The photos on this blog post are smartphone photos.
About birds around Poas volcano: stay tuned for another post on this blog.
The photos on this blog post are smartphone photos.
About birds around Poas volcano: stay tuned for another post on this blog.
This video is called: In the Galapagos, Mangrove Finches Fight On by Sue Maturin, Forest & Bird.
From the International Community Foundation:
In February 2014, twelve Mangrove Finch (Camarhynchus heliobates) chicks have hatched as part of a captive rearing program was born at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, Ecuador. This was the first success in the Mangrove Finch “head-start” program, which is designed to rescue the Mangrove Finch, the most threatened bird on the Galapagos Islands due to threats from nest parasites.
San Diego, CA (PRWEB) March 05, 2014
The International Community Foundation is pleased to announce that on 10th February 2014, the first Mangrove Finch (Camarhynchus heliobates) chick ever to hatch as part of a captive rearing program was born at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), the operative arm of the Charles Darwin Foundation in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos.
This was the first success in the Mangrove Finch “head-start” program, with eleven chicks having since hatched. This program is being conducted jointly by the San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD).
This is a great effort that complements previous hard work on research and management with this species that has been carried out since 1997, by the CDF in collaboration with the GNPD.
The Mangrove Finch is the bird most threatened by extinction in the Galapagos Islands. Currently only 60 to 80 individuals are left in existence and the Mangrove Finch is classified as Critically Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Its entire population is restricted to a tiny range of less than 30 hectares in two patches of mangrove forest in the west coast of Isabela Island. In the past 5 years individuals from a remnant population at southern Isabela have no longer been found.
Since early February, 21 eggs and three newly hatched chicks were collected from wild nests in the mangrove forest at Playa Tortuga Negra, on Isabela. The eggs and chicks were then transported in an incubator, by helicopter, to the newly created incubation and hand-rearing facility at the CDRS. This is an area adapted as a quarantine facility, which aims to minimize the chance of the nestlings being infected by disease. Once out of the shell, the chick rearing process is a very demanding task, since, among other things, they need to be hand fed fifteen times a day.
Francesca Cunninghame, CDF scientist responsible for the project said: “After three years of planning and despite many challenges, we are thrilled with the achievements in every step of the process: collection of the eggs, incubation and hand rearing in captivity. Each success is a result of the great teamwork with the SDZG and GNPD and represents a milestone for the recovery of the mangrove finch wild population. The reintroduction of the youngsters back into the wild will be our next big challenge.”
Richard Switzer, Associate Director of Animal Applied Ecology from SDZG stated: “The San Diego Zoo team is very excited to collaborate in this critically important project to prevent the extinction of the Mangrove Finch. In our breeding centers in San Diego and Hawaii, USA, we have developed techniques to raise very small insectivorous birds. Being able to share these skills for the conservation of Galapagos’ biodiversity is a wonderful opportunity.”
Among many introduced species, the main threat to the Mangrove Finch is the Philornis downsi fly. This fly lays its eggs in the nests of the finches and subsequently its larvae parasitize nestlings, feeding on their tissue and blood, and causing a high mortality rate. Due to its tiny population, and with very few youngsters that manage to grow into adults, the population is simply disappearing. In addition, because the Mangrove Finch is only found in one small location, the species faces a particular risk from natural disasters such as lava flows, fire, or disease.
The Minister of Environment, Lorena Tapia, emphasized: “It is extremely important the support of various institutions, in this case the Charles Darwin Foundation and the San Diego Zoo, as due to the geographical scale of the problems we face, joint efforts are required for the conservation of a species that is seriously affected.”
The first goal of this collaboration is to implement a “head-start” program to help Mangrove Finch chicks through the major threat of Philornis. The goal is to return the young birds back to Playa Tortuga Negra, where they will be cared for in a purpose-built acclimation aviary, before being released back into the mangrove forest and monitored by the field team.
The Mangrove Finch Project is funded by SOS – Save Our Species, the International Community Foundation (with a grant awarded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Galapagos Conservancy. San Diego Zoo Global provides technical expertise and funding. Several private individuals have also contributed.
Talking about the Galapagos; from the University of Rochester:
First-ever 3D image created of the structure beneath Sierra Negra volcano
The Galápagos Islands are home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world, with more than 50 eruptions in the last 200 years. Yet until recently, scientists knew far more about the history of finches, tortoises, and iguanas than of the volcanoes on which these unusual fauna had evolved.
Now research out of the University of Rochester is providing a better picture of the subterranean plumbing system that feeds the Galápagos volcanoes, as well as a major difference with another Pacific Island chain—the Hawaiian Islands. The findings have been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.
This video is called How the sawfish uses its saw.
Translated from Dutch news agency ANP:
Fossil sawfish snout, a unique discovery
Thursday, December 19, 2013 11:11
In the marl quarry of ENCI in Maastricht the fossil snout, called a rostrum, of a sawfish has been found. To our knowledge this is the first discovery in the world of the rostrum of the species Ganopristis leptodon, Brabants Dagblad daily reports.
The fish lived 66 million years ago.
See also here.
This video from the USA is called Greenland Rocks, for Geologists.
Giant Canyon Found Entombed under Greenland Ice
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle
Other studies have also revealed a rift valley entombed in Antarctica‘s ice in 2012 that scientists said may be speeding the flow of ice towards the sea, and a jagged “ghost range” of mountains buried in Antarctica in 2009 similar to the Alps.
“It’s remarkable to find something like this when many people believe the surface of the Earth is so well mapped,” lead author Jonathan Bamber, of the University of Bristol in England, said of the canyon described in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.
“On land, Google Street View has photographed just about every building in every major city,” he told Reuters of the study, using ice-penetrating radar and carried out with colleagues in Canada and Italy.
The canyon is 750 km (470 miles) long in central and north Greenland and comparable in scale to parts of the Grand Canyon that is twice as deep – 1.6 km – at its deepest, they wrote. The Greenland canyon is buried under about 2 km of ice.
About as long as the Rhone river in France and Switzerland, the ravine was probably cut by an ancient river that eroded rocks as it flowed north before temperatures cooled and ice blanketed Greenland 3.5 million years ago, they wrote.
The gorge probably still plays a role in draining some meltwater from beneath the ice sheet.
The scientists used airborne data collected mainly by NASA and by scientists in Britain and Germany to piece together maps of the canyon. At some frequencies, ice is transparent to radio waves that bounce off the bedrock.
Bamber said the gorge would help scientists refine models of how Greenland’s ice sheet slowly flows downhill but was unlikely to affect understanding of how global warming is melting ice.
“I don’t think it’s particularly influential” in determining the rate of ice flow, echoed David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey. He said the canyon was so deep under the ice that it was unlikely to be affected by any warming trend for many decades.
Vaughan led a four-year international study called ice2sea, which said in May that world sea levels could rise by between 16.5 and 69 cm (6-27 inches) with moderate global warming by 2100, partly because of a thaw of Greenland and Antarctica.
He told Reuters a few blanks remain on the map, including two areas of east Antarctica that scientists jokingly dub the “Poles of Ignorance”.
(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
This video says about itself:
“The Ocean’s Green Machines” is Episode 3 in the six-part series “Tides of Change”, exploring amazing NASA ocean science to celebrate Earth Science Week 2009.
One tiny marine plant makes life on Earth possible: phytoplankton. These microscopic photosynthetic drifters form the basis of the marine food web, they regulate carbon in the atmosphere, and are responsible for half of the photosynthesis that takes place on this planet. Earth’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, and as our home planet warms, so does the ocean. Warming waters have big consequences for phytoplankton and for the planet.
From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA:
Scientists solve a 14,000-year-old ocean mystery
At the end of the last Ice Age, as the world began to warm, a swath of the North Pacific Ocean came to life. During a brief pulse of biological productivity 14,000 years ago, this stretch of the sea teemed with phytoplankton, amoeba-like foraminifera and other tiny creatures, who thrived in large numbers until the productivity ended—as mysteriously as it began—just a few hundred years later.
Researchers have hypothesized that iron sparked this surge of ocean life, but a new study led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists and colleagues at the University of Bristol (UK), the University of Bergen (Norway), Williams College and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University suggests iron may not have played an important role after all, at least in some settings. The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, determines that a different mechanism—a transient “perfect storm” of nutrients and light—spurred life in the post-Ice Age Pacific. Its findings resolve conflicting ideas about the relationship between iron and biological productivity during this time period in the North Pacific—with potential implications for geo-engineering efforts to curb climate change by seeding the ocean with iron.
“A lot of people have put a lot of faith into iron—and, in fact, as a modern ocean chemist, I’ve built my career on the importance of iron—but it may not always have been as important as we think,” says WHOI Associate Scientist Phoebe Lam, a co-author of the study.
Because iron is known to cause blooms of biological activity in today’s North Pacific Ocean, researchers have assumed it played a key role in the past as well. They have hypothesized that as Ice Age glaciers began to melt and sea levels rose, they submerged the surrounding continental shelf, washing iron into the rising sea and setting off a burst of life.
Past studies using sediment cores—long cylinders drilled into the ocean floor that offer scientists a look back through time at what has accumulated there—have repeatedly found evidence of this burst, in the form of a layer of increased opal and calcium carbonate, the materials that made up phytoplankton and foraminifera shells. But no one had searched the fossil record specifically for signs that iron from the continental shelf played a part in the bloom.
Lam and an international team of colleagues revisited the sediment core data to directly test this hypothesis. They sampled GGC-37, a core taken from a site near Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, about every 5 centimeters, moving back through time to before the biological bloom began. Then they analyzed the chemical composition of their samples, measuring the relative abundance of the isotopes of the elements neodymium and strontium in the sample, which indicates which variant of iron was present. The isotope abundance ratios were a particularly important clue, because they could reveal where the iron came from—one variant pointed to iron from the ancient Loess Plateau of northern China, a frequent source of iron-rich dust in the northwest Pacific, while another suggested the younger, more volcanic continental shelf was the iron source.
What the researchers found surprised them.
“We saw the flux of iron was really high during glacial times, and that it dropped during deglaciation,” Lam says. “We didn’t see any evidence of a pulse of iron right before this productivity peak.”
The iron the researchers did find during glacial times appeared to be supplemented by a third source, possibly in the Bering Sea area, but it didn’t have a significant effect on the productivity peak. Instead, the data suggest that iron levels were declining when the peak began.
Based on the sediment record, the researchers propose a different cause for the peak: a chain of events that created ideal conditions for sea life to briefly flourish. The changing climate triggered deep mixing in the North Pacific ocean, which stirred nutrients that the tiny plankton depend on up into the sea’s surface layers, but in doing so also mixed the plankton into deep, dark waters, where light for photosynthesis was too scarce for them to thrive. Then a pulse of freshwater from melting glaciers—evidenced by a change in the amount of a certain oxygen isotope in the foraminifera shells found in the core—stopped the mixing, trapping the phytoplankton and other small creatures in a thin, bright, nutrient-rich top layer of ocean. With greater exposure to light and nutrients, and iron levels that were still relatively high, the creatures flourished.
“We think that ultimately this is what caused the productivity peak—that all these things happened all at once,” Lam says. “And it was a transient thing, because the iron continued to drop and eventually the nutrients ran out.”
The study’s findings disprove that iron caused this ancient bloom, but they also raise questions about a very modern idea. Some scientists have proposed seeding the world’s oceans with iron to trigger phytoplankton blooms that could trap some of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide and help stall climate change. This idea, sometimes referred to as the “Iron Hypothesis,” has met with considerable controversy, but scientific evidence of its potential effectiveness to sequester carbon and its impact on ocean life has been mixed.
“This study shows how there are multiple controls on ocean phytoplankton blooms, not just iron,” says Ken Buesseler, a WHOI marine chemist who led a workshop in 2007 to discuss modern iron fertilization. “Certainly before we think about adding iron to the ocean to sequester carbon as a geoengineering tool, we should encourage studies like this of natural systems where the conditions of adding iron, or not, on longer and larger time scales have already been done for us and we can study the consequences.”
From the Smithsonian Institution in the USA:
December 28, 2012
Courtesy of the Water Tank Project.
This New Year’s Eve, in addition to the typical resolutions to exercise more or spend more time with family, consider resolving to take better advantage of the cultural offerings of America’s cities and towns. Whether you seek to attend concerts, listen to lectures by authors and visiting scholars or become regulars at area museums, a few exhibitions slated for 2013 on the intersection of art and science will be must-sees in the New Year.
Courtesy of the Water Tank Project.
The skyline of New York City will be transformed next summer when 300 water tanks in the five boroughs become public works of art, calling attention to water conservation. Artists, including Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Catherine Opie, Lawrence Weiner, and even Jay-Z, have agreed to participate in the project. Their original designs will be printed on vinyl, which will be wrapped around the mostly wood tanks, which typically measure 12 feet high and 13 feet in diameter, perched on top of buildings. The art will be a welcome addition to the city’s rooftops, while also providing more awareness of the global water crisis.
Female torso, by Lisa Nilsson. Photo by John Polak.
Naomi Slipp, a PhD candidate in art history at Boston University, is organizing an ambitious exhibition of more than 80 sketches, models, prints, books, paintings and other works that tell a full story of artistic renderings of human anatomy in America. On display at the Boston University Art Gallery, from January 31 to March 31, the exhibition spans two and half centuries, from the very first anatomy text by painter John Singleton Copley, dating to 1756, to works by contemporary artists, such as Lisa Nilsson, who creates paper sculptures depicting cross sections of the human body. ”This exhibition examines both what that study of artistic anatomy meant for these artists and for the way we, today, think about our own bodies and how they work,” said Slipp, in her successful bid to raise funds for the project on Kickstarter. ”In looking at artworks created by artists and doctors, I hope to unite this diverse audience, bringing together people who are interested in art and those who are interested in medicine for a rich, shared conversation about what it means to occupy, treat and picture our own bodies.”
Harp seal, by Brian Skerry.
“I believe my most important role remains as artistic interpreter of all that I see. I need to understand the science, but I want to capture the poetry,” writes Brian Skerry, in his book, Ocean Soul. A National Geographic wildlife photographer with decades of experience, Skerry has captured enchanting portraits of harp seals, Atlantic bluefin tuna, hammerhead sharks, beluga whales, manatees and other creatures of the deep. His line of work requires loads of equipment—underwater housings for his cameras, strobes, lenses, wetsuits, drysuits, fins—to get the perfect shot. “While no single image can capture everything, in my own work I am most pleased when I make pictures that reveal something special about a specific animal or ecosystem, pictures that give viewers a sense of the mysterious or in effect bring them into the sea with me,” says Skerry, in a dispatch on Ocean Portal. Earlier this fall, Ocean Portal asked the public to vote for a favorite among 11 of Skerry’s photographs. The viewers’ choice and other images by the underwater photographer will be on display at D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History beginning April 5.
Inside Mount St. Helens Crater, Base of Lava Dome on the Left (detail), by Frank Gohlke, 1983. Courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art.
On May 18, 1980, stirred by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake, Mount St. Helens in Washington state’s Cascade Range erupted, forever changing the landscape surrounding it. Separate from one another, American photographers Emmet Gowin and Frank Gohlke documented the devastation (and in Gohlke’s case, the gradual rebirth) of the area. The Cleveland Museum of Art is bringing the photographers’ series together, side by side, in an exhibit, on display from January 13 to May 12.
Interestingly, the museum will also play host to “The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection,” looking at art by masters ranging from the 18th and 19th century artists Piranesi and Ingres to more modern contributions from Duchamp, Rothko and Warhol, all inspired by the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The exhibit will be on display from February 24 to May 19.
Maine seaweed cuff, 2008. Designed by Gogo Ferguson and Hannah Sayre-Thomas. Photo by Peter Harholdt.
Gogo Ferguson and her daughter, Hannah Sayre-Thomas, live on Cumberland Island, off the coast of Georgia. Morning, noon and night, the pair walks the beach, collecting interesting skeletons, seaweed and seashells brought in by the tide. “Nature has perfected her designs over millions of years,” writes Ferguson, on her Web site. And so, the artist incorporates these organic designs into jewelry, sculptures and housewares. Her first museum exhibition, at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from January 19 to July 7, features more than 60 works, including a six-foot by eight-foot wall sculpture modeled after seaweed from New England and an ottoman fashioned after a sea urchin.
Photographer Michael Benson takes raw images collected on NASA and European Space Agency missions and enhances them digitally. The results are brilliant, colorful views of dust storms on Mars and Saturn’s rings, among other sights. The American Association for the Advancement of Science Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. will be exhibiting images from Planetfall, Benson’s latest book, as well as his other titles, including Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle (2009) and Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (2003), from mid-February through the end of April.
(Left) Firefly signals captured in slow-shutter speed photos. © Tsuneaki Hiramatsu. (Right) A re-creation of New Zealand’s Waitomo cave system, with sticky “fishing lines” dropped from the ceiling by glowworms. © AMNH\D. Finnin.
If you missed it at New York’s American Museum of Natural History this past year, there is still time to see “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence” at its next stop, Chicago’s Field Museum, from March 7 to September 8. The exhibition highlights the diversity of animals, from fireflies and glowworms to jellyfish and fluorescent corals found upwards of a half-mile deep in the ocean, that use bioluminescence, and the variety of different reasons for which they do. A firefly, for instance, glows to catch the attention of a mate. An anglerfish, meanwhile, attracts prey with a bioluminescent lure dangling in front of its mouth; a vampire squid releases a cloud of bioluminescence to befuddle its predators. The show also explains the chemical reaction that causes the animals to glow. “The one real weakness,” wrote the New York Times, at the opening of the exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, “is that with only a few exceptions—like the tanks of blinking ‘splitfin flashlight fish’ found in deep reefs of the South Pacific—this is not an exhibition of specimens but of simulations.”
This video is called Didgeridoo Pete at a Cathedral Termite Mound Australia.
From Australian Geographic magazine:
By Alyce Taylor
Researchers are using termites to find precious metals beneath Australia’s landscape.
CSIRO RESEARCHERS ARE USING termites to track gold and other precious mineral deposits.
“A lot of Australia’s landscape is covered by a layer of material that is capping and hiding resources, so we are using termites to help see beneath that. Because they construct their nests, in part, with material which is a little bit deeper down,” says Dr Aaron Stewart, a CSIRO researcher.
Aaron is the lead author of the paper, which was published last month in the journal Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis. The paper suggests the future of resource exploration could lie in tracking insects.
Termite mounds contain signs of gold
Termites and ants burrow into the depth of the ground where ‘fingerprints’ of underlying gold deposits are found. The insects bring traces of these fingerprints up to the surface when making their nests.
Large termite mounds in Northern Australia and Africa have previously been used in mineral exploration. But by studying termite sites in Western Australia the CSIRO research team has shown that smaller nests, which are common throughout Australia, are just as valuable in identifying gold deposits.
“Our recent research has shown that small ant and termite mounds that may not look like much on the surface are just as valuable in finding gold as the large African mounds that stand at several meters tall,” says Aaron.
Termites could be used to mine other precious metals
In the future insects could be used commercially by mining companies to determine the location of gold and other mineral deposits, according to scientists. The technique could present an environmentally-friendly alternative to invasive drilling methods.
“By developing these methods it will make life much easier for exploration companies working in areas with a lot of transported sediment cover,” says Dr Ravi Anand, who co-authored the paper. “It will also cut down the cost of exploration.”
“We haven’t demonstrated that we can use termites to find other mineral resources yet,” says Aaron. “But in principle, there is no reason why we can’t.”
Mineral resources make up $86.7 billion of Australia’s exports and new discoveries in many commodities are needed to sustain production, which pushes pioneering exploration research.
One should hope that exploiting the gold and other metals found by the termites and ants will happen without mercury or other stuff poisoning the environment of those termites and other wildlife, as happens often in gold digging.
This is a video of a snow hare in its summer fur coat.
December 19, 2012
The Hague Geological Society shows discovery
A piece of a jaw which this summer was found by Barbara Marsman, a member of the The Hague Geological Society, on the ‘Sand Engine‘ off the coast of Ter Heide, turns out to be a prehistoric hare. In the laboratory of Professor Hans van der Plicht, of the University of Groningen, the piece of bone was dated to an age of 31,000 years. “That means that this hare during the last ice age has walked between the mammoths on the current North Sea floor,” researcher Dick Mol of the natural history museum in Rotterdam says enthusiastically. The hare’s jaw is shown as a special exhibit in the Museon from 18 December 2012 to 17 March 2013.
Mol and paleontologist colleagues have found quite a lot of bones from the last ice age on the bottom of the North Sea. These were mainly of large animals such as mammoths, bison, horses and rhinoceroses. “But this is the first ice age are we know about from the North Sea floor. Never before have we been able to date a hare which has walked simultaneously with mammoths on the North Sea floor, “says Mol.
For the first time we have been able to identify and date a jaw fragment with a few teeth of a lagomorph from the North Sea floor. The 14C age is 31,140 (+200, -190) BP, Late Pleistocene. In the absence of the hare’s characteristic third premolar (p3) it is not possible to distinguish between the species European hare, Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778, and the snow hare, Lepus timidus Linnaeus, 1758.
From ANI news agency:
Saturday 22nd December, 2012
The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists from the University of Zurich have reconstructed.
The warmer climate, coupled with a high CO2 level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.
Until now, it was always assumed that it took flora and fauna a long time to recover from the vast mass extinction at the end of the Permian geological period 252 million years ago.
According to the scientific consensus, complex ecological communities only began to reappear in the Middle Triassic, so 247 million years ago.
However, a Swiss team headed by paleontologist Hugo Bucher from the University of Zurich chart the temperature curves, demonstrating that the climate and the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere fluctuated greatly during the Early Triassic and what impact this had on marine biodiversity and terrestrial plants.
For their climate reconstruction, Bucher and his colleagues analyzed the composition of the oxygen isotopes in conodonts, the remains of chordates that once lived in the sea. According to the study, the climate at the beginning of the Triassic 249 million years ago was cool.
This cooler phase was followed by a brief very warm climate phase. At the end of the Early Triassic, namely between 247.9 and 245.9 million years ago, cooler conditions had resumed.
The scientists then examined the impact of the climate on the development of flora and fauna.
“Biodiversity increased most in the cooler phases,” Bucher said.
“The subsequent extremely warm phase, however, led to great changes in the marine fauna and a major ecological shift in the flora,” he said.
Bucher and his team can reveal that this decline in biodiversity in the warm phases correlates with strong fluctuations in the carbon isotope composition of the atmosphere.
These, in turn, were directly related to carbon dioxide gases, which stemmed from volcanic eruptions in the Siberian Large Igneous Province.
Through the climatic changes, conodont and ammonoid faunae were initially able to recover very quickly during the Early Triassic as unusually short-lived species emerged. However, the removal of excess CO2 by primary producers such as algae and terrestrial plants had adverse effects in the long run: The removal of these vast amounts of organic matter used up the majority of the oxygen in the water. Due to the lack of oxygen in the oceans, many marine species died out.
“Our studies reveal that greater climatic changes can lead to both the emergence and extinction of species. Thus, it is important to consider both extinction rates and the rate at which new species emerged,” Bucher added.
The study has been published in Nature Geoscience.
More than 200 million years ago, a massive extinction decimated 76 percent of marine and terrestrial species, marking the end of the Triassic period and the onset of the Jurassic. The event cleared the way for dinosaurs to dominate Earth for the next 135 million years, taking over ecological niches formerly occupied by other marine and terrestrial species: here.
This video from the USA is called Chicago Field Museum of Natural History.
While more and more money is spent on
war … oops-a-daisy … “defence” …
Chicago’s Field Museum cuts back on science
Previous expansion projects force the centre’s new president to address shortfalls.
20 December 2012
After years of financial woes, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, is slashing US$3 million from its annual budget for science operations, which include a $10-million programme for research on the institution’s collection of some 25 million specimens of fossils, plants and animals. Museum president Richard Lariviere unveiled the cuts to museum staff on 18 December as part of a plan to reduce the museum’s total budget by $5 million next year.
For some in the scientific community, the changes signal the end of an era. “It’s one of the great research institutions in comparative zoology, biodiversity and natural history, and it has been one of the leading centres of research for more than 100 years,” says James Hanken, director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “There’s no way the Field Museum will be able to maintain its position of prominence under those circumstances.”
Endowments for museums and universities across the country have been hit hard by the economic recession, but the Field Museum has been pushed to its financial limits in part by recent expansion projects, including the $65-million Collections Resource Center, a storage and laboratory facility that opened in 2005.
More related stories
“We took on a lot of debt, more than we could sustain, to do some really exciting things, but now we’re paying for it,” says Mark Westneat, a Field Museum curator and chair of zoology.
Despite weathering hiring freezes and repeated budget cuts in the past few years, Field Museum scientists are reeling from the latest announcement, which they feel may cut into crucial scientific capabilities.
“We’ve already cut all the fat off the bone,” says Westneat.
The budget cuts will be accompanied by the dissolution, on 1 January, of the 120-year-old institution’s classical academic departments — zoology, botany, geology and anthropology — and by the shuffling of member scientists into a new, leaner organization, broadly titled Science and Education.
No plans have been released about how the cuts will be applied. “There will be staff input on all the recommendations,” says Debra Moskovits, who will head the new organization.
But most scientists believe layoffs and incentivized retirements are likely to have a big role. “Morale is extremely low,” says Peter Makovicky, curator and chair of geology at the Field Museum. “I would imagine that there will be a lot of résumé polishing in the near future.”
At present, the museum employs 168 science staff, 27 of whom are curators — scientists who collect specimens from around the world and maintain research labs to study the museum’s collection. Much like academic professors, some curators are tenured, but others are not.
At the president’s request, Makovicky and other members of a special museum committee have met to decide whether the institution needs to declare ‘financial exigency’ — an emergency status that would allow for layoffs of tenured scientists at the world-class institution.
“To have that put on the table is frightening,” says Corrie Moreau, assistant curator of zoology and one of four ‘pre-tenure’ curators at the museum.
Museum cutbacks are also likely to affect researchers at other universities. At any given time, around 50–60 graduate students from the University of Chicago and other area universities perform dissertation research in the labs of museum curators.
“The Field Museum has some of the world’s authorities on certain insects and certain kinds of fossils,” says Hanken. “If those people no longer have a job, we in the scientific community have lost their expertise.”