Lake Shore, United States
Lake Shore, United States

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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 123.40K | Year: 2015

With support from the National Science Foundation, Drs. Laure Dussubieux, Patrick Ryan Williams and Philipp Heck from the Field Museum and Dr Marc Walton from the Northwestern University-Art institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies will replace the inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) that is the central piece of equipment of the Elemental Analysis Facility (EAF) at the Field Museum. The EAF is used mainly to determine the composition, including major, minor, and trace elements, of a large range of materials including obsidian, ceramic, clay, synthesized glass and metals from all around the world and natural terrestrial and extraterrestrial rocks. This new state-of-the-art instrumentation will be used to establish extensive new datasets of archaeological, cultural and geological materials that directly informs hypotheses about ancient trade and exchange, technology, and their relationship to the development of social complexity around the world and the origin and the evolution of Earth and the solar system. This new instrument will contribute to the research and training of undergraduate, graduate students and young researchers. They will be initiated into the analytical process using ICP-MS by undertaking the analysis itself and will be trained in method development, the statistical processing of the data, and interpretation. Results of the research at the EAF will inform future exhibits and education activities at the Field Museum, Art Institute and Oriental Institute, which educate hundreds of thousands of school children and millions of visitors annually.

A new ICP-MS, will not only increase inter-disciplinary collaborations at the Field Museum but also stimulate collaborative efforts between the Field Museum and other Chicago-based institutions. Among those are the new Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies, the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago), and the Chicago Center for Cosmochemistry (C3), comprised of the three-institutions Field Museum, University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, to enhance training, scientific research and exchange in the fields of Anthropology, Cosmochemistry, Geochemistry, Materials Science and Engineering. The connection of the EAF with the Field Museum, The Art Institute and the Oriental Institute collections will be a unique opportunity to linking leading scholars and graduate students to those institutions, extensive collections and giving them the tools to analyze these one of a kind assemblages to significantly enhance understanding of the role of cultural production in the development of complex societies. The C3 enables their scientists to access the world-class collections of meteorites, terrestrial rocks and minerals from the Field Museum and analyze them using the specialized analytical tools at its institutions and at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University with whom we have established a close collaboration.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: SEDIMENTARY GEO & PALEOBIOLOGY | Award Amount: 67.91K | Year: 2015

Revised Title: Collaborative Research: Functional evolution of the mammalian backbone: insights from the forerunners of mammals

Non-technical Abstract
Mammals are known for their great range of locomotor behaviors, including unique gaits such as galloping and bounding. These gaits are made possible by the subdivision of the backbone into two distinct regions: the thoracic region, which bears ribs and aids in breathing; and the lumbar region, which is ribless, highly mobile and functions in locomotion. Combined, these two sections of the backbone allow mammals to breathe and move simultaneously, permitting the use of high speed gaits for prolonged periods of time. But, how did this key mammalian trait evolve? Using cutting-edge 3D technology, along with the rich fossil record of mammals and their ancestors, this research will trace the origin and evolution of the mammalian backbone and its link with the development of mammal-specific locomotor behaviors. The work will deepen our understanding of the history of a key characteristic of mammals and part of the skeleton that is of great medical importance. Dissemination of the research will occur via two primary outlets. First, a series of educational online videos will be produced by the award-winning YouTube channel The Brain Scoop. The series will include three episodes documenting different stages of the research project in a fun and engaging way, with the core aim to encourage an increased interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) topics among teenagers and young adults. Second, the The Brain Scoop series will be used as the foundation for an Experience Box in the Field Museums N. W. Harris Learning Collection. The box will be available for K-12 educators to borrow and use in their classrooms, and will include replica specimens and activities related to each episode that are directly tied to Next Generation Science Standards.

Technical Abstract
Mammals are known for their great range of locomotor behaviors, including unique asymmetric gaits such as galloping and bounding. Asymmetric gaits are made possible by the subdivision of the dorsal vertebral column (the area between the pectoral and pelvic girdles) into two morphologically and functionally distinct regions. Anteriorly, the thoracic region bears ribs and is specialized for respiration, whereas posteriorly the dorsoventrally mobile lumbar region functions in locomotion. Combined, the regionalized dorsal vertebrae allow mammals to breathe and move simultaneously, permitting the use of high speed gaits for prolonged periods of time. But, how did this key mammalian trait evolve? Modern species provide little information for examining this fundamental evolutionary question, as they all possess distinct thoracic and lumbar regions. However, the clade to which mammals belong, Synapsida, has a rich fossil record that provides a detailed view of the origin and evolution of mammals. Using cutting-edge morphometric, biomechanical, and 3D digital modeling techniques, this project takes a deep-time approach to examine function of the vertebral column in fossil synapsids, and to trace the origin and evolution of the thoracolumbar region and dorsoventral mobility. Four synergistic approaches will be utilized: 1) morphometric data will be used to examine the degree of morphofunctional regionalization of the dorsal vertebral column in modern tetrapods and fossil synapsids; 2) ex vivo bending experiments will be conducted on the vertebral columns of modern tetrapods bracketing the synapsid-mammal transition to determine the link between form and function; 3) novel virtual bending experiments will be carried out on 3D digital models of fossil synapsid vertebral columns to determine their propensity for movement; and 4) the data will be synthesized within a strict phylogenetic context to reconstruct the origin and evolution of the thoracolumbar region and dorsoventral mobility.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCHAEOMETRY | Award Amount: 119.02K | Year: 2016

This award will continue National Science Foundation (NSF) support for the Elemental Analysis Facility (EAF) at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, which provides instrumentation for the rapid compositional analysis of ancient materials like ceramics, glass, metals, and pigments, to enhance research on a very wide range of anthropological topics. Researchers are able to analyze archaeological samples for major, minor, and trace elements in a non-destructive manner to address questions related to the archaeology of cultural production, interaction and exchange in the Americas, Africa, Oceania, Europe, and Asia, and advance the cause of material conservation of The Field Museums renowned anthropology collections. The EAF serves the Field Museum community as well as scholars and students from the Chicago area, the Midwest and throughout the world, by offering financial support to offset travel and accommodation expenses as well as part of the analytical costs. The presence of an on-site laboratory at the Field Museum creates the opportunity to study artifacts from the unique collections of the museum that could not be moved easily to outside analytical facilities. The EAF also supports undergraduate and graduate student research and training. Students are initiated into the analytical process by undertaking their own analyses and are trained in method development, the statistical processing of the data, and interpretation. Results of this research will inform future exhibits and education activities of The Field Museum, which provides science education and outreach for hundreds of thousands of school children and millions of visitors annually.

The EAF includes a scanning electron microscope with an energy dispersive spectrometer (SEM-EDS), and inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). The ICP-MS can be fitted with two lasers. One of the lasers is dedicated to the sampling of small objects with a high throughput, whereas the second laser, a totally unique, custom-transformed apparatus, accommodates large objects. This equipment is complemented by three portable XRF instruments for totally non-invasive investigations of artifacts on the premises of the Museum or in the field. The intellectual merits of the project include the establishment of extensive new datasets of archaeological and ethnological material from around the world that directly inform hypotheses about ancient trade and exchange, technology, and their relationship to the development of social complexity around the world. By providing expertise for the investigation of ancient material, linking leading scholars and graduate students to the museums extensive collections, and giving them the tools to analyze these one-of-a-kind assemblages, the project will significantly enhance understanding of the role of cultural production in the development of complex societies.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cyberlearn & Future Learn Tech | Award Amount: 80.37K | Year: 2015

One of the best ways to engage people in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) at a young age is through informal museum experiences. Yet, the research base on understanding how learning and engagement develops through these experiences is still emerging. Technology opens new ways to research these experiences to understand these processes better. In this proposal, researchers from Northwestern University and the Chicago Field Museum will collaborate to develop digital interactive displays to enhance the experience at various exhibits by providing additions varying in complexity from simple menu navigation, to 3D model manipulation, to fully interactive games. These will replace the typical static plaques that go along with an exhibit. In addition to enhancing the experience with the exhibits, these displays allow researchers to collect more data on peoples interaction with exhibits, particularly touch screen information regarding how visitors interacted with the 3D models, games and touchscreens. The proposed research will help address questions regarding the role of games in learning, for instance, do these games provide enhanced motivation and learning, or do they limit social interaction and create small silos in the midst of a group experience? It will also answer questions about how creativity is fostered in these environments by observing interactions and combining that with the digital data collected for a fuller picture of the development of engagement and learning.

Researchers from Northwestern University and the Chicago Field Museum will develop digital rails, interactive computer displays mounted on exhibit case railings that function as dynamic labels and provide enhanced experience features such as the integration of 3D modeling and games. They propose to augment the digital rails with near-field communication (NFC) tracking devices (RFID readers) to monitor amount of interaction and to link with user cell phones. They will collect NFC tracking data, computer logs of touch interaction, and interaction with mobile apps and observe visitor behavior around the interactive display cases. This early stage research study will employ design-based research to investigate this new form of interactive technology. Through iterating on observations and linking the observational data with the digitally collected data, the team will develop an understanding of the design principles for digital rails that best foster interactivity, social interaction, creativity, and learning of the material the exhibits focus on.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Dimensions of Biodiversity | Award Amount: 605.06K | Year: 2015

Although individual animals have long been considered a fundamental unit of evolution, we now know that each is really a co-dependent collection of host animal and microbes. This co-dependency reaches from ancient times through to the present day. Many animals depend on gut bacteria to process food and incorporate essential nutrients into the hosts own tissues. To untangle the importance of this partnership for hosts and symbiotic gut bacteria, this project will study a diverse and ecologically important social animal group, the turtle ants. As social organisms, ants and humans share ways for acquiring helpful and harmful bacteria. State-of-the-art molecular and genomic methods will be used to investigate ancient and modern influences on the symbiosis, the function of the bacteria for host health, and the means of passage and maintenance of the bacterial symbionts over millions of years.

Explaining global patterns of biodiversity and their drivers have long been central challenges in the fields of ecology and evolution. Increasingly, it is becoming apparent that biodiversity is itself a function of interactions across different levels of biological organization. Among the metazoans, symbioses with microbes are a defining feature, and individuals are integrated collections of host and symbiont cells, together defining the holobiont. By studying the diverse and tractable turtle ant system, this research will address the relationships between symbiosis and the dimensions of holobiont biodiversity with unprecedented clarity. Specifically, this research will address: 1) the roles of time, biogeography, and habitat in host diversification (host taxonomic dimension); 2) variation in gut communities across host ant phylogeny, geography, habitat, and ecological niches (symbiont taxonomic dimension integrated with host taxonomic and functional dimensions); 3) the extent of codiversification for ~10 core, host-specific symbiont lineages, and the impacts of host phylogeny, geography, and ecology on symbiont transfer (symbiont taxonomic dimension integrated with host taxonomic and functional dimensions); 4) variation in genome evolution and innovation across symbionts with varying degrees of codiversification, and across genes with varying function (taxonomic, genetic, and functional integration of hosts and symbionts); and 5) symbiont function in light of symbiont genome evolution, host-symbiont codiversification, and host phylogeny, geography, and ecology (taxonomic, genetic, and functional integration of hosts and symbionts).


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: RSCH EXPER FOR UNDERGRAD SITES | Award Amount: 244.87K | Year: 2016

This REU Site award to the Field Museum of Natural History, located in Chicago, IL, will support the training of 8 students for 10 weeks, during the summers of 2016-2018. Students will conduct hands-on research in biodiversity science and receive training in cutting-edge techniques and analysis in evolutionary biology through guided mentorship by museum curators and scientists. Students will learn research techniques that include DNA sequencing and computational analysis of genetic and genomic data, morphological measurements and phylogenetic analysis, and microbiology and next-generation microbial sequencing. Scientific projects to be conducted by the students include the evolution of morphological variation in extinct therapsids, tropical bird biogeography, population genetics of sharks, influence of disease on bird genetic diversity in urban environments, quantitative analysis of meteorites, the influence of hydrostatic pressure on morphological diversity in octopuses, and co-diversification of ants and their gut bacterial communities. In addition students will receive career mentoring in a diversity of STEM fields, gain experiences in public outreach and science communication, receive training in ethics/responsible conduct of research, and participate in a diversity workshop to help overcome bias in science. Selection of applicants will be completed by the host curator or scientist and students will be recruited from across the country, leveraging local university connections, to insure participation of underrepresented minorities. Students may apply online through: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/REU.

It is anticipated that a total of 24 students, primarily from schools with limited research opportunities, will be trained in the program. Students will learn how research is conducted and will create a video about their research experience to share in an annual symposium. Students will gain experiences in public outreach and science communication through sharing their research on the public museum areas. In addition, many will present the results of their work at scientific conferences. These internships will provide training for the next generation of evolutionary biologists in collections-based organismal bioscience.

A common web-based assessment tool used by all REU programs funded by the Division of Biological Infrastructure (Directorate for Biological Sciences) will be used to determine the effectiveness of the training program. Students will be tracked after the program in order to determine their career paths. Students will be asked to respond to an automatic email sent via the NSF reporting system. More information about the program is available by visiting https://www.fieldmuseum.org/REU, or by contacting the PI (Dr. Corrie Moreau at cmoreau@fieldmuseum.org) or the co-PI (Dr. Thorsten Lumbsch at tlumbsch@fieldmuseum.org).


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH COLLECTION | Award Amount: 208.64K | Year: 2015

Natural history specimen collections in museums and academic institutions document species diversity and provide essential information for broad applications ranging from conservation, securing national resources, discovery of new species, to agriculture and medicine. Collections are also an important resource for education and outreach. The Field Museum herbarium houses almost 3 million dried plant and fungi specimens. In 2013, the Museum acquired 35,000 liverwort specimens from the private herbarium of one of the most preeminent botanists of the 20th century. Liverworts are a small group of land plants that are closely related to the more familiar mosses. They play a critical role in our understanding of plant evolution and are ecologically significant. This recent acquisition makes The Field Museum liverwort collection, of over 220,000 specimens, the largest collection in the US and among the top four in the world. The recently acquired liverwort collection is in critical need of curation because of its poor condition. There is vital type material, used to describe and name new species, requiring urgent attention. This project will ensure the preservation of this collection as a national resource for future generations. The project also engages teens in understanding the role collections play in furthering scientific discovery. Families, students, and the general public can also participate as Citizen Scientists and help discover biodiversity by visiting http://microplants.fieldmuseum.org. The project has strong training, outreach and educational components that will improve science instruction and student learning, leveraging museum resources.

The principal objective is to curate the recently acquired private herbarium of an estimated 35,000 liverwort (Marchantiophyta) specimens of the late Prof. Rudolf M. Schuster, one of the most preeminent bryologists in the history of the discipline. The current condition of this collection, ranging from specimens in original newspaper and brown paper bags to original collecting packets, necessitates extensive curation. The bryology research community has been waiting decades to access this important collection in its entirety as many significant specimens remained in private residence and were not made available. There is vital type material that requires urgent attention. The principal objectives include curating, barcoding, databasing and imaging all label data and selected specimens. The timing of these collection improvement activities will leverage and is synergistic with national digitization efforts and international research programs. The digitization effort will provide digital access to this collection, unlock new distribution records and new species to science, and contribute to international databasing activities such as GBIF, The Plant List, and EOL. All data resulting from this project will be shared with iDigBio (https://www.idigbio.org/), ensuring accessibility to researchers and educators. Duplicate specimen material will be distributed to countries of origin that would provide valuable reference material, mainly from under-resourced yet biodiversity rich regions.


One of the greatest threats to the health of North Americas Great Lakes is invasion by exotic species, several of which already have had catastrophic impacts on property values, the fisheries, shipping, and tourism industries, and continue to threaten the survival of native species and wetland ecosystems. Additional species have been placed on watchlists because of their potential to become aquatic invasives. This project will create a network of herbaria and zoology museums from among the Great Lakes states of MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, and NY to better document the occurrence of these species in space and time by imaging and providing online access to the information on the specimens of the critical organisms. Several initiatives are already in place to alert citizens to the dangers of spreading aquatic invasives among our nations waterways, but this project will develop complementary scientific and educational tools for scientists, students, wildlife officers, teachers, and the public who have had little access to images or data derived directly from preserved specimens collected over the past three centuries.

This bi-national Thematic Collections Network of >25 institutions from eight states and Canada will digitize 1.73 million historical specimens representing 2,550 species of exotic fish, clams, snails, mussels, algae, plants, and their look-alikes documented to occur in the Great Lakes Basin. It is one of the first efforts to digitize liquid preserved specimens and to integrate cross-kingdom taxa and these methods could become national standards for cross taxon digitization. Students will be provided with hands-on experience in modern methods of specimen curation and this cross-taxon network will provide greater flexibility to existing web platforms for integration of data. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (iDigBio.org).


The rapid biodiversity change in North America has significant effects on essential ecosystem services, from impact on soil health and nutrient cycling, to agriculture, forestry and water quality. Exploding populations of invasive species threaten fresh water and terrestrial habitats and potentially impact the natural resources of the nation. Easy access to robust, expertly vetted baseline data for species occurrences, abundances, and distribution ranges, and monitoring how these parameters have changed through time, will facilitate the protection of the nations natural resources, and vastly improve the capacity for effective restoration, land management planning, and conservation management. Numerous undergraduate students will receive training in digitization technologies and a modular exhibit will be developed to engage public interest in biodiversity changes.

Effective monitoring requires easy electronic access to historical specimen baseline information for temporal and regional species diversity comparisons that can facilitate informed land management decisions. Vast amounts of specimen data are housed within the nations natural history collections, but most of these data are not readily accessible from digital resources. Size and complexity of scientific specimen collections require major technological advances in capturing specimen data. The goal of this four-year collaborative project is the rapid digitization of >2 million specimens and their locality data from ten arthropod and mollusk collections housed at six major US museums in six states (Il, OH, AL,MI, DE, PA). This project will significantly automate specimen data capture by utilizing optical character and voice-recognition technologies. The digitized data from this project will be immediately deployed for habitat-based distribution modeling and analyses.This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (iDigBio.org).


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: GoLife | Award Amount: 40.88K | Year: 2016

For the first ~300 million years of plant life on land, Earths flora consisted entirely of flagellate plants, which today include approximately 30,000 species of bryophytes, lycophytes, ferns, and gymnosperms. Numerous major innovations, including stomata, vascular tissue, roots and leaves, woody stems, and seeds, evolved first in flagellate plant ancestors. The flagellate plants not only provide a window to the early evolution of these critical features, but are represented today by vibrant and diverse lineages that contribute substantially to global ecology, particularly via contributions to global carbon and nitrogen cycles and offering critical habitats for biodiversity. This research project will analyze molecular genetic variation among the 18,000 available flagellate plant species in order to create a species-level phylogeny (evolutionary tree of species relationships) for the entire group. Phylogenetic trees generated will be linked to fossil data, a comprehensive dataset of plant traits, and available data on species occurrence on the planet. The results of this project will inform investigations into the origins of features characteristic of flowering plants and provide a platform for student training and outreach.

This project will improve our understanding of the history and relationships of the flagellate plants by using new sequencing technologies to examine 500 nuclear loci and to produce a species-level phylogeny for these taxa that is linked to and integrated with an immense and varied amount of data on fossils, phenomic characters, and geospatial distributions. Phenotypic datasets will utilize a natural language processing tool which will be enhanced and tested to handle large datasets and the geospatial data will allow exploration of world-wide patterns of diversity and endemism. All data will be fully integrated into ongoing projects such as Open Tree of Life and Next Generation Phenomics. Education experts will develop an online educational tool for training the next generation of biodiversity scientists by providing an accessible framework for using the project data in university classrooms while promoting evidence-based teaching practices. A MicroPlants citizen science project will promote scientific literacy and plant awareness in the general public, through museums and schools.

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