Celebrate nature with 10th annual ButterflyFest Sept. 19

September 3rd, 2015
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The “Wings Over Florida” butterfly viewing program awards certificates at six achievement levels.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have the opportunity Sept. 19 to learn about “Connections to Nature,” the theme for this year’s 10th annual ButterflyFest.

Featuring live butterfly releases, workshops, entertainment and activities for all ages, the free event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. will focus on healthy interactions with nature, including information on biodiversity and environmental conservation, management and sustainability.

One new activity this year features the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s launch of a butterfly component to its “Wings Over Florida” program. The new program, which previously focused solely on birding, includes six certificates awarded based on butterfly-watching achievement.

Florida Museum and FWC representatives will unveil the program during a brief ceremony at 1 p.m.

“We are extremely excited about the program,” said Jaret Daniels, associate curator and (more…)

New exhibit challenges belief first Thanksgiving held in Jamestown

August 27th, 2015

‘First Colony’ details St. Augustine’s Spanish roots
Photos available

PrintGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can discover the little-known history of the nation’s first enduring European settlement at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s new featured exhibit, “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins,” opening Oct. 17.

Spaniards, free and enslaved Africans and Native Americans crafted America’s original “melting pot” in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, long before the founding of Jamestown. “First Colony” features the site’s archeology, history and stories of people who lived there.

“‘First Colony’ challenges the long-standing belief that the English were the first to colonize America and establishes St. Augustine as our country’s oldest enduring European settlement,” said Florida Museum exhibit developer Julie Waters. “We’re (more…)

New ‘Exploring Our World’ exhibit features research

July 3rd, 2015

EOWGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can learn about the importance of research and collections in a new exhibit now on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“Exploring Our World” features information about ongoing University of Florida and museum research, and spotlights current UF initiatives in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. The UF research section includes videos produced by students highlighting projects across campus.

“The exhibits at the museum are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Florida Museum exhibit developer Julie Waters. “The museum has vast collections and a rich history of research, (more…)

US military veterans, families receive free admission July 3-5

June 26th, 2015

US FlagGAINESVILLE, Fla. — To honor U.S. military veterans, the Florida Museum of Natural History will offer free admission to all fee-based exhibits for veterans and their families during the Fourth of July weekend.

The offer is valid July 3-5 for veterans and up to five family members with a valid form of identification. Valid identification includes: a military ID, DD Form 214, VA card or driver’s license with a blue “V” in the bottom right corner.

The Florida Museum also is offering free admission to all fee-based exhibits for active duty military personnel and their families through Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

This is the fourth consecutive year the museum has participated in the program, which is a collaboration among (more…)

UF ‘Creative B’ free movie series begins with ‘Them!’ July 10

June 19th, 2015

Them-PosterGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can find out how science meets movie magic during a month of free film screenings at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Beginning with “Them!” (1954) on July 10, the Florida Museum will host an opening reception at 6 p.m. with light hors d’oeuvres. The museum will be open to the public from 6-10 p.m. and show movies on Fridays during July as part of the University of Florida “Creative B” program. UF students receive free admission to the “A T. rex Named Sue” exhibit with a valid Gator 1 card.

The series includes a question-and-answer panel discussion on the balance between science and art beginning at 7 p.m., followed by the movie.

“The Creative B theme for 2015 is ‘ethics of science, art and movies,’ so we are exploring how movies sometimes use pseudoscience to enhance the experience and (more…)

New NSF project aims to help scientists navigate the tree of life

June 18th, 2015
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Nico Cellinese and collaborators at Duke University will develop software over the next three years to improve access to information on the tree of life. Photo courtesy of Reed Beaman

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida and Duke University collaboration aims to do for the tree of life what Google Earth did for navigation.

A National Science Foundation grant of nearly $1 million will fund a three-year project to develop software that will make the context of every named and unnamed organism accessible online to scientists and nonscientists.

The new software will allow computers to translate the tree of life and put scientific names in context by more clearly linking those names to evolutionary concepts and associated data, including DNA sequences and morphological characteristics. The project will have immediate and broad practical applications for communicating, integrating and querying biological data across the tree of life, said Nico Cellinese, associate (more…)

Active military receive free admission through Sept. 7

June 17th, 2015

BSM-no-tagGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is offering free admission to all fee-based exhibits for active duty military personnel and their families through Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

This is the fourth consecutive year the Florida Museum has participated in the program, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America. The program runs from May 25 through Sept. 7.

“We are honored to be part of the Blue Star Museums program again this year and (more…)

Map of Life’s new app: The world’s biodiversity in the palm of your hand

May 19th, 2015

By Jim Shelton

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Florida Museum associate curator Rob Guralnick helped lead the new Map of Life app project.

Never has knowledge of the world’s biodiversity knowledge been more at your fingertips, thanks to a new smartphone app created by a partnership between the University of Florida and Yale University. No matter where you are, the Map of Life app can tell you what species of plants and animals are nearby.

Building on the Map of Life website’s unrivaled, integrated global database of everything from bumblebees to trees, the app tells users in an instant which species are likely to be found in their vicinity. Photos and text help users identify and learn more about what they see. The app also helps users create personal lists of observations and contribute those to scientific research and conservation efforts.

“We hope that the Map of Life app, built from 100 years of knowledge about where species are found, will accelerate our ability to completely close the many gaps in our biodiversity knowledge,” said Rob Guralnick, associate curator at the University of Florida, who lead the project with Walter Jetz, a Yale University associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the guiding force behind Map of Life.

Instead of sifting through hundreds of pages in a printed field guide, naturalists get a digital guide that is already tailored to their location. With a novel modeling and mapping platform covering tens of thousands of species — everything from mammals and (more…)

Austin, Bullen 2015 student research award winners named

May 4th, 2015
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Vertebrate paleontology graduate assistant Catalina Pimiento received the Austin Award for 2015.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently announced the winners of the 2015 Austin Award and Bullen Award for superior research and significant contributions to the development of museum collections and programs.

Vertebrate paleontology graduate assistant Catalina Pimiento received the Austin Award for her research on the ecology of shark species throughout history, particularly Carcharocles megalodon.

Anthropology graduate student Zackary Gilmore received the Bullen Award for his research to determine the scale of social interactions involved in the construction and use of the Silver Glen Springs shell mound site in the Late Archaic period (about 5,000 to 3,000 years ago).

To gain insight into conservation of modern sharks, Pimiento closely investigates factors involved in the extinction of megalodon, including body size and distribution trends over time.

In her previous research conducted under the guidance of Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden, Pimiento studied shark species from Panama to better understand marine connections during the formation of the isthmus. She found that sharks used shallow-water nursery areas for millions of years as an adaptive strategy for survival. This study has received nationwide media attention, including the National Geographic documentary film “Clash of the Americas.”

MacFadden said he nominated Pimiento for “her excellence in paleontological research and (more…)

Study reveals evolutionary history of hawkmoths’ sonar jamming defense

May 4th, 2015
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Hawkmoths, including this species belonging to the subtribe choerocampine, produce ultrasound as a defense against bats. A new University of Florida study found that many species have used a sound-producing system found in their genitals to elude bats for millennia.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Pablo Padron

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the 65-million-year-old arms race between bats and moths, some moth species rub their genitals to jam the calls of bats. Radar jamming is commonly used in human warfare, allowing pilots to render themselves invisible. By unraveling the evolution of hawkmoths’ similar defense, authors of a new study appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences aim to better understand nocturnal biodiversity and improve human uses of sonar.

Study researchers with the University of Florida and Boise State University tracked sonar jamming throughout the evolutionary history of hawkmoths and found that one of the insect world’s most sophisticated defense mechanisms is more widespread than originally thought, existing for millennia.

Until now, the function and evolution of sonar jamming remained largely a mystery, said lead author Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“Before now people thought ultrasound usage in insects was very restricted to certain groups, but it looks much more complex than that,” Kawahara said.

Kawahara and collaborators scoured jungles and forests from Borneo to the Amazon observing hawkmoths. They collected specimens at 70 sites in 32 countries and conducted field-based echolocation experiments and (more…)

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