Rüdiger Bieler, Ph.D.

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Moreton Bay, Australia
Curator and Head of Invertebrates, The Field Museum

Dr. Rüdiger Bieler has been a curator of zoology and Head of The Field Museum’s Invertebrate Division since 1990. His interest in the diversity of mollusks (especially of gastropods and bivalves) was triggered by childhood shell collecting along the beaches of his native Germany and has followed him through graduate education and various subsequent research appointments into his current position.

A former chairman of The Field Museum’s Zoology Department, Dr. Bieler also held various staff and research associate positions with the Delaware Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. He is also an adjunct scientist of the Tropical Research Institute of Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory.

Dr. Bieler has served as president of both the American Malacological Society and of Unitas Malacologica, the international society of malacology. A faculty member on the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, he has taught formal courses in molluscan biology, as well as on the general topics of living diversity and evolution, and is also training Ph.D. students at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois.

Dr. Bieler’s research projects fall into two broader categories. One is the in-depth study of regional faunas to answer questions such as: “What species live in a particular area?,” “How does this change over time?,” “What are the ecological relationships?,” and “What are the conservation issues?” The other category of his research concentrates on examining major branches of the molluscan Tree of Life and investigating the evolution of the group by using a multitude of techniques—from anatomical studies and the analysis of the fossil record to DNA sequencing.

Dr. Bieler has published widely on his research, with some 70 technical articles and monographs on Mollusca that span a broad range of techniques and approaches, including comparative anatomy, ultrastructural research, and DNA sequencing. Among his works intended for wider consumption are the English-language edition of a multi-volume Handbook of Malacology (Smithsonian Institution Libraries), for which he served as lead editor, as well the more recently published books, such as Pearls: A Natural History (with Neil Landman, Paula Mikkelsen, and Ben Bronson, 2001; Harry N. Abrams, Inc.) and Seashells of Southern Florida: Bivalves (with Paula Mikkelsen, 2007; Princeton University Press), for which he also produced most of the original color photography. 

All of Dr. Bieler’s projects involve the study of specimens—usually a combination of material already in The Field Museum’s immense collections and new specimens acquired from targeted fieldwork. He has conducted fieldwork and led research expeditions around the world. And his favorite tool? Scuba gear. Dr. Bieler’s interest in understanding the structure of the Tree of Life led to spearheading the current NSF-funded Bivalve Tree of Life project (BivAToL) and the organization of the Moreton Bay expedition to observe and collect specimens representing many different bivalve groups, part of the mollusk phylum.

To learn more about these efforts, take a look at the BivAToL website. Or, to learn more about Dr. Bieler’s work and publications, check out his Scientist’s Profile at The Field Museum.