to reach their scientific potential, the data need to be available online and in a format that facilitates quantitative biogeographic analyses.

A new program from the National Science Foundation, Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC), has awarded a team led by a University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute researcher a $600,000 award to digitize invertebrate fossil collections, including those at KU. The grant will be led by Bruce Lieberman, curator of invertebrate paleontology, as well as Una Farrell, collection manager, and James Beach, director of the informatics program of the Biodiversity Institute.

For this project, scientists will capture information in electronic form about the age and precise location of fossil specimens from several important paleontological collections. They will develop improved computer software to integrate paleontological specimens with modern specimen data and digitize nearly 450,000 specimens in 900 species from museums throughout the United States. The project will focus on three different time periods in the history of life spanning the past 500 million years.

Online digital atlases will be created, illustrating and describing these fossils and providing maps showing where they can be found. In addition, a handheld device "app" will be developed to use these atlases in the field. The online and portable device digital atlases will educate amateur paleontologists and K-12 students about fossils.

This grant for the fossil collections is the first time KU has taken the lead on a Thematic Collections Network project administered through the ADBC program.  However, Craig Freeman, curator of botany and senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey and Andrew Short, curator of entomology and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology have served as principal investigators (PIs) on two other such projects through the ABDC program and Caroline Chaboo, curator of entomology and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has served as a participant.  This makes a total of three grants to KU researchers in the first two years of the ADBC program.

For more information about this year’s grant awardees and the National Science Foundation program, visit the NSF news site.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, March 5, 2012

Andrew Short, curator of entomology, will receive a $7,300 REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) supplement for his  National Science Foundation Venezuela survey grant. The new grant will support the research of an undergraduate student working with Andrew over the next year.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration has announced a grant of more than $1 million to fund a collaboration that will bring together NASA remote sensing technology with predictive modeling applications to develop and maintain data about the effects of climate change.

The project is entitled "Earth, Life and Semantic Web (ELSeWeb): An Earth observation-driven, semantic web system for computational modeling of the impact of changing climate on ecosystems and human/environmental health systems." Partners in the grant include the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Kansas.

At KU, the work will be led by James Beach and Aimee Stewart, who heads up KU's Lifemapper program (lifemapper.org).

The research team will seek to develop information systems that allow researchers to demonstrate potential changes in climate and ecosystem conditions. The project will link three existing information technologies, including Lifemapper, to model and analyze the ways that changes in climate will affect the distribution of animals and plants.

Divison:
Informatics
News Type:
Award Grant News
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Paul Selden, director of the Paleontological Institute at KU, has been awarded a Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Foundation in Germany.  The Humboldt Research Award is for outstanding academics at the peak of their careers and in leading positions, such as full professors and directors of institutes. The award is granted in recognition of a researcher's entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. The  award is valued at $81,000 U.S. (€60,000). Award winners spend period(s) of six to twelve months, over one or more years, on academic collaboration with specialist colleagues in Germany.

News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, November 10, 2011

A. Townsend Peterson, curator of ornithology, and Mark Robbins, collection manager of ornithology, have received a grant of $25,000 from the National Geographic Society. The society's Committee for Research and Exploration awarded the grant for a project entitled, "Survey of Vertebrate Diversity of an Isolated Sub-Himalayan Site in Northern Vietnam."

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, June 16, 2011

The National Science Foundation has announced a $5 million grant for "Digitization TCN: InvertNet—An Integrative Platform for Research on Environmental Change, Species Discovery and Identification." The project will develop new ways to digitize, collate, and serve specimen and collections data for 56 million specimens across 22 midwest arthropod collections. KU's portion of the grant will be $210,000. Andrew Short, curator of entomology, is one of 14 primary investigators involved in the grant.

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Herpetology graduate student Cameron Siler is this year's recipient of the Kennedy Award by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. The award is for the best student paper published (for 2011) in SSAR' Journal of Herpetology.  The award includes a cash prize and a generous credit that can be used towards the purchase of SSAR publications, including herpetology journals and books.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

At the annual spring meeting of the Kansas (Central States) Entomological Society, several Biodiversity Institute and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology students received awards for their research.

There were two oral student presentation winners:
Graduate Student Choru Shin (mentored by Curator Caroline Chaboo). Title: "Phylogenetic revision of Stoiba Spaeth 1909 with description of a new species, Elytrogona rileyi n. sp. Shin & Chaboo (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae: Mesophaliini)"

Graduate Student Taro Eldredge (mentored by Curator Andrew Short). Title: "The Mrymecophiles of Kansas"

In the student poster category, undergraduate student Joseph Jalinsky (mentored by Chaboo), won for his presentation, "Natural history and immature stages of Chrysochus auratus Fabricius 1775 (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Eumolpinae)"

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, September 27, 2010

Dyche Hall

A prestigious 4-year, $1.5 million federal stimulus grant combined with funds allocated by the University of Kansas is expected to transform the research capabilities of the KU Biodiversity Institute.

The grant from the National Science Foundation will fund major laboratory renovations, advance and modernize research facilities, and increase the capacity for training graduate students in biodiversity science in Dyche Hall, a 107-year-old building.

Specifically, the funding will:
•    Revamp a five-laboratory Genomics Complex for sequencing genetic material, cloning ancient DNA and preserving 80,000 genetic samples in a cryogenic facility.
•     Install new biotic and morphology analysis laboratories for exploring the body and skeletal attributes of organisms.
•    Install a modern Geographic Information Systems laboratory for analyzing and forecasting environmental phenomena, such as the potential spread of diseases and pests
•    Install a modern, four-fold larger data server room to store and provide global access to biodiversity information. 

The grant is complemented by a $1.3 million project funded by KU for upgrading Dyche Hall’s electrical, cyber, and heating and air conditioning service. 

Construction is expected to begin in November and will conclude by 2013.

The National Science Foundation awarded the grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 under a program entitled Academic Research Infrastructure: Repair and Renovation.  

“This major investment in the Biodiversity Institute by the National Science Foundation speaks to our international and national leadership in research and research training in biodiversity science,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute.  “This project will keep KU and our scientists and students at the forefront of knowledge discovery of the life of the planet.  It will enable us to tackle more complex research problems facing science and society, from deciphering the tree of life of animals and plants, to forecasting the effects of climate change on the potential spread of deadly diseases and harmful pests.”

The Biodiversity Institute, which includes the KU Natural History Museum, is a research center with a worldwide collection of 8 million plants and animals and 1.2 million archaeological artifacts. More than 120 scientists and graduate students in the institute study the species, ecosystems and cultures of the planet to understand the history, composition, geography and evolution of life.

News Type:
Award Grant News
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spider

Diplurid spider, Cretaceous era, Brazil

The National Science Foundation has granted $1.5 million for a KU project that will bring greater access to the extensive data contained in The Treatise  on Invertebrate Paleontology.

The Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, founded in 1948 by an international consortium of paleontological societies, is considered to be the most authoritative compilation of data on invertebrate fossils. The Treatise has applications in many areas, such as understanding evolution and the study of climate change.

The grant will make the vast repository of paleontological data in the Treatise available in electronic form for current and future scientists, and the public. The grant will also help develop computational tools for analyzing, modeling, and visualizing paleontological data.

The "knowledgebase" created using the grant is expected to open transformational opportunities in scientific discovery to help understand the complexity of nature. In addition to scientific applications, a planned website will enable anyone to explore fossils online.

Grant details:

Title: “Computational Methods to Enable an Invertebrate Paleontology Knowledgebase”
Lead Investigator: Xuewen Chen
CO-PIs: Paul Selden, Brian Potetz, Luke Huan and Bo Luo
Amount: $1.5 million over 4 years.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Award Grant News
Friday, September 3, 2010

Although they number more than 16,000 recognized species, there are great gaps in the knowledge of annelid worms, including their diversity and evolutionary history. To fill this need, a project recently funded by the National Science Foundation will assemble an annelid family tree using a large-scale, multi-tiered approach.

The grant of $291,892 to principal investigator Sam James, a research affiliate of the Biodiversity Insitute, and a team of international researchers will concentrate on using high-throughput DNA genome sequencing techniques to examine the oldest relationships among annelids. Recent relationships will be resolved with multi-gene DNA approaches and a community-based sequencing service that will examine approximately 3000 species.

As one of the few segmented phyla, annelids are integral to understanding animal evolution. Annelid worms exhibit immense morphological diversity and include such distinct groups as fireworms, earthworms, bloodworms, and leeches. As sediment feeders, scavengers, and predators, annelids occupy terrestrial and aquatic habitats worldwide and are the most abundant fauna (larger than 1 millimeter) in the deep sea, Earth's most extensive habitat. Annelids have economic importance as bait, pests, invasive species (e.g., oyster borers) and ecosystem engineers.

The project has significant interdisciplinary implications in fields such as developmental biology, paleontology, marine biology, physiology and evolution. Specimens, data, and educational resources will be publicly available. Extensive human resource development includes training more than 25 undergraduates, 5 graduate students and 4 postdoctoral researchers at four institutions, and recruitment of underrepresented groups. The grant will include K-12 outreach to foster broad scientific participation.

Grant Details:
Title: Wormnet II: Assembling the Annelid Tree of Life
Award: $291,892
Duration: 5 years
Co-PIs:  Ken Halanych, Auburn University; Damhnait McHugh, Colgate University; Frank Anderson, Southern Illinois University; Anja Schulze, Texas A&M University; Sam James, KU; Scott Santos, Auburn University; Torsten Struck, University of Osnabruck, Germany; Christer Erseus, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

News Type:
Award Grant News
Thursday, July 22, 2010

The National Science Foundation has awarded a KU Biodiversity Informatics research team a $1.7 million grant. Funding for the proposal, "Collaborative Biodiversity Collections Computing," will allow Jim Beach, Informatics director, and Informatics staff to continue to elaborate and support biodiversity data management software for the processing, analysis and publication of the information associated with biological specimens. The grant also will allow them to provide Specify software and helpdesk support for museums and integrate their research with broader computational initiatives in environmental biology. Specify is a software environment used in over 300 biological collections worldwide to manage the information associated with biological specimens.  For more information on the Specify Software Project, visit the project web site.

Divison:
Informatics
News Type:
Award Grant News
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A $20 million National Science Foundation grant entitled “Climate Change and Energy: Basic Science, Impacts, and Mitigation” was announced this week. Of the grant, $4 million is allocated for “Nanotechnology for Renewable Energy” at KU, and portion of that will fund education program development under Teresa MacDonald, director of public education at the KU Natural History Museum.

News Type:
Award Grant News
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund of the Douglas County Community Foundation has announced an award of $1,810 for Dawn Kirchner, museum educator at the KU Natural History Museum. The grant will help expand a museum summer camp in aquatic biology. The grant is one of few offered by the fund. Camp participants will learn about healthy aquatic ecosystems, the life they sustain and how to monitor water quality using new museum equipment at the Baker Wetlands and Deer Creek.

News Type:
Award Grant News
Monday, November 26, 2007

Mary Adair, archaeology curator, will receive grant support from the KU libraries' Budig One digital initiatives program. The grant, entitled Learning of the Past: Increasing Access to Archaeological Data through Digital Formats, will provide support for both access and preservation of archaeological data, including photographs, accession and catalog entries, and documentation. The BudigOne digital initiatives grant program competition is held each fall at KU.

Divison:
Archaeology
News Type:
Award Grant News

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cori Myers

 

Cori Myers, former student of Bruce S. Lieberman, Division of Invertebrate Paleontology, has been offered a tenure track job at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Student News
Monday, May 19, 2014

 

Mike Andersen, former student of Rob Moyle, Division of Ornithology, has been offered a tenure track job at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Biology.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Student News
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jesse Grismer (mentor: Rafe Brown) has learned that he has been awarded a $20,000 grant from National Geographic’s Committee for Research and Exploration to study population genetics and taxonomic diversity of lizards in differing habitats across the Gobi Desert.  The upcoming Gobi expedition involves an integrative historical component which will include retracing travel routes of famed explorers Nikolai Przhevalsky and Ney Elias using original expedition accounts coupled with modern satellite based imagery and georeferencing tools.

In addition, Scott Travers (also in Rafe Brown’s group) has learned that his National Geographic Young Explorer’s Club proposal has been funded ($5,000) for work on adaptive radiation and community assembly of amphibians and reptiles in the Solomon Islands. This work will include blazing an elevational transect through uninhabited forests of Mt. Austen on Guadalcanal Island, the site of the infamous Guadalcanal Campaign battles between U.S. and Japanese troops in 1943.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Student News
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Google Summer of Code is a global program that offers students stipends to write code for open source projects during summer months. This year a total of 1307 projects are approved by Google, among those, two projects are from Biodiversity Institute students.

The project of Narayani Barve (advised by Town Peterson), "Tools for pre and post processing of data for ecological niche models,” was accepted for Google Summer of Code 2014. This project is mentored by Jorge Soberón, Rob Guralnick and Alberto Jimenez Valverde. Her proposed project is listed here.

The project developed by Vijay Barve (Department of Geography, co-advised by Town Peterson) for Google Summer of Code is bdvis: Biodiversity data visualizations. This is an R package to visualize data based on Spatial, Temporal and Taxonomic attributes. His project is mentored by Javier Otegui, Jorge Soberón and Virgillo Gomez. More details on the proposal are available here.

Divison:
Biodiversity Modeling & Policy
News Type:
Student News
Saturday, March 1, 2014

In 2014, Paleobotany graduate student Carla J. Harper was a contributor in a symposium of the Mycological Society of America that focused on wood rotting fungi. Carla was the only graduate student that was asked to participate.

Divison:
Paleobotany
News Type:
Student News
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vertebrate Paleontology graduate student Josh Schmerge took third place among winners of the graduate poster competition during the recent G-Hawk symposium

Divison:
Vertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Student News
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Anthony Barley, graduate student in Herpetology at KU, won this year's American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Stoye Award for best student paper presented at this year's Joint Ichs and Herps Meeting.  Barley’s paper will be published next month in the journal Evolution.

Divison:
Herpetology
News Type:
Student News
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mabel AlvaradoA portion of graduate student Mabel Alvarado's MA thesis work at KU (advised by Michael Engel and Caroline Chaboo) has been published in a new monograph that documents a significant diversity of large parasitoid wasps (43 new species in this one genus alone... from an originally known 6 species).  These wasps have significant potential in the biological control of pest moth species in the region and some are from highly specialized habitats that are under threat from human-induced habitat homogenization as well as climate change. Mabel's thesis is available here through KU scholar works. 

Divison:
Entomology
News Type:
Student News
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The students and faculty of the Invertebrate Paleontology division would like to congratulate Cori Myers and Curtis Congreve who successfully defended their Ph.D. theses this semester and will graduate May 18th-19th. Cori will be going on to do a post-doctoral fellowship at the prestigious NASA Astrobiology Institute at Harvard and M.I.T., working with Andy Knoll.

Divison:
Invertebrate Paleontology
News Type:
Student News
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Andrea Romero, a KU Ph.D ecology and evolutionary biology student, successfully defended her dissertation "Ecology, habitat preference, and conservation of Neotropical non-volant mammal communities in Costa Rica’s Caribbean lowlands." She is soon headed to Costa Rica to coordinate courses for the Organization for Tropical Studies’ NAPIRE (Native American and Pacific Islanders).  She was mentored by Bob Timm.

Divison:
Mammalogy
News Type:
Student News
Monday, May 7, 2012

KU student Kathryn Mickle was selected by the KU Department of Graduate Studies to receive the Marnie and Bill Argersinger Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation.  Kathryn, who was nominated by her co-advisors Hans-Peter Schultze and Ed Wiley of the Biodiversity Institute, defended her dissertation with honors on April 10, 2012.  Her dissertation, Unraveling the Systematics of Palaeoniscoid Fishes – Lower Actinopterygians in Need of a Complete Phylogenetic Revision, has the potential to transform present knowledge of the most diverse group of vertebrates, the ray-fin fishes.
 
Kathryn received the award at the KU doctoral hooding ceremony on May 12, 2012.  The award includes a cash prize.

Divison:
Ichthyology
News Type:
Student News
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ornithology graduate student Lynnette Dornak's proposal to the National Science Foundation for support for her dissertation research was recently recommended for funding. These awards are highly competitive, and indicate the high quality of the proposal that Lynnette assembled. Her work focuses on the distribution and dynamics of the distribution of Henslow's Sparrows across their range in North America.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Student News
Monday, May 2, 2011

Amanda Millhouse just successfully received her Master's in Museum Studies at KU through the Geology track. We have very much enjoyed having her in the division as an intern and will miss her.  We wish her good luck and all the best.

News Type:
Student News
Monday, January 10, 2011

KU Ornithology graduate Monica Papes has just accepted a position in the Department of Zoology at Oklahoma State University as Assistant Professor. Mona finished her degree at KU in 2009, and has been in a postdoctoral position at the University of Wisconsin since then. Curiously, Mona was interviewed for two positions late in 2010, and was offered both! She opted for the OSU position, and we wish her the very best there.

Divison:
Ornithology
News Type:
Student News