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095

Joel Cracraft

OLogy Series
ologist
card
095

Joel Cracraft

OLogy Series
ologist

Growing up, Joel Cracraft loved reading travel and adventure books. In high school, he became interested in ornithology, the study of birds. Today he works for the American Museum of Natural History, where he loves to study birds of paradise. Joel also uses his knowledge of genetics to help endangered species, such as the Sumatran tiger.

Bird Expert Is Also Wild About Tigers
Usually, Joel Cracraft studies birds, but sometimes he researches tigers. His expertise in genetics led him to study an endangered tiger that lives on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, the Sumatran tiger. Long ago, Sumatra was connected to the mainland of Asia when sea levels were very low. But when the sea rose again, Sumatran tigers became isolated from other tigers on the mainland. By comparing the DNA of Sumatran tigers to that of other kinds of tigers -- such as Bengals and Siberians -- Joel's team discovered that Sumatran tigers are genetically unique. This information helps biologists who breed tigers in zoos, and supports Indonesia's efforts to protect the few Sumatran tigers still in the wild.

To study Sumatran tigers, Joel had to:

collect tiger fur

hunt down and tranquilize a tiger

have their genetic information mailed to him

Are you right?

Correct!

To study Sumatran tigers, Joel never had to travel to Indonesia. Instead, scientists working at many zoos mailed samples of Sumatran tiger blood to him.

Joel studies the bird of paradise
because it:

is easy to catch

has beautiful feathers

makes a wonderful pet

Are you right?

Correct!

Joel is interested in studying these birds because they have beautiful feathers, called plumage, that they use to attract mates. Like most birds, the males have the brightest and showiest feathers. The prettiest male always gets the girl!

Joel Cracraft

Biologists believe that we are in the middle of a mass extinction of living things. This extinction is mainly caused by human activity.

A few years ago, while Joel Cracraft was doing research in the rain forest of the Central African Republic, a gorilla charged toward his team.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The gorilla charged Joel's group as they entered his territory. Fortunately, nobody was hurt but the team members were pretty shaken up.

Joel Cracraft
Hometown: Wichita, KS
Position: ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History
Education: B.S., University of Oklahoma; Ph.D., Columbia University
Known for: studying birds of paradise and co-organizing the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Biodiversity

Image credits: courtesy of Joel Cracraft; Joel Cracraft: Courtesy of Joel Cracraft.