Randell Research Center adds two additional Calusa mounds

March 13th, 2015
Calusa ritual

This artist’s conception depicts a Calusa ritual near Smith Mound at Pineland, Florida.
Art by Merald Clark, Florida Museum of Natural History

Note to editors: the GPS address is 13810 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia, FL 33922

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Randell Research Center on Pine Island near Fort Myers, once home to the Calusa Indians, has acquired an additional five acres containing two mounds. The area will eventually be added to the site’s educational interpretive trail.

Museum officials plan to formally announce the purchase at 9:30 a.m. on Monday (March 16) at the Calusa Heritage Trail, 13810 Waterfront Drive, Pineland, 33945.

The addition of a burial mound and ancient midden to the now 67-acre site was made possible with a $150,000 gift from the Sear Family Foundation and $50,000 from the Calusa Land Trust.

“This is a dream come true,” said Randell Center director William Marquardt, who will make the formal announcement Monday. “Since the original gift of property by the Randell family in 1996, we have wanted to add these mounds to the area that we protect and (more…)

‘Our Changing Climate: Past and Present’ now open

March 5th, 2015
Climate Change

Museum staff members Michael Adams (left) and Jeffrey Huber install a large-format graph showing climate patterns over the last 1,500 years for the “Our Changing Climate: Past and Present” exhibition.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can discover 70 million years of climate change on Earth in a new exhibit now open at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

The “Our Changing Climate: Past and Present” exhibit uses large-format graphs showing major historic events to present the story of Earth’s changing climate over geologic time. The exhibit also highlights how Earth’s climate fluctuates and what global trends are affecting life today.

Opened Wednesday, this free exhibit is the first in a series of exhibits focusing on world issues that influence humans’ daily lives.

“In this series of exhibitions, we hope to engage visitors in a conversation by looking at how science explores the issues and how it can help us navigate ways to correct course or cope with new realities,” said Darcie MacMahon, the museum’s head of exhibits and public programs.

Some of the issues to be presented in future displays are especially important for Floridians, such as sea level rise and (more…)

Dig into geology at ninth annual ‘Can You Dig It?’ March 14

March 3rd, 2015
Children play with an augmented reality sandbox, which demonstrates how 2-D topographic maps show the 3-D shape of the land, during the 2013 "Can You Dig It?" event. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Children play with an augmented reality sandbox, which demonstrates how 2-D topographic maps show the 3-D shape of the land, during the 2013 “Can You Dig It?” event.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Editors: A complete list of activities follows this release

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum visitors will have the opportunity to uncover Earth’s geological wonders by observing simulated volcanic eruptions, sifting for minerals and gems and other activities during the ninth annual “Can You Dig It?” event March 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This free, family-friendly event provides visitors an understanding of Earth’s materials and processes through hands-on activities and educational demonstrations.

“It’s not just a walk-by-and-look-see kind of event,” said program organizer Matt Smith, a senior lecturer and undergraduate advisor in the University of Florida department of geological sciences. “People who come tend to spend some time and really engage.”

The latest additions to this year’s list of activities include learning how to identify real meteorites from impostors and (more…)

Marston Library, museum to honor winners of science art competition March 20

February 27th, 2015

12790-The-Elegance-of-Science-rotatorGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The winning artists of images of nanoparticles to a woolly mammoth in the University of Florida Elegance of Science Contest will be recognized in an award ceremony at the Florida Museum of Natural History March 20 at 3:30 p.m.

A committee of six judges from Gainesville’s art and science communities evaluated 94 entries on their scientific and artistic merit.

“I enjoyed seeing the variety of ways you can interpret ‘the elegance of science,’” said judge and professional photographer Kristen Grace, who also works at the Florida Museum. “Some were as simple as a dewdrop on a flower petal and (more…)

Tropical turtle discovery in Wyoming provides climate-change clues

February 23rd, 2015
University of Florida paleontologist Jason Bourque reconstructs the 56-million-year-old shell of a newly described genus and species of ancient tropical turtle in his lab on Feb. 9, 2015. The fossil turtle gives clues to how today’s species might react to warming habitats. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

University of Florida paleontologist Jason Bourque reconstructs the 56-million-year-old shell of a newly described genus and species of ancient tropical turtle in his lab on Feb. 9, 2015. The fossil turtle gives clues to how today’s species might react to warming habitats.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tropical turtle fossils discovered in Wyoming by University of Florida scientists reveal that when the earth got warmer, prehistoric turtles headed north. But if today’s turtles try the same technique to cope with warming habitats, they might run into trouble.

While the fossil turtle and its kin could move northward with higher temperatures, human pressures and habitat loss could prevent a modern-day migration, leading to the extinction of some modern species.

The newly discovered genus and species, Gomphochelys (pronounced gom-fo-keel-eez) nanus – provides a clue to how animals might respond to future climate change, said Jason Bourque, a paleontologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF and the lead author of the study, which appears online this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The wayfaring turtle was among the species that researchers believe migrated 500-600 miles north 56 million years ago, during a temperature peak known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Lasting about 200,000 years, the temperature peak resulted in significant movement and diversification of plants and animals.

“We knew that some plants and lizards migrated north when the climate warmed, but (more…)

Study finds luna moths evolved long spinning tails to defend against bats

February 16th, 2015
A new study shows luna moths, Actias luna, such as this specimen from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity collections, spin their long hingwing tails to divert bat attacks.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Geena Hill

A new study shows luna moths, Actias luna, such as this specimen from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity collections, spin their long hingwing tails to divert bat attacks.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Geena Hill

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the cover of night, an unseen war between bats and moths has been raging for 60 million years—and a new study suggests the insects have evolved long tails as a defense.

The collaborative work between University of Florida and Boise State University researchers is a first step in determining why bats are lured into striking a false target and could have implications on sonar development for the military, said study co-author Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“This finding expands our knowledge of anti-predator deflection strategies and the extent of a long-standing evolutionary arms race between bats and moths,” Kawahara said.

The study appearing today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows luna moths spin their long hindtails as they fly, confusing the sonar cries bats use to image prey and other objects. Diversionary tactics, such as false eye spots and (more…)

Register for summer, field camps beginning March 15

February 9th, 2015
Campers explore a recreated Calusa leader's house in the "South Florida People & Environments" exhibition during a 2011 summer camp. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Campers explore a recreated Calusa leader’s house in the “South Florida People & Environments” exhibition during a 2011 summer camp.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Early sign-up for museum members opens March 1

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Register your child beginning March 15 for adventures and scientific exploration at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s summer and field camps.

Students in grades 1-4 for the 2015-2016 school year can examine fossils, discover ancient cultures, learn about past and present ecosystems and meet some of the most interesting members of the animal kingdom during the weeklong camps that run June 8-July 31. Students in grades 5-6 may register for a field camp focusing on nature photography the week of Aug. 3.

“Museum camps are always an exciting and fun way to learn about everything from insects, collecting, engineering and chemistry to (more…)

Register now for K-5 spring break camps March 23-27

February 2nd, 2015
Atlatl lesson

Children learn to use an atlatl, a prehistoric hunting tool, during a 2013 spring break camp.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students will have the opportunity to explore Florida habitats and learn how living things move during the Florida Museum of Natural History’s new series of spring break camps March 23-27.

The camps for students enrolled in grades K-5 for the 2014-2015 school year provide natural history exploration through museum exhibits and hands-on activities.

“Museum camps are a great way to channel your child’s spring fever,” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey. “Here is a chance to learn about nature and have fun all at the same time.”

Pre-registration is required for all camps and (more…)

‘Passport’ gala Feb. 20 to support student programs

January 28th, 2015

PassportGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Prepare for a dizzying race around the globe and join the Florida Museum of Natural History for a thrilling quest at the “Passport to: Around the World in 80 Days” gala Feb. 20 from 7 to 11 p.m.

This year’s event features dinner catered by Blue Water Bay, the ultimate voyage created by Keith Watson Productions and dancing with The Savants of Soul. This is the first year the gala is raising funds for children’s educational programming through the museum’s Center for Science Learning.

“We want to offer a variety of engaging opportunities that foster students’ sense of wonder and discovery,” said Betty Dunckel. Florida Museum Center for Science Learning director. “We hope these experiences will generate excitement, expand interests and deepen understanding of science and its importance in our daily lives.”

Proceeds will provide critical funds to support museum projects for pre-K through 12th-grade students, including admission assistance for Title 1 schools, outreach to elementary classrooms and (more…)

Fossils link Caribbean bat extinction to humans, not climate change

January 22nd, 2015
Soto-Centeno with bat skull

Study co-author J. Angel Soto-Centeno displays the fossilized skull of a Cuban fruit bat, Brachyphylla nana.
Photo courtesy of J. Angel Soto-Centeno

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sharing caves with millions of bats, the Caribbean’s first humans may have driven some species of the winged mammals to extinction.

The new study appearing online today in Scientific Reports rejects previous research that directly connected climate change and the loss of land with the disappearance of bat populations.

Knowing when and how Caribbean bats went extinct could contribute to better understanding biodiversity and how to save modern-day wildlife from meeting the same fate, said co-author David Steadman, a University of Florida ornithologist.

“Ours are the first radiocarbon dates for bat fossils in the whole West Indies,” said Steadman, curator of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.  “The new dates prove that certain bat populations were still in existence much later than previously thought — around the same time humans arrived.”

The new dates demonstrate that at least five species of bats withstood this climate change and (more…)