This summer we headed to the Italian Alps to work on fossils from a newly discovered Late Permian plant locality in the incredibly scenic Bletterbach gorge. This research is part of a larger project, which tries to quantify the hits that the terrestrial ecosystem took during the end-Permian world-wide biotic crisis. Back in those days Europe and North America were connected and part of one and the same floral realm, not surprisingly called Euramerica. Euramerica was tropical and semi-arid, and … [Read more...] about One fossil locality, eight days, 513 rocks, 757 photographs and thousands of plant fossils
Imagine what it would be like: swimming in the dark, deep underwater, in an enclosed space, “armed” with only a flashlight and a tank of air. For UCMP graduate student Joey Pakes, that is a typical day of research in the subterranean caves in Mexico. Check out her video which describes her 2010 expedition to the Yucatan Peninsula as part of her ongoing investigations into underwater cave systems. Meet some of the people and animals that make her research so … [Read more...] about Student Spotlight: Joey Pakes 2010 Diving Expedition for Remipedes in the Yucatan
San Francisco Bay has had a dynamic and complex history over the past million years as sea level rose and fell at least four times with alternating warming periods and glaciations. About 13,000 years ago, the first group of humans arriving in the area would have walked through a valley with a river flowing nearly 48 km out toward the ocean. The current bay formed only about 6,000 years ago. In a recent paper published by Quaternary Research, Amy Lesen, former PhD student in UCMP and currently … [Read more...] about 125,000 years of geologic change in SF Bay, not much change in the microfauna
Mark Terry, a long time Teacher Advisor to UCMP, is the recipient of the 2011 Evolution Education Award, an annual award sponsored by AIBS and BSCS. Mark is a high school Biology teacher at The Northwest School in Seattle. I first met Mark in 2000 when he sent an email inquiring about a conference that we were hosting — The National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution. The conference served to bring together members from professional societies to examine what their roles might be in … [Read more...] about Congratulations to Mark Terry
At the end-Permian extinction event 250 million years ago, 70% of land organisms and 95% of marine organisms went extinct. Forests of conifer relatives were also wiped out … and their demise may have been helped by pathogenic soil fungi suggest UCMP's Cindy Looy and colleagues Henk Visscher, Utrecht University, Netherlands, and Mark Sephton, Imperial College, London. Most researchers accept that extensive volcanism at the end of the period, resulting in major changes in global climate, … [Read more...] about Pathogenic fungi: Conifer killers?
Attendees of UCMP short courses always go away with new understandings of the world around them and its history. Rather than presenting simple reviews of the basics, short course speakers present up-to-date overviews of topics and share both their current knowledge and the excitement of their science with the audience. However, those in attendance at last March’s Marine Mammal short course probably did not realize that they were actually getting a sneak preview of forthcoming research … [Read more...] about Marine Mammal 2011 short course revisited
Despite a fluke June rainstorm, grad students managed to keep spirits high during two days of field work at Bodega Bay. Just as the rain began to fall, each of the graduate students — Jenny Jacobs, Misha Leong, Joey Pakes, and Rosemary Romero — welcomed 37 elementary school teachers and took them in groups of ~10 on a preliminary tour of the Bodega Marine Reserve (BMR). This would serve as an initial orientation to the buildings and the different coastal habitats that would be their focus area … [Read more...] about CAL:BLAST at Bodega Bay, June 28-29, 2011
UCMP's Katherine Brakora and UCMP alums Edward Davis (now at University of Oregon) and Andrew Lee (now at Midwestern University) reviewed the evolution of mammal headgear in the latest edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. They examined phylogeny, development and fossil histology to establish a clearer picture of the evolution of these cranial appendages. This work has biomedical implications as well — understanding fast-growing antler bone may help with treating burns, bone cancer, … [Read more...] about How mammals got their horns (and other headgear)
This post's text is also available in Spanish. Congratulations to graduate student Emily Lindsey, this year's recipient of the George D. Louderback Award! Emily has been hard at work the past few years investigating the timing, dynamics, and key players behind the late Pleistocene extinction of megafauna in South America. Like the famous La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, Emily's excavation site on the Santa Elena Peninsula in Ecuador is an asphalt seep preserving the remains of a … [Read more...] about Student Spotlight: Emily Lindsey and the late Pleistocene megafauna in South America
UCMP's David Lindberg and the Smithsonian's Nicholas Pyenson determined how many gray whales could be supported by the ocean through periods of global cooling and warming. Their results, published in the latest edition of PLoS ONE, show that in the past 120,000 years gray whales survived periods when their feeding grounds were greatly-reduced due to glaciation. The authors propose that gray whales were able to survive the lean times by diversifying their feeding habits, a behavior that has been … [Read more...] about Gray whales are survivors
Considering a visit to the new mammoth exhibition at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose? UCMP graduate student Kaitlin Maguire provides a sneak preview of the exhibits in this Science on the SPOT video produced by KQED. Listen in as she discusses the 2005 mammoth discovery in San Jose and what the fossils can tell us. … [Read more...] about KQED Quest features Kaitlin Maguire and Lupe the mammoth!
DAY 1 (5/17/2011): I work with Professor Roy Caldwell to study the evolution of the behaviors and morphology of mantis shrimps – pugnacious crustaceans that are distant cousins to lobsters, true shrimps, and crabs. Mantis shrimps use fearsome raptorial appendages to smash or spear their prey. Even more surprisingly, some mantis shrimps live in male-female pairs in sandy burrows, with both sexes caring for the young and sharing food. Social monogamy, when a single male and female live as a pair … [Read more...] about Molly Wright’s Trip to the Smithsonian Collection
Roy Caldwell was delighted to receive word yesterday morning from the Selection Committee of the Chang-Lin Tien Scholars in Environmental Sciences and Biodiversity that they had approved the nomination for Joey Pakes as a Tien Scholars Graduate Fellowship recipient! The amount of $21,000 will be awarded to Joey for tuition, fees and/or stipend for the 2011/2012 academic year. This is a one-year award with the possibility of a 2nd year of funding based on research progress and … [Read more...] about Joey Pakes – A Chang-Lien Tien Scholar!
Looking for a fun summer activity? Interested in learning about dinosaurs? Well you’re in luck! Now through January 1st, the Lawrence Hall of Science is featuring a new exhibit titled “Dinosaurs unearthed.” The exhibit includes life-size replicas of some of the most well known dinosaurs including T. rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus. You also get to dig for your own fossils while looking at the bones of dinosaurs discovered by UCMP scientists. The younger folk, ages 2-7, will also have fun … [Read more...] about “Dinosaurs Unearthed” at the Lawrence Hall of Science
Paleontologist William B. N. Berry was a world expert on extinct, 400 million-year-old sea creatures, but he will be perhaps best remembered in the Bay Area as a champion of sustainability and for instilling in his students a concern for the local ecology. A former director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology and a professor of earth and planetary science who served the campus for 53 years, Berry died May 20 of skin cancer and related complications. He was 79. Berry encouraged his students … [Read more...] about Paleontologist and sustainability advocate Bill Berry dies at 79
On a cold Berkeley morning late in March paleobotanist Cindy Looy and grad student Susan Tremblay hopped on a plane to Washington DC. Their goal was not to enjoy the gorgeous spring weather and peaking cherry blossoms, but instead to search for clues to the early evolution of plants in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Devonian liverworts and Permian conifers were on the menu. Pallaviciniites devonicus, described by Francis Hueber in 1961, is one of the oldest … [Read more...] about “Field Notes”: Devonian liverworts and Permian conifers
We are sad to report the death of longtime UCMP associate Harley Garbani. Garbani collected T. rex and Triceratops specimens and many others. Read his complete Los Angeles Times obituary to find out more about his wonderful career and association with UCMP. … [Read more...] about UCMP associate Harley Garbani dies at 88
David Hurt, who is co-advised by Jonathan Stillman and David R. Lindberg, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. David started as a Ph.D. student Berkeley in 2010, and is examining potential effects of ocean acidification on the physiology and behavior of porcelain crabs during their development. For more about David, enjoy his audio slide show. Allison Stegner, who is advised by Tony Barnosky, has also been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate … [Read more...] about UCMP’s award-winning students
It's that time of year we've all been waiting for: Cal Day! This Saturday marks the one day a year UCMP opens its doors to the public and plays host to a number of events aimed to expose all those who are interested to the fascinating world of fossils. Stop by the Valley Life Sciences Building for festivities that range from digging for bones to learning about climate change. Found a fossil you need identified? Our experts have set up shop to help you out with just that. Don't forget to … [Read more...] about Cal Day 2011 is here!
It's a spring break tradition here at UCMP to organize a trip exploring the geology and paleontology of a particular region. In the past, students and faculty have traveled to places like Oregon and Baja. But why run off when there's so much to see in our own backyards? In a series of trips to nearby parks, Integrative Biology graduates, undergraduates, faculty, and affiliates literally got their feet wet trekking across the product of the Bay Area's complex geologic history. From UC … [Read more...] about UCMP’s Spring Break in the Bay Area
The latest edition of the journal Nature includes a paper authored by Tony Barnosky entitled "Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived?" Co-authors include UCMP's Susumu Tomiya, Brian Swartz, Tiago Quental, Charles Marshall, Jenny McGuire, Emily Lindsey, Kaitlin Maguire, Elizabeth Ferrer and the Integrative Biology department's Nicholas Matzke, Guinevere Wogan and Ben Mersey. They used new paleontological information to make an apples-to-apples comparison between current … [Read more...] about UCMP authors write about extinction in Nature
Looks like the tyrant lizard wasn't so scary after all. UCMP's Mark Goodwin and Jack Horner, curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, have been working in the late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of Eastern Montana for decades, an area famous for its impressive fossil assemblages including fish, mammals, and dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex. Based on a census of predator and prey found at several of the time intervals represented in the Hell Creek Formation, Goodwin and Horner … [Read more...] about The Opportunistic T. rex
Love is in the water, and UCMP's Roy Caldwell has the photos to prove it! The cephalopod resource website TONMO has posted a sequence of Roy's crystal-clear photos depicting a pair of mating Abdopus aculeatus octopuses. Readers can follow this relationship from the first, tentative moments of courtship through to a brood of adorable octopus eggs. Click through to TONMO for the photo essay and accompanying commentary. … [Read more...] about Happy Valentine’s Day from the Caldwell Lab
Our old buddy Charles Darwin turns 202 this Saturday and the Berkeley Natural History Museums aren't letting him forget it. In addition to a Darwin-inspired photo contest, the Essig Museum of Entomology, on behalf of the Entomology Student Organization, will be giving several tours of their new museum space on Friday before a birthday party complete with photo judging and, you guessed it, cake! To find out more about how people across the world are celebrating Darwin Day, check out the … [Read more...] about Happy Birthday, Darwin!
Yes! And that's not all! Construction of the new fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel on Highway 24 is cutting through fossiliferous rocks in the East Bay Hills deposited some nine to ten million years ago. Rocks of this age have produced fossils of mastodons, several kinds of horses and camels, and carnivores including a hyena-like dog and a saber-tooth cat – so those involved in the drilling process are keeping an eye out for any such finds. To illustrate what has been found in earlier … [Read more...] about Mastodons in the Caldecott?
We are pleased to announce the receipt of a grant of $236,200 from the Mellon Foundation to catalog our archives The funds are administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) through their "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives: Building a New Research Environment" program. In recognition that "libraries, archives, and cultural institutions hold millions of items that have never been adequately described," the CLIR awards grants in order to support … [Read more...] about UCMP awarded three-year grant to catalog our archives
The news is finally out! Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science have won the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) award. The prize honors websites that encourage innovation and excellence in science education. We are proud to have been selected from among hundreds of sites to receive this prestigious award — and we are glad to be able to finally let everyone know about it! We’ve been trying to keep it a secret for almost a year now ... Check out our essay … [Read more...] about UCMP websites win a Science Magazine education award
Insect-induced Plant Galls of California September 18, 2011 Kathy Schick, Joyce Gross, and Diane M. Erwin UC Berkeley Co-sponsored by the Essig Museum of Entomology and the University of California Museum of Paleontology Plant galls provide a fascinating array of color and texture on most of the plants in our California landscape. Galls, growths of plant cells that are not normal plant organs, can be induced by a number of organisms. The most numerous as well as most beautiful and intriguing … [Read more...] about Upcoming workshop: Insect-induced Plant Galls of California
Since its launch in 2004, the audience of the Understanding Evolution website has continued to grow, and the site is evolving in response to the needs of that audience. The site now averages more than a million page accesses per month during the academic year, but additionally there is a large international audience that is visiting UE "sister sites." Through partnerships with educational organizations abroad, the UE site is now available in Spanish and Turkish and most recently has been … [Read more...] about UCMP’s Evo 101 in Tibetan!
Yesterday was the first ever National Fossil Day and UCMP pulled out all the stops! Come check out the new online exhibit, Fossils in our parklands: Examples of UCMP service and stewardship, featuring fossils in UCMP's collection from national and state parks in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Montana. The museum played a pivotal role in the creation of some of the featured parks and we're happy to highlight our shared histories. Additionally, the 2011 UCMP Fossil Treasures Calendar is now … [Read more...] about National Fossil Day at UCMP
On October 13, come celebrate the first ever National Fossil Day with UCMP! National Fossil Day is a nation-wide event organized by the National Park Service in partnership with American Geological Institute to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values. It falls during Earth Science Week and we here at Cal have been busily preparing for the festivities! To highlight the museum’s history of … [Read more...] about UCMP celebrates National Fossil Day!
Why would a Swedish paleobotanist go to the UCMP during a cold summer to study a collection of early Miocene plant fossils from Turkey instead of going to Turkey to enjoy a warm summer and great fieldwork? The reason - UCMP is home to a collection of fossil plants made over 40 years ago by Turkey native Dr. Baki Kasapligil (1918-1992). Born in Çankaca, Turkey, Baki was raised in Istanbul – his father was Turkish and his mother from the country of Georgia. As a young man he attended UC Berkeley … [Read more...] about In “Dr. K’s” footsteps: A glimpse of Turkey in the UCMP paleobotany collections
The shells of abundant, tiny, marine organisms known as foraminifera deform when exposed to environmental pollutants. When foraminifera die they leave behind these shells as a record of the conditions through which they lived. A team of researchers, including professor emeritus/UCMP curator Jere Lipps, reported on the usefulness of forams as environmental indicators after studying the impact of the 1978 Amoco Cadiz oil spill on the Brittany Coast. This work was presented on September 7 by … [Read more...] about Using foraminifera as environmental indicators after an oil spill
For many paleobiologists summer is that part of the year during which data is gathered in its purest form: fossils. Such summers may take you in diametrically opposite directions, though. Some bring broadly boasted outdoor adventures of fieldwork. Others, however, take you deeper and deeper into the collection labyrinths in the dark bowls of natural history museums around the globe. Despite what others may let you believe - and don’t tell anyone we told you - fieldwork is often boring, tedious … [Read more...] about Museum nomads
The Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, is soliciting applications for a tenure track position (Assistant Professor) in Paleobiology. The successful candidate will also serve as a curator in the University of California Museum of Paleontology. If you're interested, please read the complete job listing. … [Read more...] about Hiring for a faculty position in invertebrate paleobiology
We are pleased to announce the receipt of an unrestricted gift in the amount of $25,000 from The Whitman Institute to support the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) project. Being involved in COPUS has been an extraordinary experience, but it is not all that easy to explain – probably because it is so simple. It is all about connecting people and ideas and the common thread is sharing science. The idea for COPUS began in 2006 at UCMP with an NSF-funded meeting of a small … [Read more...] about $25,000 gift to support COPUS
Congratulations to Tiago Quental and Charles Marshall whose paper, Diversity dynamics: molecular phylogenies need the fossil record, was designated as the featured article in the June 21, 2010 issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution. When asked to reflect on the importance of the fossil record in our understanding of today’s biodiversity, Tiago responded: Biologists, typically overlook the fossil record when trying to explain how we got to our current biodiversity, in part because for many … [Read more...] about Quental and Marshall Feature Article
Museum visitors often ask if our fossils come in from expeditions to remote places. I tell them that some do, but many are found right here in California by local people or via construction projects. For example, our most recent addition to the collections is part of a mammoth along with some other Pleistocene-aged mammals. They were uncovered during the excavation of a storm water retention basin on the campus of Los Positas College in Livermore. Our collection’s next addition of Bay Area … [Read more...] about Fossils in our own backyard
If you study snails, you’ve got to be patient. But two UCMP graduate students, Jann Vendetti and Scott Fay, used time-lapse photography to kick slow snails into high gear. They discovered some surprising behavior in snails living today—and in snails that lived millions of years in the past. The video features snails of two species: Kelletia kelletii, and Busycotypus canaliculatus (also known as Busycon canaliculatum). This group of animals is so numerous and diverse—in lifestyle, natural … [Read more...] about Paleo Video: Snail shell mystery
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Dawn E. Peterson, who succumbed to brain cancer on June 29 at the age of 61. They were truly an extraordinary one-of-a-kind character - a bipolar, transgender, self-taught ostracodologist! As a young person at the University of Minnesota, Don's mental disability surfaced and abruptly ended their first semester. The disorder led them to spiral downward into the darkest realms of life before settling down as a sculptor and marrying. Their … [Read more...] about A tribute to Dawn E. Peterson
Ask most anyone what butterflies use their wings for or what fish do with their fins and you will undoubtedly hear an answer like, "Wings are used for flying and fins are used for swimming!" Some body parts just seem so well-adapted to perform certain functions; this is why there is a paradigm in biology that "specialized" body parts correspond to specific ways in which animals go about their daily business. In other words, specialization in morphology corresponds to specialization in ecology. … [Read more...] about Even a mantis shrimp is what it eats
Find out even more about what's happening at UCMP by reading the latest online edition of our newsletter. Read about how we've secured important fossil collections by moving them from run-down off-site storage to an immaculate new facility. Find out how UCMP fared at the latest Cal Day. Get an update on the field work of paleobotanist Cindy Looy in Caprock Canyon State Park. Plus a letter from the director, awards, accolades, and more! And if you'd like to receive the UCMP newsletter by … [Read more...] about The latest UCMP newsletter is now online
Popular images of Ice Age California tend to feature enormous, extinct mammals like mammoths and saber-toothed cats. By contrast, new research published in Nature examines populations of small mammals that survived through the end of the Ice Age and how they were affected by the climate change. The research team of Jessica Blois (formerly at Stanford, now at University of Wisconsin, Madison), Elizabeth Hadly (formerly of UCMP, now at Stanford) and Jenny McGuire (UCMP) studied fossilized … [Read more...] about Global warming and declining mammal diversity: new research in Nature
This week, we welcome guest blogger Robert Boessenecker. Bobby has been interested in paleontology since he was a kid. He grew up in the Bay Area; when he found Miocene shark teeth in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he was hooked. He first got involved with the UCMP when he was a high school freshman — he visited the museum with his dad, to interview UCMP Assistant Director Mark Goodwin for a school project. Bobby is now getting a Masters' degree at Montana State University. He studies the taphonomy … [Read more...] about Marine vertebrate paleontology in Half Moon Bay
Join us at the UCMP for a fun-filled five days of evolutionary explorations with biologists and educators from the University of California. On August 2-6, UCMP and the National Center for Science Education will host a workshop for middle school, high school, and community college biology teachers and science educators. Scientists will discuss their research, covering topics like molecular evolution, developmental biology, and human evolution. Learn how you can integrate cutting-edge … [Read more...] about Think Evolution II: a summer institute for science educators
This week, we've launched a new online special exhibit — Fossil eggshell: Fragments from the past. This is the best online source of information about fossil eggshell — you can't find this info anywhere else! This special exhibit was created in collaboration with Laura E. Wilson, Karen Chin and Emily S. Bray, from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Frankie D. Jackson from Montana State University. We can learn a lot from fossil eggshell. Using scanning electron microscopy, we can examine … [Read more...] about Special exhibit: Fossil eggshell
Mounting evidence suggests we may be on the cusp of a major extinction event. Last week, UCMP Faculty Curator Tony Barnosky talked about modern extinctions on Science Friday, a weekly science talk show on NPR. Tony was joined by Barry Sinervo, Professor at UC Santa Cruz, George Amato, of the Sackler Institute and the American Museum of Natural History, and Vance Vredenburg, Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University. In a lively conversation, Tony and the guests discussed many … [Read more...] about UCMP’s Tony Barnosky on Science Friday
When archaeologists discovered a 40,000 year old pinky bone in a Siberian cave, everyone wondered who the bone belonged to. Researchers extracted DNA from the fossil and used it to construct an evolutionary tree to see how the pinky bone's owner was related to modern day humans and Neanderthals. Scientists were surprised by what they found — read more about it in this month's Evo in the news: Making sense of ancient homonin DNA. Each month, the UCMP's Understanding Evolution website features an … [Read more...] about Evo in the news: Making sense of ancient homonin DNA
Congratulations are due to Tim White, Director of the Human Evolution Research Center and Faculty Curator at the UCMP! Tim was selected by Time Magazine as one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. Tim receives this recognition for his work on human evolution. This past fall, Tim and his colleagues published numerous papers on Ardipithecus ramidus, the oldest and most complete skeleton of a human ancestor. Congratulations, Tim! … [Read more...] about Congratulations Tim White!
Evolve or Perish is a new board game – not from the makers of Monopoly, but from ETE, the Evolution of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Program, at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. UCMP Faculty Curators Cindy Looy and Ivo Duijnstee designed the game in collaboration with illustrator Hannah Bonner. Hannah is well-known for her cartoon paleobooks When Bugs Were Big and When Fish Got Feet. The three enjoy collaborating -- Hannah created the logo for Cindy's lab's web site, and she is … [Read more...] about The game of prehistoric life