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  • Graduate student Matthew Go aims to broaden the understanding of Filipino skeletal variation, an effort that will enhance efforts to identify human remains.

    Image of Research: Bare Witness

    Deaths from homicides, accidents, disasters or armed conflicts can result in unknown human remains that require identification before further investigation. To identify these remains, an anthropologist can piece together details about a person’s life from their bones. The accuracy of such anthropological methods depends on the diversity of available skeletal research collections, of which there are few around the world. 

  • Poetry inspired by painting

    Poet Janice Harrington wrote her poem "Domino Players, 1943" based on a painting by African-American artist Horace Pippin.

  • Fulbright grantees set out into the wilderness as part of a team-building exercise in Malaysia.

    Chasing waterfalls

    MIRI, MALAYSIA — We awake from our post-training slumber at 6:30 a.m. for an activity unlike any of the team-building exercises we have experienced so far. This is only the first week of training for the Fulbright Program here. There are nearly 100 of us on this waterfall hike, braving the rain and humidity together to swim in one of Malaysia’s hidden pools.

  • The road to Ojos del Salado is beautiful and harsh.

    BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world: Changes in plans

    We thought that the expedition was over. My husband's altitude sickness left only three of us to climb Ojos del Salado, make our way up the mountain in the thin air, find the lake, collect the biological samples and get back down safely. It wasn't feasible. Then we learned something that changed the entire expedition.

  • A farmer tosses his net into one of the ponds on the cooperative grounds.

    Learning by listening to the people who live it

    Go Behind the Scenes with postdoctoral researcher Jordan Hartman as she travels to a cooperative prawn and rice farm in Southeast Vietnam to learn about sustainability and adaptation to climate change. Hartman is a postdoctoral researcher at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the U. of I.

  • Basketball and other sports give Malaysian high school students a chance to test their language and athletic skills.

    Aiming for hoops and practicing English

    Saturday afternoons for your typical Malaysian high school student are drastically different than what they’re like in the United States. The overriding emphasis here on government exams and grades often confines these youngsters to hours of extra classes and studying, even on the weekends. One of our jobs as Fulbright English teaching assistants is to try to make learning fun by organizing special camps that promote conversational English. But as we get started, the students seem a bit wary.

  • Photo shot from overhead of a line of people walking down a circular staircase.

    'Blind Field Shuttle' brings a new perspective to campus walk

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign staff and students took part in the participatory artwork “Blind Field Shuttle” by artist Carmen Papalia, which offers participants the opportunity to explore the world without sight.

  • Acclimatization hikes are necessary before attempting to climb the 22,615-foot Ojos del Salado volcano.

    BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world: Expect the unexpected

    You may think that mountain expeditions are all about action, but in fact there's a lot more time spent sitting around. Plans may be perfect, but obstacles arise. The weather is unexpectedly cold, the ice on the lake is too thick, the snow on the mountain is melting much later in the season than normal.

  • Our faithful research boat, the Lima de Abreu I, in the harbor at Tefé. We have lived on the boat during our time on the Amazon.

    Life onboard the research boat

    Given the confining nature of our vessel, many routines that require no thought or preparation in our everyday lives become chores on the boat.

  • A group of University of Illinois students spent two weeks in June in the Greater Yellowstone area, learning through on-site experience about the politics and other issues surrounding national parks. Here's the class on its first day in Grand Teton National Park.

    Between wilderness, tourism and civilization

    We spent yesterday in Grand Teton National Park, hiking Cascade Canyon. Today we’re in Jackson, Wyoming, just south of the park and a very different setting

  • Preserving a fragile history

    I drive slowly over the hilly terrain in Fossil Basin and park near the remnants of an old campsite. In the 1950s and early 1960s, botanist Herman Becker camped here and collected fossil insects and plants from the Renova Formation’s paper shales. We are the first, since Becker, to explore this fossil bed. Our work begins where his left off.

  • A female vendor in a mahila bazaar in New Delhi stares solemnly at the camera. A young man in the background is looking at the wares of a nearby vendor.

    Building trust in a market for women vendors

    This market street, like many others in the city, bustles with activity on a cold December morning as men and women set up shops on the sidewalks for the rest of the day. But something sets this market apart from the rest. This Sunday market is a mahila bazaar, a retail zone set aside for women vendors only. 

  • Symbols of Service

    The Symbols of Service exhibit at the University of Illinois Library tells the stories behind the tattoos of student veterans.

  • Chamber singers, laughter and schnitzel with music: A few of my favorite things

    Illinois Chamber Singers got a taste of Europe this summer.

  • A trip to the veterinarian was required after a ferret made an unfortunate decision.

    From pythons and ferrets to coughing parrots: Adventures in exotic animal medicine

    Working with exotic animals in the Small Animal Clinic involves a lot of thinking on my feet. Each type of animal comes with unique needs and challenges. Parrots often have nutritional deficiencies and, like humans, can develop atherosclerosis – the result of a poor diet and too much sedentary time. (We sometimes refer to them as “perch potatoes.”) Reptiles and mammals tend to develop fungal infections on their skin. Birds, snakes and mammals need stimulation and like to explore – with sometimes tragic results.

  • BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world - DAY 1

    MENDOZA, ARGENTINA -- We arrived in Mendoza, Argentina today and tomorrow we are going on our first trek: up from 2,080 meters to 2700 meters on Mount Mihlo, outside of Mendoza. This will begin the acclimatization process for us. 

  • Carrillo-Estrada silver casting

    Interweaving technology and tradition

    The MakerBot on my desk is making sounds like waves on a beach. Back and forth, back and forth, it gradually builds up my design in layers. My work focuses on the cosmogony and mythology of Zapotecan motifs. I am especially captivated by the fretwork designs of the archaeological site of Mitla, Oaxaca in Mexico.

  • Image of the word "Goodenough" from a gravestone.

    Hunting Goodenough Days

    HUNTING GOODENOUGH DAYS aptly describes what I am doing during the isolation of 2020. These words are surnames found among the 7,000 headstones that I have photographed during my travels to cemeteries seeking new names that are parts of speech – words that I can use to create poetry for my visual books that investigate language, history and life’s events.

  • BLOG: Discovering the bones of Tam Pa Ling

    Tam Pa Ling cave sits at the top of Pa Hang Mountain, in Hua Phan Province, Laos. Every day, we climb the mountain and descend into the cave to dig. The view from outside the cave is spectacular, but its location means that the only equipment that we can use to dig through the wet clay of the cave floor is what we can carry up the mountain.

  • The Valley of Peace Archaeology project team explore an ancient Maya site in central Belize.

    Maya Rituals Unearthed

    Deep in the untamed lowlands, we search for artifacts buried under hundreds of years of sediment. We are excavating two ancient Maya sites nestled in the sacred landscape of Cara Blanca in central Belize. Both date to A.D. 800-900, when prolonged and severe droughts struck this region, disrupting the daily life of the Maya.

  • Lori Fuller's paintings will be exhibited at the Illini Union Art Gallery, April 18 - May 31, 2018. A trip to Ramsey Cascades in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park inspired her work.

    Rocks, moss and muddy tree roots

    It’s a summer day in June, and as my husband and I approach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center, I have one goal in mind: I want to see something extraordinary. At my request, the ranger at the visitor center pulls out a map, smiles and immediately points to the tallest waterfall in the area: Ramsey Cascades. Getting there will require hiking a rugged 8-mile trail that gains 2,200 feet in elevation. Our reward: a 100-foot waterfall – something you won’t find in Illinois.

  • Landowners gather in a circle at a field site.

    Preserving Illinois forests, one landowner at a time

    Go Behind the Scenes with U. of I. Extension forestry and research specialist Christopher Evans, who leads a training program for landowners who want to learn how to maintain healthy forests.

  • BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world - on the road

    IN TRANSIT – One of the reasons I felt comfortable joining this expedition was the attitude of the expedition leader, Francisco Seufferheld. He made it abundantly clear that this was to be a positive experience and that we were not to become so driven to reach the goal that we forgot to stay safe and have fun.

    It’s a good thing, too, because we will have to overcome a lot of obstacles to make it to the lake at the top of the volcano. The altitude is the most formidable challenge, but there are others.

  • Researchers can learn about the life of a river without seeing the animals that live there.

    Measuring the unseen life of a river

    It’s morning on the bayou. I’m in the Calcascieu River at the Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana, and the river is teeming with life. The bank is littered with freshwater mussel shells, no doubt a feast for a raccoon last night. Cricket frogs bounce around at my feet as if loaded with tiny coiled springs.

  • Photo of sea lions gathered on the breeding beaches of one of the Channel Islands

    Connecting a virus to cancer – in sea lions

    I distinctly remember the first day I saw the images proving our hypothesis about the connection between a herpesvirus and urogenital cancer in wild California sea lions. Our research team was the first to use a revolutionary technique to probe preserved cancerous tissue from marine mammals as we looked for signals of specific viral genes.

    And we found them: Wherever there was tumor, there also was a strong signal of multiple cancer-promoting viral genes, called oncogenes. There were no viral genes in the adjacent cancer-free tissue. This meant that the virus clearly played a role in cancer development and was not merely a bystander in the animals’ reproductive tracts.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey avian ecologist Bryan Reiley looks for rare birds on conservation lands.

    Destination: Conservation

    I’m soaking wet from head to toe after walking through a mile of head-high dew-covered grass. Finally, I make it to my destination: an overgrown field dotted with copses of shrubs next to the Spoon River in western Illinois. I take the caps off of my binoculars. I’ve got my clipboard, a new data sheet and the stopwatch app on my phone ready to go. For the next 10 minutes, I will make a note of every bird I see or hear (mostly hear), recording its species and estimating how far away from me it is.

  • Students learned about the politics and other issues surrounding the national parks through an on-site course this June in the Greater Yellowstone area. One day's "sampler" hike gave students a chance to witness several examples of unwise behavior, including these tourists hanging out on the edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

    Tourists behaving badly

    So far this year, Yellowstone has seen a record number of visitors – and what seems to be a record number of visitors disobeying the rules.

  • Blog: Expedition to the highest lake in the world: The child decides

    El Nino stops many – but not all – climbers from scaling Ojos del Salado in 2016

  • Michael Jeffords found himself in a bit of trouble while photographing musk thistle in western Illinois.

    Beautiful Musk

    One summer day, just outside of East St. Louis, I drove by a wheat field ready for harvest. The low afternoon light cast a beautiful glow, and I was struck by a lone thistle growing amidst the wheat. I stopped my university vehicle with the official state seal on the side, set up my tripod and was busy photographing. I stopped only when I heard an ominous double click to my right. I am not a hunter, but I knew the sound of the hammers being drawn back on a double-barreled shotgun.

  • Microscope image

    Tracking the traffic between our cells

    We adjust a lens, and a bright constellation swirls into view – points of colored light hung against a deep-hued backdrop. They are not stars, but extracellular vesicles: tiny packages of molecular cargo in nanosized lipid carriers, released by all cells in the body. We are launching a new project with the goal of not only visualizing EVs in living tissue, but also tracking their dynamics. We have been named 2023 Allen Distinguished Investigators by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation for this purpose.

  • Graduate student Emma Lundin sitting on a boulder with the forest behind her

    Exploring multispecies relationships by walking 'with' the forest in Sri Lanka

    Emma Lundin, a graduate student in tourism at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, discusses her research in a rainforest in Sri Lanka, exploring how to create sustainable nature-based tourist experiences by walking "with" the forest.

  • U. of I. students did some experiential learning in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks this June in a course on the politics and other issues surrounding national parks. Here the class relaxes before a campfire dinner and discussion.

    A night in grizzly country

    We spent last night in Yellowstone’s backcountry, at Grebe Lake, a lovely lake at the base of the Washburn Range. For most of the students, this was their first experience backpacking: carrying a tent, sleeping bag and food into the backcountry. They had to learn a few new skills, like how to hang food from a bear pole. Some also had to adjust emotionally to the idea of sleeping in the middle of grizzly country.

  • Graduate student Lucas Buccafusca looks for ways to improve the efficiency of wind farms. He had a key insight on a foggy day near a wind farm in central Illinois.

    Finding clarity in the fog

    My hypothesis about how to improve wind-turbine efficiency arose unexpectedly one day as I was driving to Chicago to visit my fiancée. For some reason, my GPS chose to take me off the main highway and onto country roads, and I found myself traveling through a wind farm. It was a lucky coincidence: A thick mist lay on the horizon and, thanks to the fog, I could see the turbulence fields each turbine generated in its wake.

  • Illinois State Archaeological Survey postdoctoral researcher Rebecca Barzilai maps and collects soil samples from the floor of a religious shrine in Greater Cahokia, an ancient Native American settlement on the Mississippi River in and around present-day St. Louis.

    Reading history in the soil

    “Huh.”

    Looking down at the material in the glass beaker, I’m perplexed. I’m trying to determine the ratio of silt to clay in my sample and something isn’t right. The sediments in my beaker came from the floor of a religious shrine in Cahokia, an ancient Native American metropolis that grew up in and around present-day St. Louis, 900-1,000 years ago.

  • BLOG: Expedition to the highest lake in the world - Climbing higher

    VALLECITOS, ARGENTINA - Mount Franke is a giant rock pile. Some of the rocks are attached to the mountain. Many, many others are not. The loose rocks are engaged in slow tumble down the mountainside. Hikers often help them along.

  • Hacking their way through cutting grass, researchers make their way to the last of 25 pools to be mapped and surveyed in Cara Blanca, Belize.

    Searching for an ancient Maya pilgrimage path: Fire and water

    It is our final day in the field and we are searching for the last of the ancient Maya ceremonial pools, Pool 25. Mud sucks at our boots as we wade through a jungle swamp. The sap from black poisonwood trees (Metopium brownie) burns our skin. Spike-covered trees snag us, while others swarm with ants. The grassland around this last pool should be a welcome relief.

    At the edge of the jungle, however, we are met with cutting grass, aptly named for its razor-sharp edges, rising well above our heads. The knee-deep water hides holes that catch us unaware.

  • Kinetic structures can be folded into smaller volumes for storage or transport.

    Image of Research: Kinetic structures

    As an architecture student, I came across a whole new world of kinetic structures. I learned that almost any form can be given mobility and deployed by calculating its geometry accurately and by strategically selecting the joints to allow rotation.

  • The University of Illinois Saxophone Ensemble tackles music never meant for the saxophone.

    Building an orchestra of brass

    Everything is chaos. We don’t have all our music. We don’t have a permanent rehearsal space. I’ve never had my own ensemble before. Everything is unfamiliar, and everything has come together much more last-minute than I had hoped for. But for this first-ever rehearsal of the University of Illinois Saxophone Ensemble we all share one thing – excitement.

  • Photo of the author

    Bringing an enslaved potter's story to the Met

    As we climb the mountain of stairs that leads to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and step inside, I’m struck by the scale and grandeur of what lies before me and the complexity, beauty and discourse it offers. I want to take in the entire museum, but I am most excited to see the stoneware jug that I first encountered while excavating in 2011. This jug is part of the museum’s “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina” exhibition.

  • U. of I. natural resources and environmental sciences graduate student Sara Johnson and her colleagues search for an elusive white flower in the Florida Panhandle.

    In search of ‘white birds in a nest’

    It’s summer in the Florida Panhandle, and we are either drenched in rain or covered in sweat. The mosquitoes are out in full force, and the risk of stumbling upon a venomous snake in the seepage slope and swamps is palpable. If I can look beyond the immediate discomfort, the payoff is enormous.

  • Photo of Tamar Dallal wearing a face mask and seated at a table, with a low, curving vase in the foreground and twig of red maple leaves coming from the vase.

    Vivifying ikebana: Japanese flower arranging

    Sitting at the long covered tables in the heart of Japan House, I close my eyes. All 18 of us do. We are students in the Japan House class Ikebana: The Art of Japanese Flower Arrangement. Professor Kimiko Gunji is introducing our sixth ikebana arrangement, and this is our first step. My socked feet glide on the smooth hardwood floor as I sit in silence and think. What kokoro – emotion, essence, idea – do I want to convey?

  • Phone cameras in action at the Bernie Sanders campaign event on March 12 at the University of Illinois.

    On the campaign trail: Breaking away from the pack

    Journalism professor Charles "Stretch" Ledford describes how he avoids the rules for photojournalists at presidential campaign events, getting a different angle on the people in the crowd.

  • Dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, parrots, lions and horses are buried in Le Cimitière des Chiens (the Dogs’ Cemetery) in the Parisian suburb of Asnières.

    Pet burials blur the line between human and animal rites

    A new book by anthropology professor Jane Desmond explores humans’ complex relationships with other animals.

  • Everywhere we went in Zomba District, we attracted large crowds of curious kids.

    Finding water closer to home

    It is just past noon as Zuze Dulanya, Evance Mwathunga and I climb out of the van. The shiny new handpump for Jimu Village sits where just last week a drill rig bored the hole for this much needed, much anticipated new water source. Beneath a nearby row of sweet gum trees, two long benches surround a lone, red-cushioned side chair.

    “Ha!” Zuze says. “We know who will be getting the hot seat today!”

  • Young woman sits on a fallen tree in the woods.

    Pondering a university's ecological impact

    Earth Day has one science writer pondering how much research conducted at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has direct ecological implications.

  • Photo of Tyrone Phillips standing in an empty theater and smiling and gesturing, wearing a White Sox ball cap and a black hoodie.

    Returning to Illinois theatre to direct, mentor students

    Tyrone Phillips, an Illinois theatre program alumnus and the artistic director of Chicago’s Definition Theatre, returned to direct students in a play this spring.

  • A gloved researcher holds an Eastern red bat, Lasiurus borealis.

    Catching bats for conservation

    The sun just dipped below the horizon and the warm early spring air mixes with the stone-chilled currents flowing out of the mine entrances. The nets are all hung and now we are just waiting for the bats to show up. This is my first mist-netting trip, but I have been warned this will not be a typical experience.

  • Two male turkeys tussle, oblivious of the photographer capturing their dance.

    Turkey tango

    During one late October visit to the Mermet Lake Conservation Area in southern Illinois, I noticed a shape approaching from the distance. The day was windy and wet, and my first thought was that a stray garbage can was rolling down the road. As we drove closer, the black-and-white blob resolved into a pair of yearling turkeys (called “jakes”) involved in a tussle.

  • Gloved hands hold an Indiana bat.

    In pursuit of Indiana bats

    An hour before the sun goes down, my colleagues and I arrive at our site: a human-made pond in the middle of the forest. The high-pitched croaking of Cope's gray treefrogs greets us as we get out of our truck. Surrounded by trees and full of salamanders, these ponds are an essential water resource for our forest-dependent bats. We do a brief survey of the site, then set up our mist nets around the pond’s perimeter. We’re hoping to catch our target species – the Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis.

  • The author, Juliana Soto, holds a sooty ant tanager.

    Following in the footsteps of early 20th century naturalist Elizabeth Kerr

    Trek through Colombia with graduate student Juliana Soto, who, with her all-female team of Colombian ornithologists, revisits landscapes to study and document the birds of the region. In preparing for the expedition, Soto discovered the work of naturalist Elizabeth Kerr, who in the early 20th century collected wild bird specimens in Colombia for the American Museum of Natural History.