Kirill Vinnikov and Lynne Parenti at the State Department reception in front of Kirill’s poster and flag of the Russian Federation.
a 2013 International Fulbright Science & Technology Fellow, was honored at a
reception and scientific poster session on June 11 hosted by the U.S.
Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Kirill, one of forty 2013 Fulbright S & T
fellows, is a native of Vladivostok, Russia.
He is currently a third-year
doctoral student at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; Kassi Cole, Fish Division Research Associate, is his major
professor. Kirill is a frequent visitor
to the Fish Division where he studies fish specimens and consults with Lynne Parenti, Fish Division Curator
andthe external examiner on his
committee, this month on his dissertation proposal on the evolution of
freshwater insular gobies of the Central Pacific.
Workshop for the Natural History Museum of Oman
February 23-27, 2013, Muscat,
Hanan Al Nabhani showing off a bulbul specimens she prepared
The Natural History Museum of Oman opened at its current location on 20 December 1985,
not quite 30 years ago. The young museum
consists of a scientific collection and exhibit spaces with examples of
indigenous plants, insects, mammals and birds.
The current staff of four Museum Specialists has been taking outstanding
care of the scientific collections with the means they have. But, with a new Natural History Museum under
construction, they needed assistance in updating their practices for the modern
Carol Butler, Assistant Director for Collections NMNH, Christina
Gebhard, Museum Specialist, Division of
Birds NMNH; and John Simmons, President of Museologica and expert in fluid
preserved collections, traveled to Oman February 20-28th to assist the Oman Natural History Museum with
collections assessment and care initiatives. This was the third consultation trip the Smithsonian has taken to
At the 125th Conference of the
Wilson Ornithological Society, Williamsburg, VA, 7-9 March 2013, the Edwards
Prize for best paper in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology for 2012 was awarded
to: Storrs L. Olson. 2012. History, structure, evolution,
behavior, distribution, and ecology of the extinct Hawaiian genus Ciridops
(Fringillidae, Carduelini, Drepanidini), Wilson Journal of Ornithology
Suzy Peurach with members of the BSA Report to the Nation Delegation. Photo by Dave Hunt.
To inspire future scientists and museum
specialists is part of their jobs that Suzy Peurach, USGS Division of Mammals,
and NMNH Anthropology colleague, Dave Hunt, find extremely fulfilling.
One of their favorite annual outreach efforts involves the Boy Scouts of
America (BSA) Report to the Nation Delegation. Every year, as part of their
congressional charter, the BSA sends a special delegation of 6 to 10 scouts to
present their annual Report the Nation to the Speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives. The report summarizes the major accomplishments and
contributions that the BSA has generated and details the organization, programs
and initiatives that the BSA supports.
In keeping with the BSA ideals of public service,
the delegation is invited to visit with staff members at various government
agencies, including the Pentagon, White House, CIA, congressional offices, U.S.
Supreme Court and the Smithsonian. The BSA delegation has met with NMNH
staff since 2006 and they were eager to learn about what we actually do in the hidden rooms of the museum.
The Division of Birds would like to welcome Museum
Specialist, Jacob Saucier, to the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. Jacob
comes to us from the University of Wyoming where he is finishing his Master’s
degree at the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center, working on the
systematics and phylogeography of Thryothorus
Jacob is originally from Louisiana and attended Louisiana State
University (LSU) as an undergraduate where he developed a scientific interest
in birds after taking an Ornithology course
from renowned ornithologist James Van Remsen at the LSU Museum of Natural
Science. Jacob quickly became skilled in both field and museum ornithology
and participated in foreign and local collecting expeditions. Immediately
after graduation, Jacob was hired by LSU to database National Park Service
specimens collected in Jean Lafitte National Park as part of a broader effort
to document NPS specimens in museums.
Bob Reynolds, Biological Survey Unit (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center) at NMNH, Jay Cole and Carol Townsend, American Museum of Natural History, and Ross MacCulloch and Amy Lathrop, Royal Ontario Museum, are the coauthors of a new monograph on the amphibians and reptiles of Guyana, South America. The treatise is based largely on their collective field work in Guyana since the late 1980s.
Leptodactylus pentadactylus, USNM 320986. Photo by William W. Lamar.
Guyana, much of which is pristine and naturally beautiful, has a diverse tropical flora and fauna owing to its varied habitats and long geological history. Cool and moist isolated highlands on mountaintops of the Guiana Shield that have been above sea level for more than a billion years, hot and humid lowland Amazon rain forest, drier tropical savannas, major freshwater rivers, and Atlantic beaches are home to at least 324 species of amphibians and reptiles (137 frogs and toads; 11 caecilians; 4 crocodylians; 4 amphisbaenians; 56 lizards; 97 snakes; and 15 turtles). Many live nowhere else in the world, others are endemic to small areas of Guyana and immediately adjacent sites in neighboring countries.
Juvenile filefish collected from a plankton net in Carrie Bow Cay, Belize. Photo by Carole Baldwin.
Smithsonian researcher Carole Baldwin and LAB Director Lee Weigt, with the support of Cristina Castillo, Maggie Halloran, and Diane Pitassy, devoted part of their December 2012 trip to Carrie Bow Cay, Belize, to the development of ground-truthing protocols for a new marine biodiversity research tool: rapid genetic assessment of biodiversity from homogenized plankton samples. Sorting and identifying individual specimens in a given plankton sample for marine biodiversity assessments is time-consuming. The team asked: can homogenized--or “blenderized”-- plankton samples that comprise a mixture of larval fishes and invertebrates be resolved rapidly into distinct species using new genetic assessment tools such as Next Generation DNA sequencing? Can they do the same with environmental DNA from water samples? From their efforts to genetically barcode the ichthyological fauna of the Caribbean over the past decade, Carole and Lee have a large baseline genetic dataset that can be used to evaluate the success rate of homogenate analysis.
Russel Wallace’s (1876) map of zoogeographical regions of the world was a
milestone of 19th century biogeography. Based on the distributions and taxonomic
relationships of mammalian families, Wallace’s classification became a foundation
of modern biogeography. An international
group of biogeographers, including Gary Graves (Division of Birds), recently published a
next-generation map of Wallacean zoogeographic regions, incorporating
phylogenetic and distributional data for >20,000 terrestrial vertebrate
species. This study, published in Science (4 January 2013), is the first to combine evolutionary and distributional
data for most living species of birds, mammals, and amphibians.
Lionfish hovering among mangrove roots at Twin Cays, Belize. Photo by Diane Pitassy.
Carole Baldwin, Lee Weigt, Diane Pitassy, Cristina Castillo, and Maggie Halloran-Fagan, Smithsonian Institution teamed with Luiz Rocha, California Academy of Sciences, in Belize in mid–December 2012 to survey the shallow inner reefs near Carrie Bow Cay for two marine fish species: the threatened endemic Halichoeres socialis, the Social Wrasse, and the predatory invasive Pterois volitans, the native Indo-Pacific Red Lionfish. Social Wrasse populations occupy ecologically sensitive shallow coral reefs and mangroves and are known only from the Pelican Cays, a group of small mangrove islands and sand bores south of Carrie Bow Cay. Coastal development has negatively impacted these ecosystems. Baldwin and Rocha had previously observed abundant coral and other reef life at one of the Pelican Cays where, instead, the December research team found a slope smothered with sediment and little or no life. For the Social Wrasse, the threat of habitat loss is compounded by the recent introduction of the invasive lionfish to coastal Belizean habitats. Lionfish were first seen in Belize in 2008 and today are common along the Barrier Reef. They are a massive threat to the native fauna because nothing is known to eat them in large quantities. Larger predatory Caribbean fish have not yet developed a taste for the lionfish which protect themselves with venomous spines. And lionfish eat seemingly any bite-size fish or invertebrate that wanders within their range.
In 1987 Al Gardner
(USGS-SI) collected the first specimen of a tiny striped opossum in a cloud
forest of Peru, thousands of km away (and thousands of meters up) from other
similar-looking short-tailed opossums. Over the years, six more were taken,
including two collected in 1997 by Louise Emmons (Mammals-SI), who has
co-authored its description as a new species, after enough work had finally
been done on the genus to allow comparison (Monodelphis gardneri Solari,
Pacheco, Vivar and Emmons, 2012). The new species is named to honor its first