Fourth-year Richard Gilder Graduate School (RGGS) doctoral student Shaena Montanari uses her geology training and subtle clues left by dinosaurs to reconstruct the environment of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert as it was 70 million years ago. Based on an innovative approach that takes cues from the geochemistry of dinosaur eggshells, Montanari’s latest findings—that late in the Mesozoic “age of the dinosaurs” the Gobi desert was a much wetter and warmer place than today—were presented this week at a poster session of the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco.
For the past five years, Museum scientists, in collaboration with the Panthera Foundation, a nonproﬁt organization dedicated to protecting big cats in the wild, have been tracking tigers, lions, jaguars, and snow leopards through DNA in scat, or fecal specimens, gathered in the ﬁeld. Now, through a generous grant from the Leslie and Daniel Ziff Foundation, the Global Felid Conservation Genetics Program can accelerate the pace of this important work by expanding the program’s laboratory component.
“We’re very excited about it,” says George Amato, director of the Museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and the Center for Conservation Genetics, which is responsible for sequencing the big cats’ DNA and analyzing the results. “In terms of scale, it is now the largest project of its kind in the world.”
What if materials in nature could be harnessed to design smarter technologies? Join MIT Professor Angela Belcher at the December 7 SciCafe, Material World: How Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Could Save the Planet, to learn how she creates more efficient technologies in clean energy, electronics, and medical research using materials from nature. Applying biology, engineering, nanotechnology, and materials science to her work, Dr. Belcher has created virus-enabled batteries and more efficient solar cells. Belcher will bring examples of her research to Wednesday’s event, including the first biological battery her team produced as well as a shell of an abalone, a relative of the oyster and the inspiration for many of her projects.
Over the last few months, an expert team of conservators and Museum artists has led the restoration of the dioramas of the Hall of North American Mammals, which first opened in 1942 and has offered generations of Museum visitors spectacular views of North America’s natural heritage. This is the first in a series of inside looks at the comprehensive restoration and conservation process, which will be completed by fall of 2012.