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Best-Kept Secret At Field Museum: Free, Popular Field Guides

By Justin Breen | April 17, 2017 5:17am | Updated on April 18, 2017 11:40am
 Field Guides are an extremely popular downloadable resource from Field Museum.
Field Museum Field Guides
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CHICAGO — When Field Museum botanist Robin Foster started a program in the 1990s​ to make field guides identifying plants and animals of certain regions, he expected only a handful of people to contribute.

Instead, the Field Guides initiative has become one of Field Museum's most popular programs, with 766 guides overall, including 35 that focus on plants and animals of the Chicago area.

Last year alone, the guides were downloaded nearly 200,000 times by teachers, scientists, vacationers and anyone else who wants to find out what's in their backyard, a rare forest or other worldwide locations.

"It's one of the best-kept secrets at the Field Museum," said Nigel Pitman, a Field Museum senior conservation ecologist who runs the field guides program.

Last year, 104 new guides were created, and Pitman said a new field guide has been created about once every other day this year.

Two Field Museum staffers — Tyana Wachter and Juliana Philipp — work on the project full time, Pitman said.

The guides are created by Field Museum employees but also the general public. Those can be submitted to the museum for review, editing and then possible release to the public. This year, 14-year-old Kalman Strauss became the youngest person to get a guide approved for publication with his "Common Mosses and Liverworts of Chicago Region."

"We curate the guides people have made and make sure they're high-quality," Pitman said.

Other local guides focus on "Common Sparrows of Chicago," "Common Winter Birds of Chicago," "Common Spiders of the Chicago Region" and "Common Butterflies of the Chicago Region." Many of the Chicago area guides have been downloaded more than 1,000 times in the first three months of 2017, Pitman said.

"What strikes me is how much hunger there is in the Chicago region to learn more about diversity and learn what’s in your backyard or on the lakefront or what’s flying past," Pitman said.

To find and download a guide, click here.

To create and submit your own Field Guide that may be released for public use by the Field Museum, click here.