CMNH Scientists Study a "Lost World of
Caribbean island of Hispaniola southeast of Cuba contains the countries
of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,
and to some scientists represents a lost world of biodiversity. Even though the natural environment of
Hispaniola has been seriously affected by development and pollution,
Carnegie scientists estimate that 80 percent of the native species in the
mountainous regions, including many new genera, are undescribed or inadequately
documented in scientific literature.
study these life forms, and to prepare for future conservation, the
National Science Foundation is funding a three-year project to sample,
document, and collect specimens of invertebrates (especially insects) and
plants from the unstudied, unique regions.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which has a strong collection of
Caribbean insects in the Department of
Invertebrate Zoology, is a lead institution in this effort.
$553,000 research grant that targets invertebrates and plants has been
awarded to scientists at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH), Harvard
University and the Smithsonian Institution.
CMNH will send a team (including associate curators John Rawlins and
Chen Young, and collection manager Robert Davidson) on nine expeditions to
montane regions of the island over the next three years, They will
collaborate not only with scientists from Harvard and the Smithsonian, but
also with colleagues and students
from the State University of Haiti, the Jardin Botanico and Museo Nacional
de Historia Natural in Dominican Republic, and regional Caribbean
conservancies and ecological organizations.
Some 170 specialists on Caribbean organisms have agreed to conduct
systematic research and provide authoritative identifications for the
goals include the discovery and description of new genera and species, and
detailed studies of the historical and biogeographical origins for the
biota that appear to have roots in North America--not in tropical America
as might be supposed from their current location. The potential evolutionary relationships
with similar organisms found elsewhere have prompted scientists to refer to
Hispaniola as a “lost world” of biodiversity.
has also been discussion of carrying on the same biotic inventory effort in
the montane regions in Cuba, as well as developing a traveling exhibit
based on Caribbean activities by CMNH staff--which includes other
departments beyond Invertebrate Zoology.
Creating a Tree of Life
NSF Award funds research of Brad Livezay, Curator of Birds
of new information, from whole-genome sequences to inventories of Earth's
biota, is transforming 21st century biology.
with comparative data on the form and structure of organisms, on fossils,
and the development, behavior, and the interactions of all forms of life on
Earth, the new data streams make
even more critical the need to organize a framework (a Tree of Life) for
obtaining information, analyzing it, and making predictions.
of Birds Brad Livezey was one of a group of 12 scientists from eight
institutions and four countries that were recently awarded $2 million
four-year grant from the National
Science Foundation (NSF) to work on constructing a family tree of evolution for theropod
dinosaurs (including modern birds).
The research is based on DNA sequence data and comparative
morphology. Livezey specializes in
program creates a database and an overall system that researchers can use
in tracing the genealogical map for all lineages of life on Earth. It is an evolutionary tree that allows
scientists to gather information about ancestral nodes, and descendent
nodes of different life forms. The
information available may be in the form of names, images, sounds, movies,
text, or people (experts on the subject).
the single investigators or small teams that have previously studied the
evolutionary pathways of heredity within particular phyla or domains, the
Tree of Life allows for a greatly magnified effort by large teams working
across institutions to analyze some l 1.7 million described species.
Hans-Dieter Sues Associate Director for Science and Collections and Curator
of Vertebrate Paleontology
Hans-Dieter Sues, the new associate director of Science and Collections,
began work in December overseeing the activities of the museum’s
distinguished curators and their support staff, and providing oversight
of the management of more than 21 million
specimens, one of the largest collections in the world. He will also continue his own
groundbreaking research as Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology.
to joining Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Dr. Sues was vice president,
Collections & Research at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and
professor of Zoology at the University of Toronto. In this capacity, he was responsible for
a staff of about 130 full-time employees and collections of over 5 million
Sues has collected dinosaurs and other vertebrates in many regions of the
United States, Canada, China, Germany, Morocco, and Uzbekistan. His research on dinosaurs and mass
extinctions as well as his innovative work on museum exhibits has been
widely featured in the national and international media.
the current president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the
leading international organization in this academic discipline, and is on
the Board of Directors of the National Science Collections Alliance. He has been editor of two international
professional journals and two book series, edited three books and to date
has published over 100 technical articles, book chapters and book
graduating with highest honors in Geology and Zoology from Johannes Gutenberg-Universität
(Mainz, Germany) in 1975, Dr. Sues received a master’s degree in Geology
from the University of Alberta, and a Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard
University. He is also a graduate of
the Museum Management Institute organized by the J. Paul Getty Trust at the
University of California at Berkley.
postdoctoral research at McGill University and at the Smithsonian National
Museum of History in Washington, D.C., Sues worked as a research scientist
in Paleobiology at the Smithsonian, and in 1992 he joined the curatorial
staff of the Royal Ontario Museum.
first decorated dinosaur in the city-wide DinoMite Days ™ Program was
unveiled October 1 on Schenley Plaza outside of Carnegie Museum of Natural
History, near the replica of Dippy (Diplodocus carnegii).
artist and Carnegie Mellon University faculty member Patricia Bellan-Gillen
painted the first dinosaur, which incorporated natural history motifs. She named the work
"Connections," and she was assisted in its development by
students from the Fourth Grade at Burgettstown Area Elementary School. The
museum donated it to The Laurel Foundation in thanks for its generous
support of DinoMite Days.
100 decorated fiberglass casts of dinosaurs will be designed by local and
national artists in 2003, and then auctioned off next October. Proceeds will benefit local
not-for-profit organizations and Carnegie Museum of Natural History.