40 Influential Research Projects

ROM Magazine, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

40 Influential Research Projects


For 40 years, ROM magazine has been keeping readers up to date on the latest scientific breakthroughs and most current findings in archaeology and art history by ROM researchers. In celebration of the magazine's 40th anniversary, we look at 40 of the Museum's influential projects. Take a look at the front foldout featuring covers from 1968 to 2008 to see how the magazine has changed across time.

* Burgess Shale

Canada's Burgess Shale is famous for its exceptional preservation of some of the oldest animals on Earth. ROM curator Desmond Collins has been conducting fieldwork there since 1975. The ROM's unique collection is currently the basis for several new research programs being developed by ROM paleobiologist Jean-Bernard Caron and colleagues. See "Star-Status Artifacts" on page 35.

* Elite Glazed Ceramics of the Islamic World

Using scientific analysis to determine how and where ceramics were manufactured, along with standard archaeological approaches to determine dating, ROM researcher Robert Mason is aiming to understand the high-technology glazed ceramics of the Middle East made between c. 650 and 1700 CE.

* American Pleistocene Mammal Research

During the years 1958-1961, ROM paleontologist Gordon Edmund excavated more than 20,000 Pleistocene fossil mammal specimens from Peru and Ecuador. Since then, Gord and subsequent ROM researchers, most recently Kevin Seymour, have continued to work on describing this unparalleled collection, the world's largest from the region.

* Amphibians and Reptiles of Guyana

Since 1990, ROM staff have collected amphibians and reptiles from Guyana. The most important are from the high-elevation cloud forest habitats of Mount Ayanganna and Mount Wokomung, which house a huge diversity of species. Guyanese government agencies and the Smithsonian Biodiversity of Guyana Program have named them the highest priority for study.

* Mammals of Guyana

In 1961, ROM mammalogist Randolph Peterson began a 15-year research program in Guyana--resulting in the most comprehensive mammal collection from this country at any institution. Burton Lim and Mark Engstrom re-initiated fieldwork in 1990 focusing on mammalian systematics and evolution. This project has more than doubled the known mammal biodiversity in Guyana.

* Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds

Most migratory bird populations are in serious decline. For more than 15 years, ROM ornithologist Allan Baker has studied one shorebird, the red knot, to understand its migratory patterns and ecology, and to determine the causes for its declining numbers. Some successful conservation initiatives have already resulted from this work.

* Amphibians and Reptiles in Southeast Asia

In 1994, ROM herpetologist Bob Murphy teamed up with Russian colleagues to investigate the diversity of amphibians and reptiles in Vietnam, the first Western expeditions into previously unexplored regions. Their efforts have drastically increased the numbers of amphibians and reptiles known from Vietnam, many of them new to science.

* Bat Research at the ROM

ROM curator Randolph Peterson began collecting bats in Guyana and Trinidad in 1961, and since then the ROM has amassed 59,000 bats from 34 countries. ROM researchers have published more than 100 papers on bats, their ecology, taxonomy, physiology, behaviour, and distribution, and described 10 new species, including a 55-million-year-old fossil bat.

* DNA Barcoding of ROM Collections

The ROM is part of a research network of biodiversity scientists, genomists, technologists, and ethicists--the Canadian Barcode of Life Network--whose goal is to assemble a library of species-unique DNA sequences or "barcodes." These will enable biologists, rapidly and inexpensively, to identify organisms, massively advancing their capacity to monitor, know, and manage biodiversity. …

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