Dinosaurs invade Gainesville with ‘Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway’ exhibit Feb. 4

December 22nd, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dinosaurs are coming to Gainesville! Take a prehistoric road trip through the Florida Museum of Natural History’s newest temporary exhibit, “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway with Artist Ray Troll and Paleontologist Kirk Johnson,” Feb. 4 through Sept. 3.

The exhibit features 30 fossils, including complete skeleton casts of the three-horned Triceratops dinosaur, and Albertosaurus, a carnivore that lived about 70 million years ago. The fossils complement 19 color prints and five large-scale murals by Troll, created for the book “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway,” by Troll and Johnson. Visitors also will be able to observe Florida Museum scientists in a functioning paleontology lab preparing fossils collected during research projects from around the world. (more…)

Hellbender salamander study seeks answers for global amphibian decline

December 19th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new study co-authored by University of Florida researchers on the endangered Ozark Hellbender giant salamander is the first to detail its skin microbes, the bacteria and fungi that defend against pathogens.

Published today in the online journal PLoS One, the study details changes in the salamander’s declining health and habitat, and could provide a baseline for how changing ecosystems are affecting the rapid decline of amphibians worldwide.

“Scientists and biologists view amphibians as kind of a ‘canary in the coal mine’ and their health is often used as a barometer for overall ecosystem health, including potential problems that may affect humans,” said study co-author Max Nickerson, herpetology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. (more…)

UF researchers document caterpillars that mimic one another for survival

December 14th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the world of insects, high risk of attack has led to the development of camouflage as a means for survival, especially in the larval stage. One caterpillar may look like a stick, while another disguises itself as bird droppings. Though crypsis may have its advantages, University of Florida researchers uncovered some of the most extensive evidence of caterpillars using another strategy previously best-known in adult butterflies: mimicry.

Insects use camouflage to protect themselves by looking like inanimate or inedible objects, while mimicry involves one species evolving similar warning color patterns to another.

The study in the current issue of The Annals of the Entomological Society of America helps scientists better understand how organisms depend upon one another, an important factor in predicting how disturbance of natural habitats may lead to species extinctions and loss of biodiversity. (more…)

Florida Museum offers ‘Playful Escape’ for students in grades K-5 Jan. 2

December 13th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Enroll your children today in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Amazing Migrations” Playful Escape, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 2.

Registration is available online at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/education/childrens_classes.htm or by phone at 352-273-2061.

“Playful Escapes is a fun, educational and informal day at the museum,” said Florida Museum education assistant Tiffany Ireland. “Children will learn about the migratory patterns of different birds, fish and sharks that migrate through Florida.” (more…)

Museum researchers document evidence of mimicry in caterpillars

December 1st, 2011

By Danielle Torrent

Exactly 150 years ago, Henry Walter Bates described mimicry based on his observations of adult butterflies in the Amazon, thus contributing key evidence supporting Darwin’s then novel theory of natural selection.

Recently, while doing fieldwork in the lowlands of eastern Ecuador, Florida Museum of Natural History assistant curator of Lepidoptera Keith Willmott noticed another prime example of mimicry. Instead of looking up at the flyers, he found bright coloration in an earlier growth stage of butterflies — similar bright coloration in caterpillars was repeated in several unrelated species of ithomiine butterflies and again in a sawfly larva. Clad in blue and yellow with black tips, different species of the crawlers were not disguised as bird droppings or natural objects like many other caterpillars, and they were saying something different to their enemies: “Look out, we’re poisonous!” (more…)

Museum’s new ‘Explore Research’ exhibit showcases University of Florida research

November 21st, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Museum visitors may now learn about some of the University of Florida’s most interesting global discoveries and research – from how to free whales entangled in lobster traps to how plants will grow in space.

These and other UF projects are highlighted in “Explore Research,” a new interactive multimedia exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. The exhibit features short videos updated monthly and an interactive Smart Board to engage visitors in the journey of scientific discovery at UF, including its relevance and benefits.

The initiative was developed as a collaborative project by the museum, the UF Office of Research and the UF Scientific Thinking and Educational Partnership. Two- to three-minute videos produced by UF students feature research from across the university in fields including medicine, engineering and agricultural sciences. (more…)

UF employees receive free admission to Florida Museum of Natural History Dec. 3

November 18th, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida faculty and staff are invited to enjoy free admission and gift shop and plant sale discounts at the Florida Museum of Natural History from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 3.

UF employees will receive postcards through campus mail, which may be presented at the front desk for free admission to the “Wild Music: Sounds and Songs of Life” and Butterfly Rainforest exhibits. Employees who do not receive a postcard may present a valid Gator 1 ID for free admission. Employees may also show their Gator 1 ID to receive a 10 percent discount in the museum gift shops, including butterfly-friendly plant purchases. All other museum exhibits are free.

“The staff and faculty represent UF’s most valuable asset,” said Florida Museum of Natural History Director Douglas Jones. “By offering free admission to our two fee-based exhibits, the Florida Museum can show its appreciation to the staff and faculty for all they do to enrich our community.” (more…)

New ‘Depth of Field’ photography exhibit on display at Florida Museum

November 14th, 2011

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — See a magnified view of dozens of specimens and artifacts in the new exhibit, “Depth of Field: Museum Specimens Up-close,” at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The exhibit showcases objects from the museum’s collection through photographs captured with an advanced imaging system that combines a high-resolution microscope and 21 megapixel digital camera.

There are currently 16 pictures on display in the museum’s central gallery, and another 16 planned for future long-term display. The pictures feature a variety of specimens, including head lice, snails, ancient pottery and orchids. (more…)

Museum researcher receives $260,000 to study echolocation in moths

November 10th, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whether by buzzing, singing, cawing or hissing, plenty of animals boast their own form of communication. But researchers now hope to unlock a common predator-prey language found in insects and mammals: echolocation in hawkmoths and bats.

“Moths and bats are completely unrelated yet they are talking to each other,” said principal investigator Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We can’t hear it, but they certainly can, so we’re trying to do some experiments where we let the two organisms fly together and see how they interact.”

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Kawahara $260,000 to research hawkmoths’ use of echolocation as a defense mechanism against predatory bats. The grant will fund research in Ecuador, French Guinea and Borneo, molecular biology lab work at the Florida Museum, and experiments at a live bat cage in Boise, Idaho, run by co-principal investigator Jesse Barber, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Boise State University. (more…)

‘Our Energy Future’ exhibit to open at Florida Museum Nov. 11

November 1st, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Explore alternative power sources and learn about your own energy consumption in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s newest permanent exhibit “Our Energy Future,” opening Nov. 11.

The exhibit, designed to resemble a home, includes information about energy use; ways to reduce consumption, like purchasing more efficient appliances and using power strips; climate change and its effects and more.

“It’s all about energy use and how to save it at home with simple steps,” said Tina Choe, Florida Museum exhibit developer.

The exhibit also discusses the limits of fossil fuels and alternative sources, like solar, wind and geothermal power. (more…)

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