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  • Photo of social work professor Will Schneider standing with arms crossed in front of the logo at the School of Social Work

    Will Schneider: My path to Illinois

    Social work professor Will Schneider examines trends in child maltreatment and suggests that interventions for child neglect overlook the most likely cause.

  • U. of I. graduate student Christine Parker studies wild turkeys. Catching them is a challenge. The hood on the bird’s head calms it while the researchers work.

    Where the wild turkeys aren’t

    It is cold and windy, and we have been out for hours. We are driving to our trap site after lunch when we suddenly stop, and at least a dozen wild turkeys walk in front of our truck. I shout to my techs, “Get out of the truck, herd them to the net, but be careful not to chase them!”

  • The team pauses for a moment in the Rio Valles, one of several collecting sites in San Luis Potosi.

    Weightless in San Luis Potosi

    OUTSIDE VALLES, MEXICO — When we first arrived at this stream, I knew we were in a special location. The clear, turquoise blue water rivals that of any picture from a Caribbean tour magazine. When I put my snorkeled face in the water, I can actually see mussels in the streambed below, something that doesn’t happen very often in Illinois streams. Collecting the mussels, however, is proving difficult.

  • Veterinary medicine students perform general wellness checks on the animals at Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria County. Zoological resident Lauren Kane helps guide the students as they examine Molly, an American black bear.

    Weighing bears, corralling otters and healing wild beasts

    How do you weigh a fully grown American black bear? These veterinary medicine students know the answer, and it's a bit more complicated than just saying, "very carefully."

  • Sunrise breaks through the mist on the banks of the Solimões River, better known as the Amazon.

    Unlocking the secrets of the Amazon River

    Next week, we’ll be in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, near the frontier town of Tefé, to conduct research on the river.

  • Scene of wetland with low-growing vegetation and flowers in the foreground, yellowing grasses beyoond that and a line of immature trees in the distance.

    Unearthing a fossorial snake

    To the naked eye, it might appear as though I’m standing in a prairie oasis. Pockets of bright yellow goldenrod bring vibrancy to the sea of towering grasses. There’s not a soul in sight to spoil the serenity. A lone red-tailed hawk scouring the landscape from the top of a dead oak tree is my only companion. It’s not hard to imagine the entire region looking like this prior to European settlement, expanding miles and miles without interruption. I made the two-hour drive from Champaign to this tiny, fragmented prairie to search for an uncommon snake.

  • 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.

  • Sleep-deprived for science: Graduate student Ananya Sen rests briefly on the office couch.

    Tracking an invisible world

    It’s 2 a.m. on a cold winter night. My timer beeps loudly, waking me up for yet another measurement. It’s been a long day; I’ve been tracking bacterial growth every two hours for the past 18 hours. I stumble off the couch that has served as a bed for countless graduate students before me. I go to my lab bench, pick up the test tubes that I need for my samples, and groggily set off to the incubation room.

  • In 2009, a fast-moving windstorm known as a derecho swept through this site, near Fountain Bluff in Illinois.

    Tracking a forest’s recovery one year after storm

    We walk out of the typical southern Illinois shady forest into a crazy jumble of fallen trees, thorny vines and tangled shrubs. It’s almost 100 degrees, the humidity is over 85 percent and all of the shade has disappeared. My lab mate and her undergraduate technician volunteered to work with me today, and I wonder what I’ve gotten them into.

  • 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.

  • Titan has staying power.

    Titan the survivor

    The first time I see Titan, a pit bull with mesothelioma in his chest, I give his owners “the talk.” The dog is breathing hard and fast because of the buildup of cancerous fluid around his lungs. Dogs develop some cancers that are very similar to human cancers. This is one that we don’t see very often and for which we don’t have really good treatment options, just like in humans. We eventually learn, however, that Titan is unique.

  • The weavers gather in a community center in Tambo Perccaro.

    The weavers of Tambo Perccaro

    About 70 people are waiting for us in the courtyard of the community center when we arrive. They are llama herders, farmers and weavers. Many have walked for miles to be here, some with small children on their backs. We’re not sure what the community center staff told this crowd to get them to show up, but we’re here, and we’ve got something useful to share.

  • King Li, dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, surprised Elizabeth Woodburn, then a bioengineering student at Illlinois, with her acceptance package.

    The journey to becoming a physician-innovator

    A member of the inaugural class recounts her application and surprise acceptance to the Carle Illinois College of Medicine

  • The fossils of Madison County (Montana)

    Standing at the foot of the mountains, I look to the east. It’s still early and I have hiked up here alone to gather my thoughts. I can see why they call this “Big Sky Country.” The tree-covered foothills of the mountains behind me give way to rolling scrubland. Stunted trees mark the edges of dry creek beds cut into the soft rocks below. The sun sparkles on the surface of a reservoir in the valley several miles away, and beyond that, another mountain range rises to meet the sky. This is southwest Montana and I’m here to hunt.

  • Joseph Spencer, center, with undergraduate student Joe Griffin, left, and U. of I. alumnus Brody Dunn, right, work to clear western corn rootworm beetle traps from a muddy cornfield.

    The Cornfield Death March

    My students and I are standing at the edge of a 73-acre cornfield. Covered in mud and sweat, we are dreading the task ahead. We are hunting the western corn rootworm, a menace to corn growers everywhere. 

  • Steam from an Old Faithful eruption is more spectacular in winter because of the direct contact between the steam and the cold air. There is a silhouette of a bison cow absorbing the heat from the morning sun below the steam cloud.

    The art and science of Mammoth Hot Springs

    A new book by geology professor Bruce Fouke and photographer Tom Murphy brings together art and science in the study of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

  • Photo of U. of I. labor expert Teresa Cardador

    Teresa Cardador: My path to Illinois

    The concept of “meaningful work” isn’t something that’s found or discovered. It’s created over time through people and organizations with similar values to create meaning over time, said U. of I. labor expert Teresa Cardador in a presentation to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

  • Information sciences graduate student Joseph Porto searches through the scrapbook of a student who attended the university 100 years ago.

    Telling stories and touching history

    I slowly turn each page of Florence Lee’s large paper scrapbook, making sure not to wrinkle any of the items she placed inside. Its contents offer a snapshot of student life in the early 20th century at the University of Illinois: a laminated orange and blue button from a homecoming football game, a brochure from the Anti-Cigarette League of America, ribbons and tickets from Dad’s Day events and dozens of photographs of scenes around campus, including personal photographs of Florence Lee with her family and friends. All of these items were either glued or, in the case of some of the flat paper items, had their corners tucked into angled slots cut into the pages. The items that Florence Lee placed in this scrapbook come from her undergraduate years at the University of Illinois – 1917-20. This memento offers a window into that time.

  • All the tarantulas shown here once shared a single pickle jar. They were meticulously separated and relabeled, and now are in proper storage.

    Tarantulas in a pickle jar

    Storing your dead tarantulas in a gallon-sized pickle jar is not the best solution to long-term preservation. Especially when those tarantulas are toe-tagged – like corpses in a morgue. But that’s what I find this morning when I open one of the dozens of metal storage cabinets in the chilly insect collection: a pickle jar full of tarantulas.

  • Two Brood X adults of the genus Magicicada rest on a fern leaf.

    Taking a cicada road trip

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A tough semester and an even tougher year have just ended. I need a break. I’m fully vaccinated and want to escape the yearlong lockdown. And I’m an entomologist. What do I do?

    I grab my best friend, also an entomologist, and we hit the road, of course. This is the year of my people’s “Woodstock.”

     

  • Symbols of Service

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

  • Bedlam unfolds as Illinois fans celebrate a major upset victory over heavily favored Wisconsin.

    Surviving a football frenzy

    Thirty-one. That’s the number the Illinois football coaching staff writes on the white board for the players to see. Many of the fans filing into Memorial Stadium today know this number, as well. Thirty-one is the number of points by which pundits predict Illinois will lose to Wisconsin. That’s a tough number. 

    Doesn’t matter. My job as a university photographer is to tell the Illini story. There is always plenty to capture and celebrate. The weather is spectacular. It is Homecoming. Illinois has been competitive against some tough foes. I can work with that. 

  • The author discovered stink bug babies on the underside of a leaf.

    Stink bug babies

    While hiking in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, looking for unusual things to photograph, I found a hidden world of newly hatched stink bugs clustered around their empty eggshells.

  • Shelby Lawson stands in a grassy area with binoculars around her neck.

    Staging a threatening encounter at a blackbird nest

    It’s early morning, about 6 a.m. A light fog has settled over the marsh. I park my car, step out and double-check my backpack for all the necessary equipment before heading out. After a short walk on a narrow paved path, I veer into the unmarked marsh. I’m here to study how red-winged blackbirds respond to the vocalizations that signal nearby nest parasites called brown-headed cowbirds.

  • A cypress swamp near Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest, near Harrisburg, Illinois.

    Snake Road Sojourn

    SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST, Ill. — There is nothing between us but my camera lens and a half meter of thick southern Illinois air. I peer over my camera, mesmerized by his vertical pupils fixed on me, his heat-sensing pits tracking my every move. He inflates his lungs to exaggerate his already impressive girth. This meter length of muscle is coiled like a spring and poised to strike. Despite being surrounded by 15 thrilled herpetology students and a cacophony of calling tree frogs, the only sound that fills my ears is the ceaseless rattling.

  • A newborn prairie rattlesnake is found basking with a large female.

    Serpents of the Badlands

    Tchk-tchk-tchktchk

    I stop dead in my tracks. Despite the howling prairie winds, that unmistakable sound cuts through the bluster and into my ears. My eyes search the ground, scanning through the prairie grasses, yucca, scoria and prickly pear. Nothing.

  • A census of ornate box turtles will help researchers determine the turtles’ status in Illinois.

    Searching for turtles in a sea of grass

    Searching for reptiles and amphibians is often quite tedious. You have to carefully scan ahead of each step for movement before a snake gets away, or spend hours flipping over logs to find the particular salamander you are looking for. Today, we’re searching for turtles. Luckily, we have help.

  • Researchers are mapping the final three of 25 sacred pools at Cara Blanca, an ancient Maya pilgrimage site in central Belize.

    Searching for an ancient Maya pilgrimage path: The elusive pools

    CARA BLANCA, Belize — Armed with a compass, a map, a GPS device and a drone, we begin our exploratory trek through the jungle. The thick vegetation is no match for our team of eight, six of whom are quick with a machete.  Four hours after circumventing towering hardwoods and hacking our way through spidery vines, massive palm fronds and dense fern bushes, we stand at the edge of Pool 21, less than a kilometer from the road.

  • 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.

  • The 26th Meeting of the General Congress of Weights and Measures, Versailles, France.

    Saying goodbye to an old measure

    I'm video recording on three DSLR cameras today, which is the most I can handle by myself. But I don't want to miss a second of this event, because I flew to Paris the day before yesterday just to film this auditorium of international delegates. These serious-looking men and women are actually very excited. I know that because several of them have told me so. In a few minutes, they will cast their nation's vote on whether to accept the proposed redefinition of the kilogram.

  • Melting rubber stoppers threaten millions of insect and arthropod specimens in the Illinois Natural History Survey collection.

    Saving our natural heritage, one stopper at a time

    The rubber stopper is sticky in my hands. I can see it drooping into the vial, threatening the two tiny insect specimens inside, a pair of small green stoneflies, Alloperla furcula. Vial stoppers should not be sticky, and definitely should not be melting into the glass vial holding these important reference specimens. I have to save them from total annihilation.

  • Salvaging the past in an ancient Maya settlement 

    We are working in the the cleared agricultural fields near Cara Blanca Pool 7, a pre-Columbian residential area in west central Belize. Hundreds of ancient Maya structures once housed a thriving community here. Now the area is being converted into farmland, and our job is to salvage what we can before the plows sheer off this history, layer by layer.

  • Bioengineering professor and Cancer Center at Illinois director Rohit Bhargava

    Rohit Bhargava: My path to Illinois

    I grew up in Jaipur, India, a city that is well-known for its architecture. My father is an architect, and I grew up helping him, looking at plans and making blueprints. I was always interested in building things.

  • 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.

  • Researchers, including Parkland College student Kaleb Cotter, sift through materials uncovered in excavations of native mounds in Robert Allerton Park.

    Restoring a lost heritage

  • “All these native stories talk about what happens when you die: Your soul goes to the edge of the world, jumps into the Milky Way and climbs into the sky,” says Illinois State Archaeological Survey director Timothy Pauketat.

    Rediscovering a path to the Milky Way

    We’re standing on a roadside at the edge of a muddy expanse. I’m wearing rubber boots, but Tim Pauketat is going to get his feet wet. He left his waterproof boots in Indiana, but this won’t stop him from tromping out into the soggy, overgrown remains of the ancient city of Cahokia.

  • 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.

  • A limestone boulder with petroglyphs carved into it sits inside a rock shelter with a view toward the Mississippi River floodplain, below. One of the carvings is of a superhuman eye with a cross-in-circle motif at its center.

    Preserving the Past in 3D

    We lug heavy equipment up a steep ravine in the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. A local landowner leads our team of archaeologists past a small waterfall up to the top of the bluff, where two rock shelters contain a number of ancient petroglyphs.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Poetry inspired by painting

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

  • Postdoctoral researcher Mikus Abolins-Abols peers into the nest of an American robin.

    Playing a parasite for science

    It’s 5:30 a.m. in the tree farms outside Urbana, but the birds have been up for an hour already. I sip my coffee, putting on rubber boots that will be little help against the dewy, waist-high grass. A couple of brown birds sit on telephone wires above me, and I have a feeling I am being watched. These are brown-headed cowbirds, which lay their eggs in other species’ nests and then let the nest’s owners raise the offspring.

  • 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.

  • Patrick Earl Hammie

    Patrick Earl Hammie: My path to Illinois

    Patrick Earl Hammie is a professor of painting and sculpture whose work explores the body in visual culture, black experiences, cultural identity and family.

  • 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.

  • Dr. Katherine Kling and veterinary students Rita Chu and Nicole Andrews pose with Elliot, a senior rescue dog in treatment for a fractured jaw.

    One lucky dog

    The first time we see Elliot, he has a fractured jaw and a bad prognosis. He is a senior rescue dog. The family has only had him for a couple of years, but their 16-year-old daughter has given him his own tiny purple Mohawk hairdo. Clearly, he’s a keeper. The family isn’t sure how Elliot broke his jaw. They say maybe he took a spill off a table. But the dog has such severe dental disease that anything could have caused it.

  • Mitzi has a problem that isn’t easily solved.

    Mitzi and the giant hairball

    Mitzi is a longtime survivor of lymphoma. It’s been five years since her last chemotherapy treatment, but she has been vomiting and her owners are afraid the cancer is back. Her stomach feels very weird – kind of doughy, like there is a big lump of bread in there. That’s not how tumors feel; tumors are usually firm. The X-rays reveal a mass, but it looks like strange material in her stomach. We decide to go in with an endoscope.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Mapping the state budget impasse and its consequences

    With maps and infographics, the Illinois Austerity Atlas visually chronicles the impacts the state budget impasse has had on social services, higher education, youth programs and public health.