Museum begins year of giant fossils with ‘Megalodon’ exhibit opening Oct. 4

September 3rd, 2014

MegLogo_CMYK_FNL.jpgEditors: Exhibit press materials are available here.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After six years of touring the country to more than 1 million visitors, the Florida Museum of Natural History welcomes “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived” home beginning Oct. 4.

Produced by the Florida Museum, the exhibit tells the story of the largest shark that ever lived. It features a 60-foot-long walk-through sculpture of Megalodon and describes the evolution, biology and legends of giant prehistoric sharks. Though this dominant marine predator vanished 2 million years ago, its fascinating story inspires lessons for science and (more…)

Fall Science Café series begins Sept. 15

August 27th, 2014
Kawahara

Assistant curator of Lepidoptera Akito Kawahara led the yearlong study that revealed monumental discoveries about the evolutionary history of butterflies and moths.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu
Source: Betty Dunckel, bdunckel@flmnh.ufl.edu, 352-273-2088

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History begins its fall “Science Café” series Sept. 15 with lepidopterist Akito Kawahara discussing “Discovering How Insects Jam Bat Sonar: A Story About Nocturnal Fieldwork in the Depths of the Amazon, Borneo and Central Africa.”

The program at Saboré, 13005 SW First Road, Suite 129 in Town of Tioga begins at 6:30 and reservations are required. For more information or to RSVP, email aerickson@flmnh.ufl.edu or call Amanda Erickson Harvey, 352-273-2062.

Now in its fourth year, the Science Café program brings guest speakers and community members together at local establishments to discuss contemporary science over food. Seating and food orders begin at 6 p.m. with the program starting at 6:30 p.m.

“Our fall Science Café series begins with a program that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the museum’s McGuire (more…)

NSF awards $7.5 million to UF-led effort to digitize biodiversity collections

August 25th, 2014

Editors: A complete list of awards is available online

Zachary Randall imaging hedgehog-AP

Florida Museum research assistant Zachary Randall uses an imaging system to photograph a skin of Brandt’s Hedgehog. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Rob Robins

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The National Science Foundation has awarded six grants totaling about $7.5 million to digitize biodiversity collections, a nationwide effort coordinated by the iDigBio program based at the University of Florida.

The research is critical to understanding our planet and how changes in biological diversity affect human societies. The funding will shed light on “dark data,” information that is inaccessible to most scientists, educators, policymakers and the general public, and will further the national effort to digitize biodiversity collections.

“There are specimens that have been around for 100-200 years, but they are in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere, and it’s hard to know where everything is and how to get (more…)

New exhibit marks 100-year anniversary of Passenger Pigeon extinction

August 15th, 2014
Passenger Pigeons

These well-preserved Passenger Pigeons mounted in the 1890s are part of a new exhibit marking the 100-year anniversary of the bird’s extinction.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Florida Museum of Natural History gallery exhibit opening Sept. 1 illustrates how human actions can lead to the extinction of a species—even those considered common just a century ago.

“A Shadow Over the Earth: The Life and Death of the Passenger Pigeon” marks the 100-year anniversary of the bird’s extinction, and features illustrations, artwork and poetry from famed naturalists who documented the pigeon’s biology and its decline. Visitors may also learn about related Florida Museum research and view a well-preserved pair of Passenger Pigeons mounted in the 1890s.

Prior to its extinction 100 years ago, the Passenger Pigeon was one of the most abundant birds in the world, with population estimates ranging from 3 billion to 5 billion.

“James Audubon witnessed a flock that took three days to fly over a locality in north central Kentucky,” said Jessica Oswald, a former Florida Museum ornithology graduate student.

The populous pigeons couldn’t (more…)

Popular ‘Wolf to Woof’ exhibit extended to Sept. 7

August 8th, 2014

E000498GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Due to popular demand, the Florida Museum of Natural History has extended the closing date for “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” to Sept. 7.

Originally on display through Sept. 1, “Wolf to Woof” is the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibit on the history, biology and evolution of dogs. It shows how dogs have secured a special place in human society as an incredibly diverse and versatile species that serves as hunters, herders, guards and companions.

“ ‘Wolf to Woof’ has been a very popular summer visitor attraction, so we’ve decided to give our community an extra week to see what all the ‘howling’ is about,” said Florida Museum exhibit developer Tina Choe.

The exhibit reveals an in-depth history of dogs and their connection with wolves through four themed sections featuring artifacts, multimedia displays, photomurals and (more…)

UF study advances ‘DNA revolution,’ tells butterflies’ evolutionary history

July 30th, 2014
Kawahara

Assistant curator of Lepidoptera Akito Kawahara led the yearlong study that revealed monumental discoveries about the evolutionary history of butterflies and moths.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — By tracing nearly 3,000 genes to the earliest common ancestor of butterflies and moths, University of Florida scientists have created an extensive “Tree of Lepidoptera” in the first study to use large-scale, next-generation DNA sequencing.

Among the study’s more surprising findings: Butterflies are more closely related to small moths than to large ones, which completely changes scientists’ understanding of how butterflies evolved. The study also found that some insects once classified as moths are actually butterflies, increasing the number of butterfly species higher than previously thought.

“This project advances biodiversity research by providing an evolutionary foundation for a very diverse group of insects, with nearly 160,000 described species,” said Akito Kawahara, lead author and assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “With a tree, we can now understand how the majority of butterfly and moth species evolved.”

Available online and to be published in the August print edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the study builds the evolutionary framework for future ecological and (more…)

Marston Library, museum resurrect science art contest

July 28th, 2014

12790-The-Elegance-of-Science-rotatorGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Elegance of Science art competition that stresses the connection between artistic and scientific perceptions of reality is now accepting submissions until Dec. 20.

After a three-year hiatus, the Marston Science Library and Florida Museum of Natural History are re-introducing the contest to UF students, staff and faculty who have created two-dimensional images as part of their research or that feature scientific tools or concepts.

Art is often sacrificed in schools because people emphasize science for students’ (more…)

Museum to host Panama Canal Zone centennial celebration, exhibit

July 25th, 2014
Panama Canal

Two ships travel along the Panama Canal, which turns 100 this year.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is celebrating the Panama Canal’s 100th birthday this August with a new gallery exhibition and family-friendly event.

Opening Aug. 9, “Panama: Tropical Ecosystem” focuses on the region’s biodiversity and the cultural importance of nature in a country of rain forests, volcanic beaches and mountains. On display through May 31, 2015, the exhibit features photographs, stereographs, plant illustrations, books and artifacts highlighting the rich variety of flora and fauna in the land between North and South America.

“Visitors will learn about Panama’s natural environment, including how it’s represented in art and (more…)

Buchholz High School student wins prestigious grant to research moth wings

July 24th, 2014
Zhong

High school senior Minjia Zhong holds a Saturniid moth, Citheronia splendens, while conducting fieldwork in Arizona.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Geena Hill

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A high school student working in the Florida Museum of Natural History McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity recently received a $2,000 Mu Alpha Theta grant to research moth wings.

Only about a dozen U.S. high school students receive the grant each summer from the national high school and two-year college mathematics honor society.

The grant will allow Buchholz High School senior Minjia Zhong to complete a paper she wrote and submit it for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“A $2,000 research grant is an incredible accomplishment for someone who has yet to start college,” said Florida Museum assistant curator of Lepidoptera Akito Kawahara, who is supervising Zhong’s research.

Zhong uses her math skills to apply and understand geometric morphometrics, a field of statistics used to quantify complex shapes. Kawahara said Florida Museum researchers think diverse wing shapes evolved as a defense against nocturnal predators, such as bats.

Zhong said she developed an interest in moths as a collections assistant through the Florida Museum’s summer Junior Volunteer Program, and studying wing shapes of the Saturniidae moth family satisfied her desire to combine math and (more…)

Community support sought for butterfly gardens at local schools

July 17th, 2014
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

A monarch butterfly feeds on a Fragrant Delight Heliotrope plant in the Butterfly Rainforest.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many young children today are disconnected from the natural world, but a project to plant local butterfly gardens in area schools is closing the gap that exists between urban students and nature.

Florida Museum of Natural History scientists partnered with educators at Duval Elementary School last fall to open children’s eyes to the unique metamorphosis that occurs during butterfly development and the responsibilities involved in caring for a garden. Now, the museum is raising funds and accepting plant donations for gardens at other schools, including a project at Williams Elementary School set to begin this fall.

“We live in an environment where kids do not have enough exposure to nature in order to learn how it operates,” said Duval teacher Anterria Ellerbe. “Thanks to the garden, these students do (more…)

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