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Dr. Mikkelsen Scuba Diving

In November 2009, the three BivAToL PIs (Paula Mikkelsen, Rudiger Bieler, and Gonzalo Giribet) plus the three new postdocs spent a week in Florida to collect additional bivalve target species. The first half of the trip was in Ft. Pierce, largely in the Indian River Lagoon on the eastern coast of Florida, working out of the Smithsonian Marine Station. The Indian "River" is actually an estuary (and part of the Intracoastal Waterway), set off from the Atlantic Ocean by a long line of barrier islands, and punctuated by inlets. There we continued the work started in April 2009 collecting more specimens of four species (Rangia cuneata, Polymesoda caroliniana, Sphenia antillensis, Tagelus plebeius) and fully collecting three more (Crassostrea virginica from a seawall, and Phacoides pectinata, Parastarte triquetra). Two of the postdocs also had the opportunity to dissect fresh specimens for their assigned organ systems - stomachs for Temkin and gills for Staubach - which lent an informal name for this expedition: the "Gills and Guts Workshop."

Following Ft. Pierce, the three PIs spent an additional few days in the subtropical Lower Florida Keys to scuba dive on the reef and sample the shallow waters of Florida Bay. Despite the nearby passage of Hurricane Ida a few days before (which caused 15-foot seas on the reef), the weather calmed down and turned beautiful for our trip. Our dive on the spur-and-groove reef at Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary off Big Pine Key was memorable, with 50-foot visibility and water temperature of 81 degrees F. Additional needed specimens of five species (Pteria colymbus, Ctenoides scabra, Petricola lapicida, Arcopsis adamsi, and Chama macerophylla) were obtained over the three days, and three additional target species were fully collected for the project (Ctenoides mitis, Lamychaena hians, Lithophaga antillarum). Our sampling in the Keys is supported by a research permit from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

~Dr. Paula Mikkelsen, Associate Director for Science, PRI

The Assembling the Tree of Life: Bivalvia project (BivAToL) is a part of the Assembling the Tree of Life initiative, a large research effort sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Its goal is to reconstruct the evolutionary origins of all living things.


The evolution of life is a central unifying principle of modern science, and it is integrally connected to much of our understanding of how Earth systems work and evolve. PRI's world-class collections of fossils help tell the story of the evolution of the Earth, and our programming helps educators, students, and the public understand what evolution is and how scientists study it.

What's New?

Fossil Finders Logo
In the Classroom...
Recently, education staff members Trisha Smrecak and Rob Ross spent their day using Skype (a free videophone service) to listen to presentations from students participating in Fossil Finders near Chicago, Il. The 7th grade students presented their interpretation of graphs made with data they collected using the Fossil Finders database. Trisha and Rob listened to their presentations and offered suggestions of what else they could do as a scientist to support their interpretations with more research. Truly, those students were scientists that day.
Fossil Finders is a National Science Foundation grant which PRI and Cornell University Dept. of Education are partners on.

Never Enough Darwin!
After all our celebrating last month for the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, we thought we might as well keep Darwin in your minds this month by letting you know that you can watch content from last year's Darwin Days celebration online. Cornell Cast generously makes these presentations available for free viewing. You can watch President Emeritus Dr. Frank H. T. Rhodes's talk on Darwin, view a panel discussion on Evolution and Race, and more. Simply visit here and search for Darwin to see offerings from all of our past Darwin Days celebrations!

Additionally, if you missed our exhibit, Charles Darwin: After the Origin last winter, head out to Buffalo & Erie County Public Library for an exhibit called Darwin: The Origin of Influence. On display are rare books, archival materials examining Darwin's research and discoveries, and panels from the Museum of the Earth. Our Director, Warren Allmon will be giving a talk at noon on Tuesday, January 12 at the library on "Why Darwin Still Matters." We hope to see you there!

A New Exhibit on the Way!
We're already gearing up for our next temporary exhibit which will open in February. The topic: speciation and how new species arise through evolution. Right now our exhibits department is busy working on content, creating the look and feel of the exhibit, and gathering input on an exhibit title. This exhibit is part of a National Science Foundation grant held by Dr. Richard Harrison at Cornell University. Dr. Harrison and the exhibits team have been working hard to create a fun and informative exhibit for all of you to enjoy. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the installation date!

Evolution in the News

"ExtInked"
Check out a project by the Ultimate Holiding Company in Manchester England that mixed art, tatooing, and species extinction to celebrate Darwin's 200th Birthday. Learn more here.

"On Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species'"
New York Times
Find out which passages in The Origin are the favorites of top scientists from around the country and see what they have to say about Darwin's work. Learn more here.

"Ancient Pgymy Sea Cow Discovered"

Dec. 18, 2009 - Science Daily
Are you up to date on Madagascar's fossil history? Learn more here.


 
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