Florida Museum to host 40th annual herpetological conference

February 20th, 2017

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Snake, frog, turtle and lizard enthusiasts from around the world will gather at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s 40th annual herpetological conference in March.

The symposium will bring together amateurs and professionals for talks, workshops and exhibits on the latest herpetology research March 25-26 at the Wyndham Garden Gainesville, 2900 SW 13th St.

Turtle head looking up at reflection

Conference session topics include threatened species, such as the alligator snapping turtle, pictured here.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

“This will be a chance to learn about new species from all over the world, from here in Florida all the way to Africa,” said Max Nickerson, a herpetology curator at the Florida Museum. “It’s also an opportunity to meet with colleagues of diverse age groups who share common interests.”

Students with valid identification and adults can register to attend and present at the conference online or mail their registration to Max Nickerson, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117800, Gainesville, FL 32611-7800. Registration is $55 for students and $119 for adults. The cost for an adult one-day pass is $89, and a ticket to the social, dinner and live auction is $35.

Conference organizers are (more…)

Museum to mark 100th anniversary with gala, new exhibits and more

February 14th, 2017

The Florida Museum of Natural History is celebrating its 100-year anniversary as the official state natural history museum with a series of special events this year.

On Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, the museum will host a gala from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at Powell Hall on the University of Florida campus, with dinner, live entertainment and dancing.

Other anniversary weekend activities include a public presentation featuring National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, who will speak at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 21 at 8 p.m.

An exclusive birthday party for museum members is planned for Tuesday, May 30.

New exhibits include the permanent “Beverly and Jon Thompson Discovery Zone” scheduled to open July 17 (more…)

Extinct tortoise from Bahamas yields oldest tropical DNA

February 10th, 2017

An extinct tortoise species that accidentally tumbled into a water-filled limestone sinkhole in the Bahamas about 1,000 years ago has finally made its way out, with much of its DNA intact.

tortoise fossil shell under water

The extinct tortoise fossil shown here was discovered by divers about 75 feet below the surface of Sawmill Sink in the Bahamas. Florida Museum of Natural History photo courtesy of Nancy Albury

As the first sample of ancient DNA retrieved from an extinct tropical species, this genetic material could help provide insights into the history of the Caribbean tropics and the reptiles that dominated them, said University of Florida ornithologist David Steadman. It could also offer clues to the region’s future, as the tropics undergo significant transformation due to climate change.

“This is the first time
anyone has been able to put a tropical species into an evolutionary context with molecular data,” said Steadman, an ornithology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and co-author of the study discussing the finding.

“And being able to fit together the tortoise’s evolutionary history together will help us better understand today’s tropical species, many of which are endangered.”

He called the finding “boundary-pushing” and said (more…)

Check out new adults-only events this spring

February 9th, 2017

Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

For adults who’ve always wished they could attend science camps and programs normally offered to students—now’s your chance.

The Florida Museum of Natural History will hold special, brand-new events for the 18-and-older crowd this spring.

During the first “Kid-Free Camp for Grown-ups” March 10 from 7 to 9 p.m., participants will have access to the indoor permanent exhibits and “Frogs! A Chorus of Colors,” and enjoy arts and crafts as well as a nature night walk in the adjacent University of Florida Natural Area Teaching Laboratory. The camp fee is $25, or $20 for museum members.

Another new adults-only program, “Speed Science: A Night at a Museum,” allows guests to speed date science subjects and (more…)

Researchers rename three state kingsnakes as separate species

February 6th, 2017

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History scientists have reclassified three types of kingsnakes found in the state, elevating them to species status.

map shows location of new kingsnake species

The geographical locations where three new kingsnake species are found in Florida are shown in this graphic. Graphic by James Young and Kenneth Krysko

Fossil records and DNA analyses show the Florida kingsnake, eastern kingsnake and Eastern Apalachicola Lowlands kingsnake have unique genetic lineages likely developed because
of ancient geographical barriers.

Reclassifiying the snakes as separate species could help generate more public awareness of kingsnakes and expand conservation efforts, said Kenneth Krysko, Florida Museum herpetology collection manager. Once more commonly found in Florida, Krysko said the three species have since the 1970s due to habitat loss and modification.

“People used to see kingsnakes more frequently before the 1980s, but nearly all field biologists today have never seen one in the wild,” said Krysko, lead author of the study, published the Journal of Heredity.

Historically, researchers often (more…)

Global shark attacks drop to annual average in 2016

January 24th, 2017

After 2015’s record-busting 98 shark attacks, calmer waters prevailed in 2016. The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File reported 81 unprovoked attacks worldwide, in line with the five-year average of about 82 incidents annually.

Four of the attacks were fatal, a drop from six total fatalities the previous year.
While the U.S. had no fatal attacks in 2016, it topped the leaderboard for the most attacks globally, with 53.

Global attacks remain on a slow upward trend as the human population grows and (more…)

Celebrate new exhibit with ‘Froggy 5K’ race Feb. 11

January 19th, 2017

The Florida Museum of Natural History will hold its first 5K race on Feb. 11 to help celebrate the opening of the new featured exhibit “Frogs! A Chorus of Colors.”

The “Froggy 5K” begins at 8:30 a.m. in the University of Florida Cultural Plaza commuter lot. The race route includes a combination of trails in the UF Natural Area Teaching Laboratory and campus roads.

“Race participants have an opportunity to see trails in their own backyard that they might not have discovered yet,” said Florida Museum volunteer coordinator and race organizer Amy Hester. “We hope they discover their love of nature during the run.”

Early registration is $25, or $15 for UF students with a valid Gator 1 card. Participants will receive a long-sleeved T-shirt and free entry into the “Frogs!” exhibit on race day. The race is open to all ages.

The deadline to register early is Jan. 24 and (more…)

See vast personal collections at 38th Collectors Day Jan. 21

December 28th, 2016

Collectors Day is the museum’s longest-running and one of its most popular public programs.
Florida Museum photo by
Jeff Gage

Collectors from across the region will share their personal treasures with Florida Museum of Natural History visitors during the 38th Collectors Day Jan. 21, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This free event is the museum’s longest-running public program, allowing guests to interact with collectors learn about the context and historical significance of their collections.

“Collections are a way to preserve art, nature and knowledge,” said museum educator Tiffany Ireland. “Come to Collectors Day and you will leave with insight you didn’t know you were missing.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to view classic cars, (more…)

New ‘Frogs’ featured exhibit opens Jan. 28

December 22nd, 2016

Guests may examine a live dyeing poison frog, one of an array of poisonous species from the rain forests of the Americas on display in “Frogs!”
© velora

Hop into the musical and multicolored world of anurans, commonly known as frogs and toads, and gain a new appreciation for the beauty of these vocal amphibians this spring at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Beginning Jan. 28, 2017, Florida Museum visitors will be able to get up-close and personal with big, loud and even poisonous frogs in the museum’s new featured exhibit “Frogs! A Chorus of Colors.”

Showcasing various species of live frogs and toads, “Frogs” is the most advanced traveling frog exhibition in the country. Guests may view tree frogs, bullfrogs, horned frogs, giant toads and dart poison frogs.

“Frogs are important globally for ecosystem health, but are under very serious threats from fungal diseases as well as loss of habitat and climate change,” said Darcie MacMahon, Florida Museum exhibits and public programs director. “This exhibit will help all of us learn more about their value in nature and challenges they face to survive.”

The Florida Museum is also supplementing the exhibit with updated material from its researchers, including what the fossil record reveals about frogs’ evolutionary history and the diversity, (more…)

UF employees, students encouraged to enter scientific art competition

November 14th, 2016
Bowfin (Amia calva), UF 18751 by Zachary Randall

Museum ichthyology research technician Zachary Randall won first place in 2015 with this cleared and stained image of a Bowfin, Amia calva.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida students, staff and faculty have until Dec. 20 to enter the sixth annual Elegance of Science art competition.

Organized by the Marston Science Library and Florida Museum of Natural History, the contest is open to UF students and employees who create two-dimensional images as part of their research or incorporate scientific tools or concepts in their artwork.

“The contestants are challenged to communicate their favorite sciences in a casual way through an attractive or puzzling image and a caption that targets a general audience,” said Andrei Sourakov, a collection coordinator at the Florida Museum McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and one of the event organizers. “In addition to educating the public about diverse sciences at UF, the event bridges gaps between people from across campus.”

Each participant may submit a maximum of (more…)

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