Brownie, Junior Girl Scout botany program set for May 9

April 22nd, 2014
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Brownie Girl Scouts enjoy an exploration event at the Florida Museum.
Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Girl Scouts will have the opportunity to plant a seed of knowledge at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Girl Scouts Explore: Botany” program May 9.

The program from 6 to 9 p.m. allows Brownie or Junior Girl Scouts to explore and investigate plants from around the world, and earn a museum patch with an accompanying “Botany” bar especially designed for the event.

“I remember participating in scouting events at the museum when I was a Brownie Girl Scout so I am very excited to share this experience with current Brownies and Juniors,” said Florida Museum educator Amanda Harvey. “I hope they make memories and (more…)

Barbara Ornstein, Robert Tarnuzzer named 2014 volunteers of the year

April 11th, 2014
The 2014 James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Barbara Ornstein for her contributions to exhibits and public programs and to Robert Tarnuzzer for his work in vertebrate paleontology collections. Florida Museum photos by Kristen Grace

The Florida Museum named Barbara Ornstein and Robert Tarnuzzer its 2014 volunteers of the year.
Florida Museum of Natural History photos by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Hard work has paid off for Barbara Ornstein and Robert Tarnuzzer, who were recognized last week by the Florida Museum of Natural History as winners of the 2014 James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award.

Ornstein served 199 hours at the museum during 2013 and has completed more than 1,600 hours since she began volunteering in 2000. In addition to her role as a school programs docent, she also participates in outreach programs and (more…)

Study shows ‘dinosaurs of the turtle world’ at risk in Southeast rivers

April 10th, 2014
This alligator snapping turtle was photographed on the Suwannee River in 2011 after being caught in a trap as part of a three-year research project. Photo courtesy of Kevin Enge

This alligator snapping turtle was photographed on the Suwannee River in 2011 after being caught in a trap as part of a three-year research project.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Enge

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, University of Florida scientists say.

A new study appearing this week in the journal Zootaxa shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species.

The limited distribution of the species, known to weigh as much 200 pounds, could potentially affect the conservation of rivers the turtles inhabit, including the Suwannee, said lead author Travis Thomas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientist and former Florida Museum of Natural History volunteer who began the research as a UF wildlife ecology and conservation student.

“We have to be especially careful with our management of the Suwannee River species because this turtle exists only in that river and its tributaries,” Thomas said. “If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species. The turtle is extremely limited by its habitat. All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go.”

In the study, scientists revised the genus Macrochelys, often called the “dinosaurs of the turtle world” by lay people, to include Macrochelys temminkii and (more…)

Austin, Bullen 2014 student research award winners named

April 7th, 2014
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University of Florida graduate student Francois Michonneau received the 2014 Austin Award.
Florida Museum of Natural History Photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently announced the winners of the 2014 Austin Award and Bullen Award. Two University of Florida students received the awards from the museum’s University Teaching Committee for their research and contributions to the museum’s collections.

Francois Michonneau received the Austin Award for his work on the systematics and evolution of sea cucumbers. The Austin Award honors Oliver Austin, a former Florida Museum ornithology curator, and (more…)

Florida Museum to host 37th Herpetology Conference Friday, Saturday

April 3rd, 2014
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will host the 37th annual Herpetology Conference Friday and Saturday (April 4-5) at the Paramount Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.

Hosted each year by the Florida Museum Herpetology Division, the conference is the country’s longest-running regional herpetology symposium. The conference aims to bring together the herpetological community for discussion of reptile and amphibian research, education and conservation in a constructive and (more…)

Museum director elected president of science museum association

April 1st, 2014
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Florida Museum of Natural History director Douglas S. Jones.
Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History Director Douglas S. Jones was elected president of the Association of Science Museum Directors at the association’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City in March.

Jones was named interim director of the Florida Museum in 1996 and director the following year. As a curator of invertebrate paleontology, his research focuses on tracking ancient climate changes by studying chemical variations in organisms including sea shells, fish otoliths (ear bones) and mammal teeth.

Jones has been a member of the museum directors association since 1998 and served on its board for six years. As president, he will represent the association to the media and other museum organizations, and run the association’s business meetings.

“I am honored to serve the ASMD as president, being a huge believer in the role of science museums in advancing the public’s understanding and appreciation of science in today’s society,” Jones said.

Jones also serves on the board of directors of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., as well as the boards of The Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences Inc. and (more…)

Celebrate Earth Day with exploration event, plant sale April 18-20

March 25th, 2014

Earth Day Logo ideas_4color_outlinedGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History invites visitors to explore the wonders of the planet this Earth Day weekend with activities April 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a butterfly-friendly plant sale April 18-20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The museum’s Earth Day exploration event features outdoor activities in the adjacent University of Florida Natural Area Teaching Laboratory and diverse specimens from the museum’s collections.

“This year’s theme is ‘Florida Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity,’ ” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey.  “Guests will have a rare opportunity to see treasures from the museum collections and (more…)

‘La Florida’ exhibit featuring state’s native wildflowers opens April 19

March 24th, 2014
American Lotus, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, 1999. Photo by John Moran

American Lotus, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, 1999.
Photo by John Moran

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors will have an opportunity to discover the unique wildflowers that inspired Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 to name this state “place of flowers” at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s newest photography exhibition.

On display April 19 through Aug. 3, “La Florida: 500 Years in the Place of Flowers” showcases images from Gainesville nature photographer John Moran, who roamed the state to capture the beauty and mystique of Florida’s original Garden of Eden. It features 15 large-format photographs showing the timeless beauty of wildflowers along with a panel describing the history and (more…)

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ gala April 25 to support new Discovery Room

March 19th, 2014

12701 Passport_Facebook Graphic-1GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shake out your snake boots, fasten your trademark fedora and join the Florida Museum of Natural History for a thrilling adventure at the Passport to Discovery: Raiders of the Lost Ark gala April 25 from 7 to 11 p.m.

This year’s annual fundraiser is part of a three-year campaign to create a 2,000-square-foot Discovery Room exhibit for children 8 and under set to open in 2016.

“Our spectacular new Discovery Room is sure to be a family destination,” said Betty Dunckel, director of the museum’s Center for Science Learning. “A vast array of awe-inspiring objects, interactive activities and media resources will provide countless opportunities for shared discovery and fun.”

This year’s event includes dinner catered by Blue Water Bay, dancing with Gosia & Ali and the Indiana Jones experience created by Keith Watson Events. The museum’s campaign is in its last year and (more…)

UF to begin new St. Augustine work after gift of more than 97,000 artifacts

March 4th, 2014
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Kathleen Deagan (center) shows the Fraser family a few of the recently discovered maps from the 1950s excavations in the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, St. Augustine, Fla.
From left to right: John W. Fraser, Elaine Fraser, John W. Fraser II, Steven Binninger, and Gene Kirker.
Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida begins its 20th season of archaeological fieldwork since 1976 this week in St. Augustine at the site of America’s first colony, founded by explorer Pedro Menendez in 1565.

Though the original colony lasted only nine months, researchers have uncovered more than 97,000 artifacts left behind by Spanish immigrants, valued at nearly $3.5 million and recently donated by the Fraser family to the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. Now researchers will begin unearthing the colony’s fortifications to better understand its defenses, said Kathleen Deagan, retired distinguished curator of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum.

“These artifacts are the only evidence we have as to how people lived in the colony and what objects they used,” Deagan said. “The documents from the period only briefly describe the settlers’ time at the site. There is nothing there about their lives and how people coped with being in a new, strange place. Now that we know more about their lives within the colony, we want to understand how they defended it.”

The Frasers own and operate the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park where the first colony site is located. In February, the family visited the museum’s historical archaeology collections at Dickinson Hall on the UF campus to observe how the donated artifacts are being pieced together and (more…)

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