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    Migratory Birds: Connecting Us to the Rest of the World

    Tags: birds, ornithology, migration

    Published On 5/27/2015

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    Red-winged Blackbird

    It’s Christmas at the Nature Museum today. Or at least that’s what it seems like with all of the colorful ornaments adorning the trees around the building. These ornaments are actually migratory birds though, arriving to celebrate spring. Blue-winged and yellow warblers, red-winged blackbirds and redstarts, gold finches in their breeding finery, and blue-grey gnatcatchers seem to be flitting from every bough. Veery and wood thrush provide holiday songs, while kingfishers lay down the beat.  Even the catbird, while not as melodious as some, contributes soft mews that spice the soundscape, too.

    Palm Warbler

    For many of these species, Chicago is the last layover on a transcontinental flight from winter home to breeding grounds. For others, this is their final stop; they will spend the summer eating bugs and weed seeds in our neighborhoods. Such a migration is one of the amazing phenomena of life. For example, the blackpoll warbler may fly for 1,500 miles in one hop, often over open ocean. Though some will pause at North Pond after they leave Brazil, Blackpolls only finish their seasonal travel when they are near the arctic, where the trees and the bugs are perfect for nesting and feeding protein-hungry young. 

    Though I’ve spent my share of time in airports and flying over the ocean, migration remains an abstract concept to me. My own personal peregrinations rely on fossil fuels and technology, punctuated by stops at greasy spoons and historical monuments. In contrast, birds cross continents using their own metabolic power. They spend a few frenetic weeks foraging on every high calorie insect they can find, sometimes doubling their summer weight. Then, when the weather is right and the moon is full they launch themselves into the void and fly. 

    Cardinal

    I’ve hiked a lot at night in the desert and sat in the shade all day-- which might be comparable to some of the weakest migrators-- but imagine walking day and night, in weather foul and fair. Such a trek is almost inconceivable for me, yet many birds do it every spring and autumn for their whole lives. More concrete to me than migration is the physical presence of a bird. All winter I enjoy the blue jays, chickadees, and house sparrows that live in my neighborhood. Then, suddenly one morning I see a flash of red that is somehow more intense than a cardinal, faster than a flicker, and more skulking than a nuthatch—a scarlet  tanager! This bird flew from the foothills of the Andes, crossed the Panama canal, probably spent a day or two in the Yucatan then bee-lined across the gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri only to pause in a tree outside my window, pluck a bug from the branch, and disappear into the leaves.

    Scarlet Tanager (CheepShot via CC BY 2.0)

    It’s easy to have a feeling of ownership towards the birds that live near us. When a robin builds its nest above the back door, it’s “your” bird. Did the baby’s hatch? Did they fledge? Maybe you even left some worms on the sidewalk to supplement the meals. Doubtless you would close the door softly or even stop using the door altogether during incubation. And what would you do if a cat began stalking “your” robin?

    In the same way that the robin is “yours,” so is the scarlet tanager. Cats will kill it and pesticides will starve it just as surely as they will the local robin. However, that scarlet tanager lives in many people’s backyards during the year. All it takes is one loose cat in Costa Rica, one field sprayed for bugs in Honduras, one windmill in Texas, or one well lit building in Chicago to kill that tanager before it gets to your back yard. If migratory birds belong to anyone, they belong to all of us. Our stewardship of the environment today matters for both the bird and for our brothers and sisters around the world everyday.

    While it may not actually be Christmas at the Nature Museum today, it is a season of celebration of life and of the parts of life that we all share.

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    No Specimen Left Behind: Publishing the Academy’s Biological Collections Data Online

    Tags: Chicago Academy of Sciences, academy collections, Academy History, museum specimens

    Published On 5/7/2015

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    There is a secret side to the Nature Museum. Behind the butterflies, behind the dioramas, behind the turtles and frogs and snakes, the museum has an offsite collections facility filled with nearly 300,000 natural history specimens. Wander through these collections and you might come across a Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) collected in 1889 by an astute citizen who purchased the pigeon from his neighborhood meat market. You might see a specimen of the Southern Rock Vole (Microtus chrotorrhinus carolinensis), which was used in 1931 to describe this species for the first time. You also might turn up a sparrow prepared just last month by one of the museum’s dedicated taxidermy volunteers. The Academy’s collections help us explore past biodiversity, as well as gather and preserve evidence for future generations.

    So how do you get to this hidden side of the museum? Well, that’s a problem we’ve been trying to address. The Academy has an ethical duty to preserve and provide access for our specimens, but our collections facility isn’t really designed for drop-in visitors. You could email our friendly Collections staff, Dawn and Erica, but they are only two people and don’t always have time for guests. Instead, we worked with VertNet, a project funded by the National Science Foundation to bring together specimen data from collections across the country, to publish all of our mammalogy and oology (bird eggs and nests) specimen data online. It’s not quite the same as exploring the collections in person, but being able to search through our collections online is a great first step.

    Try it for yourself at www.VertNet.org. As of mid-April, we have data from 4,643 mammal specimens and 9,075 bird eggs and nests published on VertNet, as well as on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and iDigBio (two other projects that bring together natural history specimen data). On the VertNet homepage, you can search for specimens with our collection prefix (CHAS) by going to “Search Options” and entering CHAS in the “InstitutionCode” box. See if you can find the oldest specimen, or the specimen collected farthest away, or your favorite mammal or bird species!

    We are currently working hard to make data from our ornithology (bird) and herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) collections available on VertNet also. Eventually, you’ll be able to access all of our specimen data online, including images. After all, these aren’t the Academy’s specimens—they’re yours. We’ve just been taking care of them for the past 150 years, and will continue to do so for the next hundred.

     

    Erica Krimmel
    Assistant Collections Manager

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    Curious What We’ve Been Up to for the Past Century? Find out on Internet Archive!

    Tags: Chicago Academy of Sciences, academy publications, chicago naturalist, internet archive

    Published On 4/30/2015

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    The Chicago Academy of Sciences has been around for quite a while. Since 1857, in fact. Over the course of our history, we have produced various series of publications, and over the past seven years the Collections Department has been digitizing these historic Academy publications. Recently, we started uploading the digitized copies to Internet Archive, a non-profit organization with the goal of providing permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital formats. Through Internet Archive you can search or browse the Academy’s publications, read them online, and even download a PDF for later!

    Our publication archives offer insight into not only the institution’s history, but life as a naturalist over the past century. In a 1940 issue of Chicago Naturalist, the Academy’s Offield-Beaty expedition to Arizona is described. According to then Academy director, Howard Gloyd, “our objectives were to continue faunistic [animal] studies already in progress, to make colored motion pictures of desert wildlife, and to augment the study collections of the Academy’s museum. But with some of us, at least, there was a very real desire to re-experience the beauty and charm of the desert wonderland,” (p. 67, Vol. 3, No. 3). In the same issue, well-known ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice recounts her experiences birding in Hungary in 1938.

    Although many of the articles in these publications describe travels to far off lands, the Academy was also actively involved in understanding and supporting the natural history of Chicagoland. For example, the Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences often published scientific papers, such as taxonomic or behavioral studies, floras or faunas of local regions, etc. In 1942, one of the papers in the Bulletin is titled, “The ecology of the spiders of the xeric dunelands in the Chicago Area,” (Lowrie, Donald C. Vol.6, No. 9). Around the same time, Chicago Naturalist published an interesting natural history of Lake Michigan’s shoreline—did you know that 14,000 years ago the lake level was sixty feet higher (1938, Vol. 1, No. 1)? If you lived in Glenwood during that time, you’d have had lakefront property!

    Readers of the Academy’s Bulletin were invited to lectures with a vast array of topics on everything from “The Illinois Petroleum Industry” (1908) to “Cats and the Lands They Inhabit” (1972). Today, you can still catch up on how the eye works (Chicago Naturalist, Vol. 4, No. 4), or what makes some animals able to produce bioluminescence (Chicago Naturalist, Vol. 2, No. 4). And don’t neglect to read until the very end of a publication—the advertisements are often amusing!

    We already have issues of two Academy publication series uploaded to Internet Archive: Chicago Naturalist, published from 1938 to 1948; and The Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, published on and off from 1883 to 1995. Keep checking back though, because we’ve got plenty more to share in the future, including motion film. And if you appreciate being able to see our publications online, thank the Collections Department volunteers who made it possible: Jessica Bernstein, who digitized all of our Academy publications, and Jessica Weller, who has been uploading and adding metadata to each of the PDFs.


    Erica Krimmel
    Assistant Collections Manager

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    May Happenings at the Chicago Herpetological Society and CJHS

    Tags: herpetology, herps, chicago herpetological society, snakes, Turtle, reptiles

    Published On 4/27/2015

    The first full weekend of every month, the Nature Museum becomes a herpetologist haven! That's when the Chicago Herpetological Society sets up tables in the Nature Walk for some reptile fun with the public and the Junior Herp Society holds their monthly meetings! Come and join us as we share our passion for these wonderful animals.

     

    Join us for some fun with our reptile and amphibian friends!

    The Chicago Junior Herpetological Society is about sharing the love of amphibians and reptiles with the younger generation, and fostering an appreciation of wildlife and nature through educational speakers and hands-on interaction.

    The regular monthly meetings of the Chicago Junior Herpetological Society take place at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, on the Sunday of the first full weekend every month, from noon till about 1:30. Meetings are free to visitors to the museum. The next meeting will be on Sunday, May 3rd. Our scheduled topic is "Herping Responsibly" which is the observation of these animals in their natural habitat and respect for nature and the animals while we do that. We are looking forward to this and we are also planning a trip out to Channahon, IL to do some actual field herping with our March speaker, Ranger Kevin Luby from the Willowbrook Wildlife Center on May 30th. We are developing plans to start utilizing the skills and knowledge of some of our teenage members as leader mentors which has been a goal of ours since the beginning. We had alot of fun at our trip to Brookfield Zoo on April 4th and we are very grateful to our friends at the zoo for helping to make that a wonderful day.

    You can learn more about the CJHS here.

       

    The Chicago Herpetological Society is a non-profit all volunteer organization dedicated to the conservation of all wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, the cooperation of amateur and professional herpetologists toward a more complete understanding of herpetofauna, and the education of the general public about these often misunderstood but fascinating animals.​

    When considering getting a new pet for the family, a great option to consider is adoption. There are many awesome animals out there in need of a loving home. The CHS has an adoption program available to members. There are currently some awesome animals being fostered and ready for a new forever home. Contact Colleen Schwarz or Linda Malawy of the CHS adoption program.

    You can learn more about CHS adoptions here.

       

    The Junior Herp Society was founded by members of the Chicago Herpetological Society and we encourage our members to become members of the CHS as well. General meetings of the Chicago Herpetological Society are held on the last Wednesday every month at 7:30pm at the Notebaert. Meetings are free to attend. The April 29th meeting of the Chicago Herpetological Society will feature Scott Ballard of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Mr. Ballard is the author of the Illinois Herptiles-Herps Act that went into effect the beginning of this year. Everyone in Illinois who owns a reptile or amphibian or enjoys field herping needs to review this new law, but it’s particularly important for breeders, native animal keepers, and keepers of large or venomous animals. Talk with the man who wrote the law. 

    You can learn more about the Chicago Herpetological Society here.

    Thanks and hope to see you there!

    Rich Lamszus
    Chicago Junior Herp Society
    Chicago Herpetological Society

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    Meet Some of the Stars of National Frog Month

    Tags: critter connection, herpetology, frogs, toads, national frog month

    Published On 4/10/2015

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    April is National Frog Month, and we're marking it with weekly frog and toad-focused live feedings, as well as weekly frog and toad Critter Connections. Since these toad-ally cool critters are going to be in the spotlight this month, we thought we would take a closer look at the different species you might find in Mysteries of the Marsh and our Look-In Lab.

    Northern Leopard Frog

    Although they can have lots of color variations, the most common variations are green and brown. As the name implies, they are distinguishable by the large, dark circular spots on their back, sides and legs, which are normally bordered by a lighter ring. They're often found in ponds, swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams, preferring to inhabit bodies of water that have abundant aquatic vegetation. In the summer, they'll actually leave the ponds and move to grassier areas and lawns. 

    Pickerel Frog

    Although the Pickerel and Leopard frogs are similar at a glance, you can tell them apart by taking a closer look at their spots -- while Leopard Frogs have circular spots, Pickerels have irregular rectangular spots. Pickerel Frogs are also uncommon in Illinois, while Leopard Frogs are widesparead. Northern Pickerel Frogs prefer to live near cold, clear water, preferring rocky ravines, bogs and meadow streams. They can also be found around lakes and rivers that are heavily wooded. Unlike many of our other native frogs, Pickerels have a unique defense mechanism -- they can emit skin secretions which are actually toxic to some predators. For humans, the secretions generally only cause skin irritation, but it's important to wash your hands after handling them. This clever defense mechanism makes the Pickerel the only poisonous frog native to the United States!

    Northern Cricket Frog

    These small, warty frogs generally grow between 1.5 and 3.5 centimeters long. Unlike other frogs, they actually don’t have toe pads, which you can see if you look closely. They can be gray, brown or green and prefer open, shallow water with plenty of vegetation. And, as you probably guessed, their calls resemble that of a cricket.

    Gray Tree Frog

    While their name suggests that they're only gray in color, Gray Tree Frogs are generally gray, green or brown depending on what they’re sitting on. They can actually change their camouflage from nearly black to nearly white, though they do change at a slower rate than a chameleon. Also, as their name would suggest, they're common in forested areas and are highly arboreal. In fact, they rarely ever descend from the treetops, with the main exception of breeding. Their calls are often heard in rural residential areas of the east coast and Midwest.

    Want more National Frog Month fun? Hop on over to our Instagram account! We'll be featuring a new frog or toad friend every Friday as part of our month-long #FrogFriday series. Not on Instagram? You can still follow along by jumping over to our Twitter account or Facebook page!

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    March & April Happenings at the Chicago Herpetological Society and CJHS

    Tags: chicago herpetological society, herpetology, junior herp society, reptiles, amphibians

    Published On 3/24/2015

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    The first full weekend of every month, the Nature Museum becomes a herpetologist haven! That's when the Chicago Herpetological Society sets up tables in the Nature Walk for some reptile fun with the public and the Junior Herp Society holds their monthly meetings! The Notebaert is an awesome and beautiful place to go and reconnect with nature during these colder months.

     

    Join us for some fun with our reptile and amphibian friends!

    The Chicago Junior Herpetological Society is about sharing the love of amphibians and reptiles with the younger generation, and fostering an appreciation of wildlife and nature through educational speakers and hands-on interaction.

    The regular monthly meetings of the Chicago Junior Herpetological Society take place at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, on the Sunday of the first full weekend every month, from noon till about 1:30. Meetings are free to visitors to the museum. We are sad to announce the cancellation of the April 5th meeting as scheduled. We made an error in planning and did not see that this will be Easter Sunday and many of us have other plans that day. We have some friends at the Brookfield Zoo and they generously helped us to arrange a behind-the-scenes tour for the kids there on Saturday, April 4th. We had good response to this and it should be fun. The next meeting will be on Sunday, May 3rd. Our scheduled speaker is Matt Bordeux and he will be discussing field herping, which is the observation of these animals in their natural habitat. We are looking forward to this an we are also planning a trip out to Channahon, IL to do some actual field herping with last month's speaker, Ranger Kevin Luby from the Willowbrook Wildlife Center on May 30th. 

    You can learn more about the CJHS here.

      

    The Chicago Herpetological Society is a non-profit all volunteer organization dedicated to the conservation of all wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, the cooperation of amateur and professional herpetologists toward a more complete understanding of herpetofauna, and the education of the general public about these often misunderstood but fascinating animals.​

    When considering getting a new pet for the family, a great option to consider is adoption. There are many awesome animals out there in need of a loving home. The CHS has an adoption program available to members. There are currently some awesome animals being fostered and ready for a new forever home. Contact Colleen Schwarz or Linda Malawy of the CHS adoption program.

    You can learn more about CHS adoptions here.

    The Junior Herp Society was founded by members of the Chicago Herpetological Society and we encourage our members to become members of the CHS as well. General meetings of the Chicago Herpetological Society are held on the last Wednesday every month at 7:30pm at the Notebaert. Meetings are free to attend. This month's meeting will feature guest speaker Danny Mendez. He'll be discussing Raising Ethical Standards in Herpetoculture.

    We regret to announce the cancellation of ReptileFest 2015, which was planned for April 11 and 12, due to a cancellation of our venue due to unforseen circumstances. We are currently working on the best possible venue for ReptileFest 2016 and we hope to make this better than ever.

    You can learn more about the Chicago Herpetological Society here.

    Hope to see you there!

    Rich Lamszus
    Chicago Junior Herp Society
    Chicago Herpetological Society

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    A Chicago Pioneer: J. Young Scammon

    Published On 3/17/2015

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    The Laflin Memorial Building was the home of the Chicago Academy of Sciences for a century, giving the collection a more permanent home than it had had in years. Unfortunately, one of the men who was an early supporter and founder of the Academy died before it became a reality.

    Jonathan Young Scammon was born July 27, 1812 in Whitfield, Maine, and from an early age expressed a fondness for, and interest in, agriculture and horticulture. In fact, were it not for an accident that stripped him of the full use of his left hand. Instead, he studied law and was admitted to the bar. He began practicing and became an early settler of Chicago, arriving in the city in 1835. In 1837 he was selected as Attorney of the State Bank of Illinois, and in 1839 became reporter of the Illinois Supreme Court.

    In addition to his legal work, Scammon became an organizer and supporter of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, created a charter for Chicago’s public school system, and established the first bank under the general banking law of Illinois. Despite this work, he never lost his love for nature, and kept a beautiful garden at his home on Michigan and Randolph. It was this interest in horticulture and the natural sciences in general that brought him to begin meeting with other original members of the Chicago Academy of Sciences in the offices of Dr. Edmund Andrews. Once the Academy was officially formed, and plans were discussed to create a museum, Scammon joined the Board of Trustees, and served on the Board until 1883. Scammon died 125 years ago today, on March 17, 1890.

    Scammon truly was a Chicago pioneer. Visit the sources below to learn more about the contributions he made to the city, and the societies he worked to found and organize.

    William H. Bushnell, Biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Settlers of the City of Chicago, pp. 19-31

    Jonathan Young Scammon

    Charles Henry Taylor, History of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago, pp.122

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    A Rainforest Refresh - Introducing Our Newest Critters!

    Tags: rainforest adventure, rainforest animals, dumeril's boa, parrots, toucans, aracari, amazon, tree monitor, henkel's leaf-tailed gecko

    Published On 5/27/2015

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    Visitors have enjoyed our "Rainforest Adventure" exhibit so much, that we've extended its run through the end of May! To refresh it a little, we've switched out Iggy, Tonks and the rest of the critters for a new group of rainforest friends. Be sure to stop by and say 'hello' in person, and learn more about them below!

    Green Aracari

    green aracari 

    Green Aracaris are found in the lowland forests of northeastern South America, the northeast Amazon Basin, the Guianas and the eastern Orinoco River drainage of Venezuela. They nest in tree hollows and cavities, digging to expand the chambers for more room. Both parents cooperate to rear their young. The Green Aracari is the smallest member of the toucan family. Their diet consists primarily of fruit. The large bill’s serrated edges help the bird to grip and gather fruit. Insects are an occasional part of the diet, providing protein.

    Kindly loaned by Jason J. Crean, American Federation of Aviculture, Promoting a Future with Birds.

     

    Ivory-Billed Aracari

    ivory-billed aracari

    Like the Green Aracari, Ivory-Billed Aracaris are also found in South America, mostly in the lowlands of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil, and in the lower elevations of the Andes.  Ivory-Billed Aracaris are the smallest members of the Aracari family, typically weighing about 5.3 oz. Males have a black crown while females have a brown crown. The males also typically have longer bills.

    Kindly loaned by Jason J. Crean, American Federation of Aviculture, Promoting a Future with Birds

     

    Green Tree Monitor

    green tree monitor

    This small to medium-sized tree dwelling monitor lizard is known for its unusual coloring, which serves as camouflage in its natural environment. The lizards are found in tropical forests, palm swamps and cocoa plantations in New Guinea and several surrounding islands. They have prehensile tails, long claws, and the soles of their feet have enlarged scales for extra grip. Their diet consists of large tree-dwelling arthropods including katydids, beetles, centipedes, spiders, stick insects and crabs, as well as birds and small mammals.

    Kindly loaned by Julie TenBensel Vicary.


    Lilac-Crowned Amazon

    lilac-crowned amazon

    This parrot is native to the Pacific slopes of Mexico, but there are feral populations in several Southern California counties. Lilac-crowned Amazons have been kept as pets since the 1800s, and are one of the most popular parrot species in the pet trade. Due to the loss and degradation of habitat, the wild population of these parrots has declined by an estimated 30 to 49 percent over the past decade. The illegal Central and South American pet trade has also contributed to their decline. This species is listed as vulnerable within its natural range.

    Kindly loaned by Jason J. Crean, American Federation of Aviculture, Promoting a Future with Birds.

    Dumeril’s Boa

    dumerils boa

    This non-venomous Boa species is found on Madagascar and Reunion Island, located east of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. Adults average 6.5 feet in length although specimens over 8 feet long have been reported. Dumeril’s Boa is threatened by deforestation and hunting by humans. In some areas they are killed on sight due to unfounded fear. Their diet consists of small animals, including birds, lizards, and mammals, and they are also known to prey on other snakes.

    Kindly loaned by The Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest.

     

    Henkel’s Leaf-Tailed Gecko

    henckels leaf tailed gecko

    Also known as Flat-tailed Geckos, there are eight species of these animals, all native to Madagascar. All Leaf-tailed Geckos are being threatened by habitat loss caused by deforestation across the island. Leaf-tailed Geckos’ skin often resembles tree bark. This provides excellent camouflage when the geckos are basking in the sun during the day. They are carnivorous, with insects comprising the bulk of their diet, but, occasionally, they will hunt other invertebrates, small rodents or reptiles.

    Kindly loaned by The Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest.

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    From Confections to Fossils: Charles F. Gunther

    Published On 3/6/2015

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    Charles F. Gunther was born on this day in 1837. Although he spent a large portion of his life as a successful confectioner, he also contributed to the Chicago Academy of Sciences in a number of ways.

    Charles F. Gunther

    Gunther was born in Germany, then moved to the U.S. with his family, first to Pennsylvania then Illinois. After fighting in the Civil War, he traveled to Europe to study and learn from confectioners in Europe. He started his own company in 1868, specializing in caramels, and saw tremendous success. So much so, that he began to use his fortune purchasing unique, if not always legitimate, historical artifacts. His collection included everything from shrunken heads, to fossils, to Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed, to alleged Biblical relics. He then bought the Libby War Prison in Richmond, moved it Chicago and turned it into a museum to house his collection. It was open from 1889 to 1899. It was around this time that he became involved with the Academy.

    He joined the Academy’s Board of Trustees in 1889, and soon after began donating some of the natural history pieces of his collection to the Academy. From 1895 to 1911, he contributed fossils, minerals, birds, fish, snakes, lizards, and cultural items. Some of the largest (and most impressive) pieces he donated are actually still on display in the Nature Museum. This Mastodon jaw and tooth are from the Pleistocene Epoch and, coincidentally, were found 6 miles from Abraham Lincoln’s first home in Macon County, Illinois.

    Mastodon mandible. Donated by Charles F. Gunther.

    Event though his own museum closed in 1899, Gunther remained an Academy trustee until 1911. He had hoped to open a new museum for his collection, but his condition that the city provide a building to house the museum in Garfield Park was never met. Gunther died February 10, 1920, but the impact he had on the Academy’s collection remains.

    Mastodon tooth. Donated by Charles F. Gunther.

    Learn more about Gunther's work by checking out the resources below:

    Museum Work: Including the Proceedings of the American Association of Museums Volumes 1 & 2 pp. 205-206

    Charles F. Gunther 1837-1920

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    "Fieldwork is the Lifeblood of Museums": Remembering Alfred M. Bailey

    Tags: Alfred M. Bailey, Chicago Academy of Sciences, history, ornithology

    Published On 2/18/2015

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    If you're familiar with the Chicago Academy Sciences and our history, then chances are good that you've heard the name Alfred M. Bailey before. For just shy of a decade, Bailey was Director of the Academy, and added some invaluable specimens to our ornithology collection...but who exactly was he?

    Edward Ford, Alfred M. Bailey and William I. Lyon
    Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection.

    Alfred Marshall Bailey was born on this day in 1894 in Iowa City, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1916, and as an undergrad worked in a government-sponsored expedition to the Hawaiian Island of Laysan. From here, he quickly became involved in the world of museums. From 1916 to 1919 he worked as the curator of birds and mammals at the Louisiana State Museum, and from 1921 to 1926 he worked at the Denver Museum of Natural History, before making the move to the Midwest.

    In 1926, Bailey came to Chicago to join the Field Museum, but after a year, he made the move to the Chicago Academy of Sciences where he was appointed Director of the Academy. During the nine years he spent as Director, Bailey continued to focus on ornithology, organizing trips back to Louisiana to capture still and motion photography of migrating birds. He also organized trips to Alaska and, working with collectors there, collected birds and bird eggs. This culminated in the publication of the Academy’s Program of Activities “Birds of the Region of Point Barrow, Alaska” in 1933.

    Alfred M. Bailey (with camera) filming birds in Louisiana. 
    Chicago Academy of Sciences Archive, Photography Collection.

    When Bailey resigned from the Academy, he returned to the Denver Museum of Natural History where he was appointed Director, a position he held until 1969. He remained involved with the Denver Museum until his death in 1978.

    In his obituary for Bailey, Allan R. Phillips detailed that Bailey’s credo was “fieldwork is the lifeblood of natural history museums and he himself was a leading fieldman.” This extensive fieldwork not only produced Academy publications, it also resulted in some prized pieces of our ornithology collection. Some of the specimens in our collection were collected as part of Bailey’s work to document avian diversity in his book Birds of Arctic Alaska. In addition to those specimens, we also have a large number of Bailey’s photographs in our archives that were taken during his trips across the United States and Canada. To see some of them, check out this blog post.

    To learn more about Bailey’s life and work, check out these resources:

    Allan R. Phillips, “In Memoriam: Alfred M. Bailey”, The Auk Vol. 98, No. 1 (Jan., 1981), pp. 173-175

    Papers of Alfred M. Bailey – University of Iowa Libraries

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