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  • Feasting on S.C.R.A.PS.

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    Tags: plants, horticulture

    Created: 6/8/2015      Updated: 8/1/2016

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    Apparently it’s been three days north of forever since I wrote a blog post. I realized this recently when our social media guru began dropping subtle hints about it.

     

    Angry woman yelling into a phone

    (Picture is unrelated.)

    What can I say?  I’ve been busy with, you know, spring. But I get it; all y’alls been waitin’ for me to drop some botanical flava on this blog, and I just can’t keep letting you down. So hey, how about a new feature? What if I were to present, in no particular order and with no discernible practical application, an ongoing listicle of botanical wonderment? You down? Good. I think it should look a little something like this:

    Stuff that’s Cool and Rad About PlantS

    Still with me, despite the puerile, half-baked title?  Then let’s do this.

    1.  Graft Chimeras

    When it comes to stuff that’s cool and rad and rad and cool, it’s hard to beat a graft chimera.  Few are known to exist, and even these are rarely seen.  But before you can understand the extent of their coolradness, you’ll need a basic understanding of grafting.

    Grafting is the age-old process of cutting off a piece of one plant, sticking it onto another, and hoping they get along.  It’s extremely common in certain areas of horticulture, particularly fruit production.  For example, basically every single apple you’ve ever eaten was grown on a grafted plant.  A typical apple variety starts as a branch that just happens to be different from its neighbors on the tree.  An orchardist might notice that this branch produces fruit that is redder, larger, or holds later into the fall.  Perhaps it has a wicked backhand, and the orchardist is in need of a mixed-doubles partner.  Whatever the reason, he or she cuts off a part of this branch, clones it, and then grafts the clones onto the bottom halves of young apple trees that have been selected for their superior roots.  The resulting grafted plants will now produce reams of tennis-playing fruit on healthy-rooted trees.

    Typically, the “root” portion of a grafted plant (called the rootstock) and the “shoot” portion (the scion) remain distinct from each other. But sometimes the union between the two gets…fuzzy.  The result is a graft chimera, a plant that mixes two different sets of genes – and thus two different types of growth – into one.  Here are a couple of famous examples.  Below is a +Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’, and man, do I want one!  Check it out:

    +Laburnocytisus ‘Adamii’, a tree that has two different types of flowers -- one is pink the other is yellow.

    Yep, that’s one tree with two entirely different types of flowers.  Here’s another example, aptly named a Bizzaria:

    A graft chimera citrus plant, containing a fruit that is half bitter orange and half citron.

    This harvest-time nightmare is a genetic tutti-frutti of Citrus medica and Citrus aurantium.  It was discovered in Florence in 1640, and is perhaps the best known graft chimera, with none other than Chuck Darwin taking a stab at describing it.

    Unfortunately, graft chimeras are notoriously unstable, so individual plants may lose one of their conjoined halves, returning to a non-chimeric state. But that just makes them cooler, right? And rad-er.

    2.  The Mountain Buffalo

    By now you’ve no doubt glanced ahead at the picture, BUT, before you go getting all excited, I must add a disclaimer to this entry. Most of the information I’ve found about this plant comes from not-so-sciencey sources, so please take it with a grain or two of salt. That being said, just look at this thing:

     A toddler sitting on top of a giant potato

    No small potatoes.

    That is a tuber which will not be denied. According to this website, it is from a species of Thladiantha that grows in the Yunnan province of China, and if this picture is to be believed, it is one of the largest tubers in the world. Also, someone is trying to pickpocket a baby. (Good luck – babies are notoriously cash-strapped.) As the website helpfully explains, “The tubers are resembling resting buffalos when seen from the distance in dense forest, hence their name.” I’ve done some digging to try and find out more about this beast of a plant, and I can say without doubt that the genus Thladiantha is a real thing and that several species within this genus produce large tubers. But is this photo legit? I want to believe.

    3.  Sand Food

    No disclaimer needed here; sand food is definitely legit and definitely weird (and cool and rad.) Found only in the Sonoran Desert, this bizarre member of the forget-me-not family is not-forgettable indeed.  Its name is blandly appropriate, since it grows as a ropy stem buried under shifting sands, and it is an important food source for the area’s indigenous people and jawas. Containing no chlorophyll, sand food lives as a parasite on the roots of various desert shrubs. In the spring, it produces a mushroom like flower head, like so:

    Sand food 

    Photo courtesy of Tatooine Botanical Gardens

    How the 10 or 20 tiny seeds that each flower produces manage to locate a suitable host plant is not well understood. Ants or kangaroo rats may carry the seeds underground. Or perhaps they move through the desert by clinging to the feet of lost droids. We may never know, but I would guess that the Force is strong with them.

    Seth Harper, Nature Museum horticulturist

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  • Fire in the Metropolitan Block

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    Tags: Chicago Academy of Sciences, history

    Created: 6/7/2015      Updated: 8/1/2016

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    Years before the Chicago Academy of Sciences called the Matthew Laflin Memorial Building home, it resided in the Metropolitan Block located in downtown Chicago. Though the Academy was still very young, by 1864 its collection had grown so much that it outgrew the space it occupied on the corner of Clark and Lake. It was at that point that the Academy made the move into the Metropolitan Block at the corner of LaSalle and Randolph, along with a variety of other businesses and corporations. While there was some space for specimens to be displayed, the space wasn’t ideal for creating museum space for the public. Despite this, for two years the Academy called the Metropolitan Block home, until one fateful day in June 1866.

    Map of Washington and LaSalle intersection in downtown Chicago, circa 1893.
    View of Metropolitan Block (building number 13) circa 1893 from Rand, McNally & Co.'s Birds-Eye Views and Guide to Chicago

    On June 7, 1866, a fire broke out on the north end of the Block in rooms adjacent to the Academy’s rooms and moved to the museum hall. At the time of the fire, the Academy’s collection consisted of 40,000 specimens, making it one of the largest scientific collections in the United States at the time. Sadly, of the 40,000 specimens housed there, over 18,000 were destroyed or badly damaged. Acting as Academy Curator following the sudden death of Robert Kennicott in May 1866, Dr. William Stimpson sadly reported, “Half the animals and birds were lost; the extensive collections of bird’s nests and eggs were mainly consumed; nearly all the insects were destroyed; the dried crustaceans and echinoderms were all destroyed. The large herbarium was saved, with the exception of the plants of the Northern Pacific expedition. The library was much damaged by water, but most of it was still in a condition to be used.”

    Stimpson endeavored to repair and preserve the damaged pieces by transporting them to a building on LaSalle and Lake. The focus turned to repairing the Metropolitan Block space for the interim and finding a permanent space to move into. The specimen wall cases were repaired and several new cases for specimen storage were constructed, turning the space into a taxidermy prep room. Because the space was meant to be temporary, little focus was put on exhibitions for the public, with only a few cases being reserved for that purpose.

    A lot on Wabash north of Van Buren was purchased and a new building made of brick and iron was erected at the cost of $46,000. In an effort to protect the Academy’s invaluable collections, this structure was built “as nearly fire-proof as the technology of the time permitted.” The stairways and principal doors were made of iron, the windows featured iron shutters, and the brick walls were two feet thick. A laboratory and storeroom were located in the basement, while the first floor consisted of space for the secretary, an office, library, and meeting hall. The second floor consisted of a larger museum hall with two galleries. In December of 1867, the collection, which had continued to grow, was moved into its new home.

    Resources:

    Chicago, A Strangers and Tourists Guide to the City of Chicago. 1866.

    Chicago and the Great Conflagration. Elias Colbert. 1872.

    The Chicago Academy of Sciences: Its Past History and Present Collections. Vol. 2. Frank Collins Baker. 1908.

    History of Chicago: From 1857 until the fire of 1871. Alfred Theodore Andreas. 1885.

    The Nautilus, Volumes 7-9. 1893-1894.

    Special Publication – Chicago Academy of Sciences, Volumes 1-3. 1902.

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  • Migratory Birds: Connecting Us to the Rest of the World

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    Tags: birds, ornithology, migration

    Created: 5/13/2015      Updated: 8/1/2016

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    Red-winged blackbird

    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

    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. 

    Male cardinal

    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

    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.

    Steve Sullivan, Senior Curator of Urban Ecology

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

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

    Created: 4/28/2015      Updated: 8/1/2016

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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.

    Drawers containing specimens of the extinct Carolina Parakeet and Passenger Pigeon.

    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.

    VertNet Screenshot

    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!

    Type specimen of Southern Rock Vole

    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!

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

    Created: 4/28/2015      Updated: 8/1/2016

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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!

    Screenshot of an Academy publication on Internet Archive

    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.

    Map of Lake Michigan's shoreline history

    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

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

    Created: 4/24/2015      Updated: 8/2/2016

    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.

     

    Junior Herp Society logoChicago Herpetological Society logo

    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.

    Junior Herp Society Members on a field trip   Junior Herp Society Members on a field trip

    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.

    Two bearded dragons   Woman holding snakes

    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

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

    Created: 4/8/2015      Updated: 8/2/2016

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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

    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

    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

    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

    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

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

    Created: 3/23/2015      Updated: 8/2/2016

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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.

    Junior Herp Society logo Members at a Junior Herp Society meeting, with an alligator snapping turtle

    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.

    Girl with a snake  Closeup of a man's hand holding a snake

    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.

    Chicago Herpetological Society logoBearded Dragons with Chicago Herpetological Society promo card

    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

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    Created: 3/9/2015      Updated: 8/2/2016

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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.

    J. Young Scammon

    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!

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

    Created: 3/4/2015      Updated: 8/2/2016

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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 Monitors

    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

    Dumeril's 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

    Henkel’s 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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