Biodiversity Institute News

Krishtalka to Lead GBIF International Team Dedicated to Digitizing Collections
March 15, 2015
cleared and stained fishBiodiversity Institute director Leonard Krishtalka has been named chair of a team of international experts who are charged with accelerating the discovery of and access to information about the world’s undigitized specimen collections. Convened by GBIF (the Global Biodiversity Information Facility), the task force on accelerating the discovery of bio-collections data will start by defining the essential information needed about various types of collections. This ‘metadata’ will describe the contents of each collection and help data holders to assess and prioritize their digitization activities. The task force, which includes members from the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Benin, France and Japan, will develop a strategy and an action plan through consultations with experts from other institutions, digitization initiatives and projects as well as potential funders. It also expects to share guidance on mobilizing metadata while documenting successful business models.​


NSF Grants CAREER Award to Andrew Short
Thursday, March 5, 2015
The National Science Foundation has awarded entomology curator Andrew Short a grant of $700,000 for his proposal “CAREER: Teaching Modern Biodiversity Science from Fieldwork to Phylogeny: Diversity, Systematics, & Evolution of Ecologically Promiscuous Aquatic Beetles.” The grant includes resources for undergraduate and graduate student opportunities, including fieldwork in Suriname and Guyana...

Amid the Chaos of Libya, newly unearthed fossils give clues to our own evolution
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Libya hasn’t been terribly hospitable for scientific research lately. Since the 2011 toppling of Muammar Gaddafi, fighters tied to various tribes, regions and religious factions have sewn chaos across that nation. Most recently, ISIS militants in Libya committed mass beheadings that triggered retaliatory bombings by neighboring Egypt.

In spite of this turmoil, Christopher Beard, Distinguished Foundation Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and a team including fellow scientists from KU’s Biodiversity Institute have just published a discovery of mammal fossils uncovered in the Zallah Oasis in the Sirt Basin of central Libya. The fossils date back to the early Oligocene, between about 30 and 31 million years ago...

NSF Funds Proposal for Research on Mesozoic Ray-Finned Fishes
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Graduate student Sarah Gibson's DDIG Proposal, "DISSERTATION RESEARCH: The Evolution of Specialized Teeth and Jaws in Early Mesozoic Ray-Finned Fishes and Their Impact on Widespread Niche Differentiation,” has been funded by the National Science Foundation. The PI for the grant is Hans-Peter Schultze, and co-PIs are Sarah Gibson and Paul Selden.

Student tracks puzzling disease that attacks from soil, thorns
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mycetoma, a mysterious illness largely unknown in developed nations, has wreaked havoc on the health of farmers, herdsmen, children and others in close contact with the land in tropical and subtropical regions of our planet. It’s thought the disease is contracted by coming into contact with a microorganism that lives in the soil or on a thorn from an Acacia tree.

“Two forms of mycetoma are recognized — actinomycetoma caused by a group of filamentous bacteria, and eumycetoma caused by any of 30–50 species of hyaline and pigmented fungi,” said Abdallah Samy, a Fulbright scholar and doctoral student at the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute.

Recently, for his research comparing known cases of mycetoma with Acacia tree distribution in the Sudan, using a technique dubbed “ecological niche modelling,” Samy won the Young Investigator Award at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and he met billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates in the process…


Miao Honored For Authoring Works on Darwin for Chinese Audiences
Friday, February 13, 2015
Desui Miao, collection manager for vertebrate paleontology, has been keeping busy with translations of Darwin’s works and been honored for his contributions. 

His Chinese translation based on the 2nd edition of the Origin was selected by the Darwin scholars and readers in China as one of 108 "all-time must-read books.”  Also, "The illustrated edition of the Origin for young readers", a book he adopted from Darwin's original and illustrated by a well-known Chinese artist and published in early 2014, has been selected by 8 major Chinese newspapers at the turn of the year as one of the "best books of 2014 in China."

KU Paleobotany Team Departs for Antarctic Research Expedition
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Although most people think of Antarctica as a barren, cold environment, 200 million years ago it was a lush forest – a forest that now permineralized can yield clues to the climate change of the past, and how plants today may react to current climate change as well.

An international research team headed by KU scientists will head to Antarctica this week as part of a project aimed at understanding floral changes during the Jurassic in the Transantarctic Mountains of Antarctica. The group, departing on Tuesday, Nov. 11, will be on the ground for about one month and plans to blog and post to social media about the experience. The public is invited to follow the team’s work here.

As part of this research, the group will examine the Early Jurassic fossil flora and the corresponding paleoenvironments from southern Victoria Land using a combination of geology, geochemistry and paleobotany.