Created: 1/23/2015 Updated: 8/8/2016
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! The Notebaert is an awesome and beautiful place to go and reconnect with nature during these colder months
Join us for some reptile fun!
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 members of the CHS and visitors to the museum. The next meeting will be on Sunday, February 8th. Our speaker will be Vince Sourile from Eden's Bane Exotics and he will be discussing Ball Pythons, morphs and care. We are looking forward to the warmer weather and would like to plan a few field trips this year and lots of other fun stuff.
You can learn more about the CJHS here.
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.
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. We are also gearing up for next year’s ReptileFest, the nation’s largest educational herpetological event. ReptileFest 2015 will be on April 11 and 12, from 10am to 5pm in the University of Illinois Phys Ed building. Mark your calendars, this will be the 22nd year of this wonderful show.
Hope to see you there!
Rich LamszusView Comments
Chicago Junior Herp Society
Chicago Herpetological Society
Created: 1/22/2015 Updated: 8/8/2016
Last week we celebrated our 158th birthday, this week we’re recognizing one of the founder who made it all possible. Dr. Edmund Andrews died on this day in 1904. Andrews was born in Vermont and expressed interest in botany and geology from an early age. Although he soon turned his professional focus to medicine, this love remained with him. He studied medicine at the University of Michigan, and became demonstrator of anatomy and professor of comparative anatomy. He became a published author and had his essays featured in medical journals. It was this work that then brought him to settle in Chicago.
Although he was a practicing surgeon, during his off-hours he returned to his love of nature. It was in his offices that the original members of what was to later become the Chicago Academy of Sciences began to meet. When the Academy was formalized in 1857, Andrews was named Curator of the Academy. By the time Robert Kennicott took over the position in 1863, Andrews had co-founded the Chicago Medical College, and had been appointed Surgeon in Chief of Camp Douglas. Although his medical work kept him occupied professionally, he still remained involved with the Academy. His interest in geology and glacial history led him to publish some of his findings in the Transactions of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and he served as the President of the Board of Trustees for a number of terms and through some of its toughest years.
While we recognized and remember Dr. Edmund Andrews for his work with the Academy, he truly made a name for himself as a pioneering surgeon. To learn more about his contributions to the world of medicine, check out the links below.View Comments
Created: 1/16/2015 Updated: 8/8/2016
And the snow lies drifted white
In the bower of our delight
Where the beech threw gracious shade
On the cheek of boy and maid:
And the bitter blasts make roar
Through the fleshless sycamore
~ Willa Cather
It’s cold. Like, Siberia cold. I am a person who values his time outdoors, but to heck with this. Blankets, hot beverages, and good books – these shall be the apparatus of my forbearance, until the blessed day arrives when I can stand outside for more than ten minutes without losing feeling in my extremities.
Winter is hard on a horticulturist (as I have lamented before). But thanks to a the accidental genius of a Victorian-era Englishman named Nathaniel BagshawWard, and the insatiable social ambitions of the ascendant middle class in his milieu, we have houseplants upon which to turn our phytophilic attentions when snowflakes fly.
With enough space and the proper equipment, virtually any plant can be grown indoors. However, there are a few dozen hardy species that have become archetypal denizens of shopping malls, lobbies, and hotel atriums, as well as residential windowsills. You may not know their names, but you know them: aglaonemas, marantas, spathiphyllums, crotons…
Counter to their colloquial reputation, some familiar houseplants have secret talents and unique life stories that are worth investigating…under a Snuggie, with a laptop warming your thighs. So grab another mug of chai, and let’s explore a couple, shall we?
We’ll begin with Ficus benjamina, known as Benjamin’s fig or, more simply, the ficus tree. Despite its deserved reputation as a finicky leaf-dropper, ficus trees frequently adorn large interior spaces. This is due to their tolerance of low light and dry air, and because their fine texture and broad branching structure fit our temperate-zone expectations of what a tree should look like. Native to Southeast Asia, the ficus is a close relative of strangler figs and banyans, and like those plants, will often send down aerial roots from its branches. As with all plants in its genus (including the edible fig, Ficus carica), the Benjamin fig relies on a symbiotic relationship with a particular species of tiny wasp in order to produce seeds.
Botanically speaking, a fig is not an individual fruit, but rather a receptacle that encloses multiple small fruits (the fleshy bits inside). These fruits started off as hidden flowers, pollinated when the aforementioned wasp entered the fig through a tiny hole in the tip. The wasp lays eggs inside, thus protecting them from predators and providing a food source for the resultant larvae. In return, the wasp performs necessary pollination duties. In a fascinating example of coevolution, nearly all of the 800 or so species of Ficus are pollinated by different, unique species of wasps.
Surely one of the best scientifically-named plants of all time, Monstera deliciosa, aka Mexican breadfruit or Swiss cheese plant, is indeed a monster of a plant. In its native Central American climes, its stout, vining stems can climb 60 feet or more into the trees. Edible, pineapple-like fruits are sparsely produced beneath its enormous, leathery leaves.
Grown indoors, the “delicious monster” typically stays much smaller, and may lack the bizarre fenestration that makes this plant a favorite in humid conservatories. No one really knows the wherefores of the leaves’ “Swiss cheese” stylings, but there are some theories out there.
As with several other plants in its family, Monstera can actually generate its own heat. At certain blooming stages, its inflorescences (flower clusters) can be as much as 5°C hotter than the surrounding air. This phenomenon, known as thermogenesis, likely aids the dispersal of chemical signals that attract pollinators.
Now lets take a look the deceptively euro-sounding dieffenbachia. A relative of the Mostera, the dieffenbachia or dumbcane hails from similar, neo-tropical environs. Its speckled leaves have been bred and selected for many distinct and interesting patterns, which has led, along with its remarkable shade tolerance and overall ease of culture, to the Dieffenbachia’s predominance as a parochial favorite.
But dumbcane is not without its dark side. In common with its familial brethren, its cells contain tiny, sharp crystals of calcium oxylate that can be extremely irritating to the skin, eyes, mouth, and esophagus. The name dumbcane derives from the tendency of the tongue to swell if the plant is chewed, causing temporary mutism. In the West Indies, exceedingly awful human beings once took advantage of this phenomenon to punish their rebellious slaves.
Having experienced the harrowing topical effects of the dieffenbachia on more occasions than I like to admit (note to self: GLOVES!), I can attest that potency varies widely among varieties, and tends to be greatest in the stems and roots of large specimens. Fortunately the swelling, numbness, and prickly aches brought on by contact with the plant’s juices rarely last more than a day. And there is a rather unforgettable odor to the cut stems of older plants that serves as a helpful reminder not to rub an eye or bite a fingernail until one has thoroughly washed up.
This odor comes from compounds closely related to asparagusic acid, which is the same stuff that makes your pee smell funny (giggle) when you eat asparagus. Speaking of which, is there any vegetable that induces thoughts of springtime as reliably as fresh asparagus? I can see them now -- pale stems pushing their way out of the warming soil, ready to drink in the nourishing rays of waxing daylight…I can hear a robin tweeting happily among bursting buds…And the flowers! Daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia!
Crap. Have you seen the weather forecast?
Created: 1/14/2015 Updated: 8/8/2016
We are having a party this week! The Chicago Academy of Sciences was founded on January 13, 1857 and was the first science museum in Chicago. Our collections served as the nucleus for the organization of our institution and preserve our natural heritage. These specimens, artifacts, and associated documents are used as primary source material for environmental studies and historical research. To celebrate our birthday, we’ve brought out specimens from the museum collections that aren’t typically on display.
One question we are often asked is, “What is the oldest specimen in our collection?” The oldest specimen in our museum collection, in terms of when it was collected, are two Merlins collected in the Rocky Mountains in 1834 by J.R. Townsend. That's right -- bird specimens that are 182 years old! One of these is on display.
Falco columbarius richardsonii
Collected by J.R. Townsend, July 9, 1834
CAS ORN 1848 (old 11426)
Fossils, though, have the award for oldest in terms of when they were created! This "Tully Monster" fossil is from the Mazon Creek area, right here in Illinois, and is approximately 307 million years old.
Mazon Creek Area, Will Co., Illinois
Francis Creek Shale (Carboniferous, 307 MYA)
Donated by Earth Science Club of Illinois, 2013
The Academy’s museum collection includes spectacular geology specimens from the Midwest and locations across North America. These specimens help illustrate how rocks and minerals are used in our society.
No other data
Gilsonite (“natural Asphalt”)
Uintahite variety Asphaltum
Frisco County, Utah
Received from George H. Laflin
CAS GEO 1493
Gold and Silver Ore
Leadville, Lake Co., Colorado
No other data
From geysers at Yellowstone Park, Wyoming
Received from Mrs. E.E. Atwater, c1872
CAS GEO 1
Received from Frank C. Baker, c1920
CAS GEO 515
Rivers in Illinois have changed considerably over the last 200 years and pollution has severely impacted many native species of clams, mussels, and snails. Introduced species, such as Quagga and Zebra mussels, are making an appearance in our waters as well.
Glenwood Park, Fox River, Illinois
Collected by Academy, Sept. 7, 1908
CAS MAL 22356
Collected by W.W. Calkins, c1890
CAS MAL 1803
London Docks, England
CAS MAL 12780
Fullerton Beach, Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois
Collected by Academy, July 9, 2013
This plant specimen from our botanic collection was collected by Floyd Swink, a prominent botanist who co-authored "Plants of the Chicago Region." In 2013, Gerould Wilhelm, Swink's coauthor, visited our collections facility to review some of our plant specimens and annotated several, including this one. These “conversations” left by researchers who utilize our collection adds to the scientific knowledge of those specimens.
Antennaria parlinii parlinii
Palos Park, Cook Co., Illinois
Collected by Floyd A. Swink, May 17, 1952
Annotated by Gerould Wilhelm in 2013
CAS BOT 3775.1
Other specimens from our ornithology collection are also on display.
Blue Jay ♂
Mount Forest, Cook Co., Illinois
Collected by B.T. Gault, January 9, 1890
CAS ORN 15859
Peregrine Falcon ♂
Falco peregrines tundrius
Collinson Point, Alaska
Collected by Chas. D. Brower, July 1934
CAS ORN 7862
Peregrine Falcon ♂
No other data
Steve Sullivan, our Curator of Urban Ecology, studies squirrels and manages Project Squirrel. Locally in the Chicago area, we primarily have Grey and Fox squirrels. This species is found in the Southwest.
Abert’s Squirrel ♂
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Collected by a Park Ranger, June 1965
CAS MAM 4519
It is important to document species even if they’re not flashy or colorful. This one drawer of moths from our entomology collection contains species in the same subfamily, Catocalinae, that were found from across North America and span almost 80 years!
Collected from: AZ, CA, FL, IA, IL, IN,
LA, MO, NM, NY, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT
Collected between 1898 to 1976
Our herpetology collection, which includes amphibians and reptiles, is largely preserved in an ethyl alcohol solution. These salamanders were collected in Indiana.View Comments
Northern Slimy Salamander
Turkey Run, Parke Co., Indiana
Collected by W.L. Necker, May 30, 1932
CAS HERP 1472-1479
Our display is located in the Beecher Lab in Wilderness Walk hall. Come visit the Nature Museum, see these marvelous specimens in person, and help us celebrate our natural heritage!