New featured exhibit on ‘Wicked Plants’ opens May 14

April 20th, 2016

16434 Wicked Plants FB Graphic 1 FNLGAINESVILLE, Fla. —While the effects of marijuana, mushrooms and poison ivy are fairly well-known, many people may be surprised to learn about the potential danger of common plants in and around their homes.

And beginning May 14, Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will learn about the power that plants hold in its newest featured exhibit, “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit.”

The exhibit features more than 100 plants and is designed to educate guests about botanicals that are harmful to humans and animals, including evildoers lurking in the home and backyard. The story is brought to life inside an old home, where visitors will encounter a deadly dinner in the dining room, terrible toxins in the parlor, social misfits in the bathroom and a crime scene in the laboratory.

“Exhibits about plants are very uncommon, even though our lives and sometimes our deaths are intimately connected to the world of plants,” said Darcie MacMahon, (more…)

New $1.2 million NSF grant to promote STEM education in grades 6-12

April 8th, 2016
Science educator Laura Beach, from Soquel High School in California, and iDigFossils project coordinator Claudia Grant review 3-D images of a fossil. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeffrey Gage

Science educator Laura Beach, from Soquel High School in California, and iDigFossils project coordinator Claudia Grant review 3-D images of a fossil.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is new hope for kids who spend their free time digging in their backyards in search of dinosaur bones, wishing they could be like the paleontologists from “Jurassic Park,” but maybe with a tamer outcome.

Florida Museum of Natural History and University of Florida researchers at the College of Education recently received a $1.2 million grant to provide 3-D scanners and printers, new laptop computers, and curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math for students in grades 6-12 in Florida and California.

“I don’t think this project would be successful without the collaboration of the College of Education and the museum,” said UF associate professor of educational technology and principal investigator Pavlo Antonenko. (more…)

Two former archaeology curators receive lifetime achievement awards

April 8th, 2016
Jerald Milanich was curator of archaeology at the Florida Museum for 35 years. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jill Ribich

Jerald Milanich was curator of archaeology at the Florida Museum for 35 years.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jill Ribich

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History curators emeritus Kathleen Deagan and Jerald Milanich were recently honored with 2015 lifetime achievement awards from the Southeastern Archaeological Conference for their many years of research on early American and Caribbean societies.

Deagan, Florida Museum distinguished curator emerita of historical archaeology, has discovered multiple archaeological sites in the St. Augustine area and uncovered new information about the role women played in early Spanish American and Caribbean societies.

As archaeology curator at the Florida Museum for 35 years, Milanich explored many sites throughout Florida, uncovering ancient artifacts that detail the everyday lives and societies of some of North America’s earliest human inhabitants, including the Paleoindians of 14,000 years ago. (more…)

High tides: Florida’s early climate-change resettlements could guide modern sea level rise planning

March 28th, 2016
Former UF students Andrea Palmiotto and Melissa Ayvaz, and researcher Paulette McFadden collect a sediment core in Horseshoe Cove on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Stephen McFadden

Former UF students Andrea Palmiotto and Melissa Ayvaz, and researcher Paulette McFadden collect a sediment core in Horseshoe Cove on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Stephen McFadden

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Miami residents dodging sea-water spewing manhole covers take note: You’re not the first Floridians to deal with climate change.

That honor belongs to the state’s earliest residents, some of whom faced the problem 2,000 years ago and quickly learned how to adapt, a new University of Florida study shows.

The remains of Florida’s first climate-change resettlements offer important lessons from the past, just as rising seas again threaten the peninsula’s coastal populations, says a University of Florida scientist.

Targeting areas affected by rising seas after the last ice age, geoarchaeologist Paulette McFadden reconstructed how the changing coastline affected the history of several ancient settlements along the state’s Gulf Coast. (more…)

Austin, Bullen 2016 student research award winners named

March 24th, 2016
Biology graduate student Andrew Crowl received the Austin Award for 2016. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Biology graduate student Andrew Crowl received the 2016 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 2016 Austin Award and Bullen Award for student research and significant contributions to the development of museum collections and programs.

Biology graduate student Andrew Crowl received the Austin Award for his research on the evolution and biogeography of plants, particularly a group of rare Bellflowers restricted to the Mediterranean Basin called the Roucela complex.

Anthropology graduate student Meggan Blessing received the Bullen Award for her research on past human practices using modified bones from Stallings Island, Georgia, a shell-bearing site from the Late Archaic period, about 5,800 to 3,800 years ago.

Crowl collected Bellflower specimens throughout the Greek islands and (more…)

Science photo contest winners to be honored March 30

March 21st, 2016
Bowfin (Amia calva), UF 18751

Zachary Randall’s image of a Bowfin won first place.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The winning artists’ images ranging from nanoparticles to a Florida Harvester Ant will be recognized in an award ceremony at the University of Florida Marston Science Library on March 30 at 4:30 p.m.

The Elegance of Science contest was judged by a six-member committee from Gainesville’s art and science communities that evaluated 58 entries on their scientific and artistic merit.

“I look for the same things I would look for in art: appealing composition and color, visual interest and movement in the work, and intellectual intrigue,” said judge Ellen Knudson, (more…)

World’s oldest chameleon found trapped in amber fossil

March 4th, 2016
These ancient amber fossils from Myanmar in Southeast Asia provide a look at “missing links” in the evolutionary history of lizards. Photo courtesy of David Grimaldi

These ancient amber fossils from Myanmar in Southeast Asia provide a look at “missing links” in the evolutionary history of lizards. The chameleon is located in the far-right lower corner.
Photo courtesy of David Grimaldi

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — About 100 million years ago an infant lizard’s life was cut short when it crawled into a sticky situation.

The early chameleon was creeping through the ancient tropics of present-day Myanmar when it succumbed to the resin of a coniferous tree. Over time, the resin fossilized into amber, leaving the lizard remarkably preserved. Seventy-eight million years older than the previous oldest specimen on record, the dime-size chameleon along with 11 more ancient fossil lizards were pulled—encased in amber—from a mine decades ago, but it wasn’t until recently that scientists had the opportunity to analyze them.

In “Jurassic Park,” fictional scientists cloned dinosaurs with blood extracted from amber, but these real-life fossils hold snapshots of “missing links” in the evolutionary history of lizards that will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of where they fit on the tree of life, said Edward Stanley, a University of Florida postdoctoral researcher in herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  (more…)

Shark attacks hit all-time high in 2015

February 9th, 2016

Editors note: An infographic follows this release. 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s the kind of record no one wants to break: the most shark attacks in a single year. But 2015 did just that, with 98 unprovoked attacks worldwide, beating the previous record of 88 set in 2000, according to the International Shark Attack File housed at the University of Florida.

Six of the attacks were fatal.

The all-time high came as no surprise to George Burgess, curator of the world’s clearinghouse of shark-attack data housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. With shark populations rebounding and more and more people in the ocean, bites are inevitable, he says.

“Sharks plus humans equals attacks. As our population (more…)

Museum reaches 500,000 digitized mollusks online, largest worldwide

February 5th, 2016
This jeweled topsnail, Calliostoma annulatum, from the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, is one of the species found in the Florida Museum’s digital catalog of more than 500,000 mollusk specimen records. The database includes about a third of the world’s 100,000 identified species. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Gustav Paulay

This jeweled topsnail, Calliostoma annulatum, from the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, is one of the species in the Florida Museum’s digital catalog of mollusk specimen records.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Gustav Paulay

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently surpassed half a million cataloged mollusk specimen records in its online database, making it the world’s largest digitally accessible collection for the shellfish group.

Museum researchers have been building the online catalog for more than 30 years, and it includes about a third of the word’s approximately 100,000 identified mollusk species, said Florida Museum curator of marine malacology Gustav Paulay.

“Researchers as well as the public may access the database and (more…)

Best-selling author Randy Wayne White to host Randell fundraiser Feb. 11

January 18th, 2016
Author Randy Wayne White will host the fundraiser at Doc Ford's Bar & Grill on Captiva Island.

Randy Wayne White

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Randell Research Center in Pineland will hold a fundraiser featuring best-selling author Randy Wayne White Feb. 11 from 3 to 6 p.m. for the preservation of Southwest Florida history and culture.

White will host the event at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille on Captiva Island featuring stories, food, cocktails and a live auction to help the Randell Center reach its 20th anniversary endowment goal of $850,000. Tickets are $200 and limited to 100 guests.

“Many people love Randy White’s “Doc Ford” and “Hannah Smith” novels and this is a rare opportunity to have some fun hanging out with Randy while helping a (more…)