McGUIRE CENTER NEWS,
Issue 7, April 2013
A group from a childcare center tours
the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit.
A Blue Morpho feeds on fruit in the
Butterfly Rainforest exhibit.
Butterfly plant sale during ButterflyFest
“Pollinator parade” during ButterflyFest
As a young child enters the “Wall of Wings” in the
McGuire Center, her eyes fill with wonder as she
marvels at the thousands of moths and butterflies, and
a love of science is ignited. The soaring ceilings and
incredible colors are breath taking, even for long-time
visitors and volunteers. In the last nine years, as many
as 100,000 people a year have visited the Butterfly
Rainforest, while countless more have watched
researchers work in the viewing windows of the
collections and labs and enjoyed the changing exhibits
in the West Gallery.
The opening of the McGuire Center has
“dramatically changed the institution,” according to
Center for Science Learning Director Betty Dunckel.
Financially, the Butterfly Rainforest is the first exhibit
that contributes to the Museum’s operations year
round. The McGuire Center also has influenced the
Museum programmatically. From the wildly popular
Florida Wildflower & Butterflies brochure and app
to the NSF-funded Project Butterfly Wings to the
Museum’s largest annual event, ButterflyFest, held
each fall, the McGuire Center has changed the way the
Museum interacts with the public.
The Butterfly Rainforest also increased volunteer
and staff opportunities. The Rainforest employs 12
staff, as well as one security guard, a third of the
Visitor Services positions and also contributes to
record-keeping personnel. The Butterfly Rainforest
“created a revenue stream for the Museum that hadn’t
existed before,” said Operations and Visitor Services
Coordinator Jeff Hansen. In addition to the direct
revenue from ticket sales, money generated from plant
sales, ButterflyFest and Earth Day contributes funds
toward special events and Museum departments.
Volunteers are also able to work with scientists in
the McGuire Center. Volunteers do everything from
pinning moths and butterflies to transferring label
information into databases. These volunteers have
increased the productivity of the researchers and co-
authored scientific publications. The open viewing of
scientists and volunteers in the collections and labs
has increased the visibility of the Museum’s public
Along with additional staff positions, the Rainforest
also created maintenance and interpreter volunteer
positions. Longtime volunteer Barb Fennelly
contributes to both maintenance and interpretation.
She loves the knowledge she’s gained and is interested
in learning about butterflies from all over the world.
As a retired school teacher, Fennelly appreciates that
working in the Rainforest “gives me a chance to do
something I love without the stress of formal teaching.”
Working in the Rainforest and assisting researchers
is not limited to adults, but is also available for the
Museum’s junior volunteers. Students can spend their
summers volunteering in the Rainforest or McGuire
collections. Some have continued volunteering in
collections and the molecular biology lab during the
school year and developed their own projects. Several
of these projects have received invitations to the
state level science fairs and resulted in two scientific
publications co-authored by these students.
Public education efforts have also increased
as Keith Willmott created a relationship between
Exhibits and Public Programs and researchers by
having his graduate students help in the Butterfly
Rainforest during scheduled school group tours.
These interactions have contributed to the Museum’s
Butterfly and Moth Exploration becoming the No. 1
requested school program.
With one of the world’s largest Lepidoptera
collections, the McGuire Center attracts attention from
many national associations as well as local students
and professors. A walk through the Museum on any
given afternoon will reveal students searching for
answers to their professors’ scholastic scavenger hunt.
The McGuire Center has also hosted the monthly
North American Butterfly Association meetings
and the annual Monarch Society dinners, as well as
international meetings of the Lepidopterists’ Society,
Association for Tropical Lepidoptera and Southern
The McGuire Center not only attracts researchers,
but event planners and brides as well. Many public and
private organizations host meetings, dinners and other
events in the McGuire Center. Brides and grooms
also often use the Rainforest for engagement photos
and weddings, and the surrounding galleries for their
From observing scientists and emerging butterflies
to enjoying daily butterfly releases, the McGuire
Center provides an array of opportunities for Museum
visitors that were not available before its opening.
Volunteers have found working with scientists and
interacting with the public engaging and rewarding.
Volunteer Leslie Klein sums it up best when she
says, “It is a magical, wonderful place and the whole
community has benefitted from the increased
awareness of the world around us.”
Volunteer opportunities provide something for everyone
Amy D. Hester, Volunteer Coordinator, Florida Museum of Natural History
Junior Volunteers identify moths in the collections,