playing catch up.

I never update my blog. Well not as much as I would like to. The past few months I've been able to work in multiple collections at the Field Museum. Last week I learned how to prepare 52 million year old fish fossils, and the week before that I got to preserve mammals, before that I was pinning crickets from Madagascar! I've been bouncing around but its been so much fun, and I'm learning so much. Here is pretty much an update of my camera roll...


Geology storage range

Geology storage range

Invertebrates division sorting session.

Invertebrates division sorting session.

A fox in the wet lab

A fox in the wet lab

I got to teach Lauren how to prepare a bird. She did incredible! She prepared the grackle and I did the rose breasted grosbeak.

I got to teach Lauren how to prepare a bird. She did incredible! She prepared the grackle and I did the rose breasted grosbeak.

lunch break doodles.

lunch break doodles.

Preparing a fish fossil from Fossil Lake. 52 million years old. Photo taken from the microscope

Preparing a fish fossil from Fossil Lake. 52 million years old. Photo taken from the microscope


Field Work show

The weekend of July 18th I took part in art show titled 'Field Works'. It was a show displaying artwork inspired by natural history collections. A lot of the other artist's were co-workers here at the Field Museum, and a few were other local Chicago based artists. The show turned out really great, it was PACKED. So, thank you to everyone who came out and supported us. Another show is being talked about, so keep checking back for those updates. In the meantime, there are a few photos of the opening night below. Thank you, Jacob Boll, for taking these.

 

Work by Kelsey Keaton. http://kelseykeaton.com/

Work by Kelsey Keaton. http://kelseykeaton.com/

Work by Kelsey Keaton. http://kelseykeaton.com/

Work by Kelsey Keaton. http://kelseykeaton.com/

Work by Kendal Kost. http://bitinglouse.tumblr.com/

Work by Kendal Kost. http://bitinglouse.tumblr.com/

Work by Andria Niedzielski. andria.with.an.i@hotmail.com

Work by Andria Niedzielski. andria.with.an.i@hotmail.com

Work by Lauren Smith. http://www.lsillustrations.com/

Work by Lauren Smith. http://www.lsillustrations.com/

Work by Daniel Le. http://thingsondesk.tumblr.com/

Work by Daniel Le. http://thingsondesk.tumblr.com/

Work by Daniel Le. http://thingsondesk.tumblr.com/

Work by Daniel Le. http://thingsondesk.tumblr.com/

Work by Allie Stone. http://allielouisestone.com/

Work by Allie Stone. http://allielouisestone.com/


Field Work.

I'm participating in an art show coming up, July 18th! It is just a weekend show, so be sure to come! I'm putting up all new work for this one, and all of the other artists in the show are incredible!!

A cluster of specimens.

There are a lot of different methods for preserving specimens. We have skeletons, skin specimens (which is what you see me post most often of birds.), slide specimens (specimens mounted on slides, then viewed under microscopes.), and wet specimens (often called "pickles", preserved in an ethanol solution) I don't think I've posted many wet specimens before, but there are a few below!

This is a hammerhead bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus). It is one of the largest species of bats in Africa (wingspan is between 26 - 36 inches.)  Hammerhead bats are a  lek  species, meaning that males will gather (25 up to 150 at a time!) to engage in competitive displays that may entice visiting females who are surveying prospective partners for copulation. The male hammerhead bats will perch across branches, and perform their mating rituals (in this case, "honking" - which I will tell you about in a minute!) The females then fly through this "honking arena" and perch next to the male that they choose. And then they mate...  This honking sound is so loud and unique due to the males lips and enlarged larynx. Males larynx is nearly 3 times larger than the females!  NPR did a piece on these bats where you can actually hear them 'honk to woo, or sing for sex' check it out, its only a few minutes! http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101784365

This is a hammerhead bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus). It is one of the largest species of bats in Africa (wingspan is between 26 - 36 inches.)  Hammerhead bats are a lek species, meaning that males will gather (25 up to 150 at a time!) to engage in competitive displays that may entice visiting females who are surveying prospective partners for copulation. The male hammerhead bats will perch across branches, and perform their mating rituals (in this case, "honking" - which I will tell you about in a minute!) The females then fly through this "honking arena" and perch next to the male that they choose. And then they mate...

This honking sound is so loud and unique due to the males lips and enlarged larynx. Males larynx is nearly 3 times larger than the females!

NPR did a piece on these bats where you can actually hear them 'honk to woo, or sing for sex' check it out, its only a few minutes!
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101784365

A wolf eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus). These guys are found in the northern Pacific (ranging from the Sea of Japan, all the way to northern California). They are friendly eels and rarely aggressive, however, they can bite pretty hard (I mean, look at those teeth, yikes!).

A wolf eel (Anarrhichthys ocellatus). These guys are found in the northern Pacific (ranging from the Sea of Japan, all the way to northern California). They are friendly eels and rarely aggressive, however, they can bite pretty hard (I mean, look at those teeth, yikes!).

A sand knifefish (rhamphichthys lineatus) This is a "cleared and stained" specimen. The benefit of this is that you can study the morphology of fishes without actually dissecting the specimen. They are dyed by immersing them into alcian blue (dyes the cartilage blue) and alizarin red (dyes the bones red). The specimen is then immersed into trypsin, sodium borate, and hydrogen peroxide, which makes the surrounding, non-dyed tissues translucent. Then, it is stored in glycerin.

A sand knifefish (rhamphichthys lineatus) This is a "cleared and stained" specimen. The benefit of this is that you can study the morphology of fishes without actually dissecting the specimen. They are dyed by immersing them into alcian blue (dyes the cartilage blue) and alizarin red (dyes the bones red). The specimen is then immersed into trypsin, sodium borate, and hydrogen peroxide, which makes the surrounding, non-dyed tissues translucent. Then, it is stored in glycerin.

Termites (Termitoidae). Specifically termite queens. That little legged body at the top, thats the actual termite, and inside that large sack, thousands of her eggs. All termites start as eggs, and all eggs are capable of developing into any caste. The eggs hatch into larvae, and through a series of molts, the larvae develop into workers. The workers can undergo a two-stage molt and become soldiers. When it's time for a colony to swarm, some workers molt into winged adults called alates. The alates gather at an entrance to the colony and prepare to make their only flight, known as a nuptial flight. Their bodies then harden and darken with exposure to the air (they kind of resemble winged ants at this point). After a male and female alate form a pair, they land and break off their wings. At this point, they're called dealates. They look for shelter, typically in a small hole that's near both soil and wood. They seal this nest with saliva, soil and their own waste. Then, they mate, and the new queen lays eggs.

Termites (Termitoidae). Specifically termite queens. That little legged body at the top, thats the actual termite, and inside that large sack, thousands of her eggs. All termites start as eggs, and all eggs are capable of developing into any caste. The eggs hatch into larvae, and through a series of molts, the larvae develop into workers. The workers can undergo a two-stage molt and become soldiers. When it's time for a colony to swarm, some workers molt into winged adults called alates. The alates gather at an entrance to the colony and prepare to make their only flight, known as a nuptial flight. Their bodies then harden and darken with exposure to the air (they kind of resemble winged ants at this point). After a male and female alate form a pair, they land and break off their wings. At this point, they're called dealates. They look for shelter, typically in a small hole that's near both soil and wood. They seal this nest with saliva, soil and their own waste. Then, they mate, and the new queen lays eggs.


Previously I was an intern in the Bird Division (thus all the beautiful bird posts) at the Field Museum of Natural History. While I don't have a science background (art school....) I was incredibly drawn to these beautiful specimens (how could you not be?). I recently started a new position at the Field which allows me to explore the collections housed there. Eventually I will be able to bring museum guests behind the scenes and show them around. BUT, not quite yet. In the mean time I am getting acquainted and comfortable with everything I am finding inside these incredible vaults. I'm posting a few of my recent experiences on here to share with you, because some of these things are so incredibly magnificent that I just cannot keep quiet about them. 

Also, what I am more excited about than anything.... I can still prepare birds for the collection!


I was able to dip my toes into the Insect and Invertebrates collection yesterday (more of an introductory to their collection to see exactly what goes on.) I wasn't able to get too hands on with anything (ie... pinning insects, photographing, storing, etc.) but I will be soon, so that's exciting! I was able to see everything that goes on in their division though, and wow! It is beautiful, they house over 17 million specimens!. They are working on digitizing some of their collection with state-of-the-art imaging systems for macro and micro photography. I was able to watch how they photograph a butterfly, and it isn't just as easy as taking an image and uploading it to the database.  It takes about 30 images layered together to get a sharp image. they begin by taking the specimen and placing it under a camera, which then (in sync with a computer) finds the highest and lowest points on the butterfly (usually the wings/antennae are the highest and the legs are the lowest). It snaps an image starting at the highest point and then moves across the whole butterfly taking images until the lowest point is in focus. Then she has to layer them together to achieve an overall focused image. It can take around a half hour just to photograph one butterfly. 


I also watched how microscopic insects (louse and fleas) are photographed. They are put into a chemical that in a way "flushes" them, so they are transparent. They are then mounted onto a glass slide and the slide is placed under a microscope. The base that they are placed on is a scanner. They are then photographed and scanned and uploaded to the database. You can view some of them on the Field Museum website. They are visually stunning, and I don't think I've ever thought of fleas and lice as so beautiful. 

These are two of the louse that Lauren Smith was scanning.

These are two of the louse that Lauren Smith was scanning.

Among Louse type specimens, the Insect division is working on digitizing Ant specimens, Millipede specimens, Non-insect invertebrate specimens, Tropical butterflies, Land snails of eastern North America, Rove beetle specimens, and Marine gastropods of the Florida Keys. 

You can search their online database here:
http://emuweb.fieldmuseum.org/arthropod/arthropod.php

 

There was also a couple cases of insects out that interns and volunteers were working with. These are some African Grasshoppers (Orthoptera, Caelifera, Pyrgomorphidae.) that were "getting their labels checked" if you will. these date back to the 1880's and between then and now, some scientific names have changed. So, they're getting updated. 

photo (2).JPG

Another intern showed me some of the nests that they house in the collection 

Termite nest.

Termite nest.

And this is a wasp nest. The nest on the top shelf is made from the wasps spit and any mud/sediment that they use. The nest on the lower shelf is the interior of the first nest. Pretty amazing, nature's little architects. 

And this is a wasp nest. The nest on the top shelf is made from the wasps spit and any mud/sediment that they use. The nest on the lower shelf is the interior of the first nest. Pretty amazing, nature's little architects. 

After I saw more of the insect collection, I went up to the Invertebrates collection to talk to Janet Voight, Associate Curator of Zoology, and a specialist in Cephalopod Mollusks, especially octopuses. She told me a little about her deep sea explorations and why she likes octopuses (they're nocturnal and aggressive, everything you don't want a study to be.) and then showed me a few specimens in the collection. 

Octopodidae Benthoctopus yaquinae

Octopodidae Benthoctopus yaquinae

Octopodidae Benthoctopus yaquinae

Octopodidae Benthoctopus yaquinae

This second image is the same specimen, I just wanted to post a closer image so you can see the true color of it. From further away, it looks more yellowed, that is just because of the liquid it is stored in.

After she showed me a few more jars, she showed me a piece of wood. She had placed pieces of wood in deep sea environments for different lengths of time (6 months, 7 months, etc...) just to see what would happen. When she went back to retrieve the wood, she had discovered multiple new species that was thriving on their new ecosystem. My phone had died at this point and I wasn't able to take a picture of the wood that she retrieved, but I promise you that the next time I see her I will get an image! 

 

I apologize for possibly getting you excited about that and then not having anything to show you! I need to start charging my phone at work!

Well, have a good rest of the day. Tomorrow Mark, Tom, and I are giving a taxidermy demonstration to the Women's Board here at the Field and discussing old techniques vs. new and the history of Carl Akeley! So that should be fun! I prepared a Peregrine Falcon for it, and I have to go finish it now so it is ready for tomorrow! I'll post some images of that once its done, now you have something to look forward to!