I just returned from the meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, an every-forth year affair that brings together scientists from around the globe under the common umbrella of social evolution. This year the venue was Copenhagen, Denmark, with over 700 participants.
Swiss myrmecologist and pioneer cybertaxonomist, Donat Agosti digitizes a drawer from Auguste Forel ant collection at Geneva.
I want to call your attention to a new blog written by Kurt Pickett, a colleague and close friend of mine. Kurt and I meet at the American Museum of Natural History a few years back. He was a postdoc and I a grad student, both working with James M. Carpenter.
The blog, Apoica, is named after the genus of rare nocturnal paper-wasps (Vespidae) he studied during his Ph.D. at Ohio State University. Kurt is currently an assistant professor at the University of Vermont where he continues his research on phylogenetics and the evolution of social behavior in the paper-wasp family. We are actively collaborating on a project involving ants (of course), combining molecular and morphological data for phylogenetic analysis.
In his blog Kurt writes not about his discoveries on wasp behavior, but about another major discovery he came upon by the end of his postdoc years: he has lymphoma. He recently underwent a bone marrow transplant, the ultimate treatment for his kind of cancer. He blogs about the up and downs of his recovery with the eye of the excellent scientist he is. Kurt has a great sense of humor, but don’t expect his posts to be anything but rather dark in tone.
Télé-Québec, Canada, aired on March 23 a small documentary of the ant research done by the laboratory of Ehab Abouheif, from McGill University. Abouheif lab looks at ant evolution from a still unusual developmental perspective.
It is worth watching, even thought I can’t embed it here, so you will have to watch it on their site (together with the advertisements, of course). And, if you don’t speak French, don’t worry, you’re not alone…
It was at the XIV international meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects in 2002 that the “gang of four” decided to join forces to reconstruct the phylogenetic history of ants using molecular data. Four years later Brady et al. 2006 was published.
My colleague Corrie S. Moreau, Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, got interviewed by ScienceWatch.com in occasion of her highly cited paper in Science published back in 2006.
I previously wrote about a beautiful insect cabinet currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History thought to belong to naturalists Alfred Russell Wallace. I also noted that George Beccaloni, from the the Natural History Museum in London, holds that the cabinet may not be Wallace’s on account of some pieces of evidence, including the differences in shape between the labels of the AMNH cabinet and that of known Wallace’s specimens at the NHM.
Now Beccaloni provides further evidence to back his opinion in the form of a letter written by Wallace to Walter Bates in 1846. Read for yourself and decide.
Oh, and a happy new year to all the readers of this blog!
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has currently on display a cabinet with a collection of specimens thought to belong to Alfred Russell Wallace, the great Victorian naturalist considered to be the father of biogeography and co-discover of natural selection. The cabinet currently belongs to a private owner who purchased it from an antique dealer in Arlington, Va. in 1979.
The New York Times has a piece with the story of this find that explains the cabinet’s importance: prior to this discovery, it was thought that the only existing Wallace collection consisted of the fewer specimens housed at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. › Continue reading
Here is a hidden treasure in the web.
Robert E. Snodgrass was an American entomologist who published extensively on arthropod anatomy and evolution during the first half of the twentieth century. He was as knowledgeable about arthropod morphology as he was a superb artist– you can see some of his illustrations decorating the banner of this blog. His name is synonymous with insect morphology: his 1935 textbook on the subject (reedited by Cornell University Press in 1993) is still the main reference for any modern course in entomology.
Snodgrass was a lecturer in the University of Maryland for most of his academic life. In 1960, two years before his death, he gave a series of three lectures that were recorded in audio tape. Fortunately for us Jeffrey W. Shultz, professor of entomology at Maryland, has digitized and made these lectures available through a nicely designed page called The Snodgrass Tapes. › Continue reading
He represented all things genetic within the study of ants an other social insects. Over the years, countless of students will pass through his laboratory in way of becoming great researchers and mentors themselves.
When in 2006 the International Union for the Study of Social Insects instituted the Hamilton Award, in recognition of outstanding contribution to the field by senior scientists, Ross Crozier became its first recipient.
I had meet Prof. Crozier just briefly at scientific meetings before, but I was very lucky to sit down with him and a handful of other myrmecologists over lunch one day during a short visit he made to Harvard in 2008.
James Cook University, his academic home, has published the following obituary:
One of Australia’s leading biological scientists Professor Ross Crozier has died in Townsville. He was world renowned for his contributions to evolutionary theory, behavioural biology and to genetics.
An Australian Research Council Professorial fellow based at James Cook University, Professor Crozier was a world leader in the study of social insects.
Alex Wild has written some notes about Crozier and his visit to the Field Museum in Chicago the previous week.
- Tom Waits