Check out the official expedition patch for our citizen science sea ice research project! 

If you’re able to give $25 to support our Kickstarter campaign, you’ll receive this patch and the same as a sticker. I, for one, can’t wait to be sporting this on every piece of clothing I own. Big thanks to our talented designer Thyra Heder

Learn more about the project here: http://bit.ly/2015ArcticOcean

Today’s peek into the archives shows a dinosaur skull uncovered in 1925 during the Museum’s famed Central Asiatic Expeditions. “Dinosaur skull, Shabarahk Usu, Mongolia, 1925,” was photographed by James B. Shackelford. 

From 1921-1928, the Museum sponsored five expedition seasons exploring Mongolia, especially areas in the Gobi Desert. The expeditions were led by Roy Chapman Andrews a well-known explorer, naturalist and paleontologist. 

Images from these expeditions show the Mongol people the expedition encountered as well as photographs of landscapes, expedition camps, camel and motor caravans, religious structures and many fossil sites, including the first discovery of dinosaur egg.

See the collection of images from the Central Asiatic Expeditions

AMNH/410737

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We made it! Back in Murmansk following the first of our four icebreaker voyages to the North Pole. 

It was a great start to the season, with polar bear cubs, gorgeous skies and stunning light, a blue sky day at the North Pole, and we had the most incredible sighting of over a dozen Bowhead whales in Franz Josef Land. 

Our sea ice project is off to a fantastic start. We learned heaps from our bridge team, took hourly observations, measured melt ponds at the pole, and are really looking forward to guests participating in our next cruise. Which leaves…tonight! 

A few hours here online and then back north we go. Hope all is well wherever you are! Can’t wait to catch up as much as I can today.

Field Journal: The Business End Of A DNA Database

Mary Blair, assistant director for research and strategic planning at the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, is blogging from the field during this summer’s expedition to Vietnam. Read about her 2013 expedition here.

I watched it fall from the tree with anticipation… and with glee saw it make a satisfying splat on the ground. It was loris poop, and it was filled with priceless primate DNA.

Ok, I know, most people aren’t going to share my excitement for animal bowel movements. Taking your dog outside and picking up after him is a chore. But for a primatologist, a modest dropping could contain an invaluable trove of biological information.

In the past, I’ve collected hundreds of primate fecal samples for my dissertation fieldwork on squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica. Looking back, I didn’t realize how good I had it; squirrel monkeys have one of the highest metabolic rates of all primates for their body size, and they defecate several times a day. Not only are they veritable poop machines, they also travel in groups of up to 70 monkeys; that means there’s a pretty good chance that one of them is defecating at any given moment.

It’s not uncommon for primates to be cooperative with poop-collecting researchers. This red-shanked douc (below) we came across during a daytime hike made deposits right in front of our research team, as did several of his colleagues. While the assist is appreciated, we’re not focusing on red-shanked doucs during this trip.

We’re looking for lorises, and unfortunately, lorises don’t make many trips to the figurative forest ‘bathroom.’ These primates poop maybe once a day, are mostly solitary, and are nocturnal! So, we are extremely lucky to get any loris fecal samples in the wild. Every sample is precious, and collecting it feels like striking gold.

The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation team, co-led by Dr. Minh Le, a conservation genetics researcher at Vietnam National University, is attempting to amass the most comprehensive genetic sample of slow lorises in Vietnam to date. His student Giang Cao is with us in the field now to help with sampling, and has just completed her undergraduate thesis on the conservation genetics of slow lorises using the samples we have collected previously. And no, not all the samples stink.

The growing database of genetic information is extremely important. Read why on the Museum blog.

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I have amazing news! Alex and I have been approved to carry The Explorers Club Flag during our summer at the North Pole collecting Arctic Ocean sea ice data. TEC flags have been carried on hundreds of expeditions since 1918, to both Poles, to the deepest part of the ocean, to the top of Everest and even to the Moon, so we are incredibly humbled to have been given this honor by the Flag and Honors Committee and The Board of Directors.

If you’re interested, there are 36 hours left to back our Kickstarter campaign. We are thankfully fully-funded, so any new donations will go to the great work of Polar Bears International, and there are lots of sweet rewards still up for grabs like our expedition patch and stickers, photo prints, pins, postcards and more. Thank you for all of the support thus far! We’re very much ready to get started, 2 weeks until we head North.

Kickstarter: http://bit.ly/2015ArcticOcean

Project Website: http://www.polarcollective.org/