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…)

Students with ‘A’ in science statewide receive free admission

July 2nd, 2014

A for ScienceGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is continuing its popular “A for Science” free admission program for K-12 students statewide.

Students who receive an “A” or “E” grade in a science may present their most recent report card at the front desk and receive a free admission with the purchase of a paid regular price adult admission.

The offer is valid for the “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit, the “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” exhibit open through Sept. 1, or a value admission for both exhibits.

“The ‘A for Science’ program directly supports our emphasis on youth education,” said Darcie MacMahon, who oversees the Florida Museum’s Exhibits and (more…)

Florida Museum kicks off free movie series with ‘The Wolf Man’ July 11

June 26th, 2014

Creative BGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Get ready for a ‘howling’ good time during a month of free movie screenings at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Beginning with “The Wolf Man” (1941) on July 11, the Florida Museum will show werewolf-themed movies Fridays during the Summer B semester as part of the University of Florida “Creative B” program. The museum will be open to the public from 6 to 10 p.m. and UF students receive free admission to the “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” exhibit each movie night 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 theme for Creative B this year is ‘forests and deforestation,’ so we are tying the concept of man versus nature and (more…)

UF unearths foundation of only stone mission church in St. Augustine

May 27th, 2014
Florida Museum archaeologists work to uncover the foundation of the Nombre de Dios church in St. Augustine, which is providing clues about daily life in 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Florida.   Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Gifford Waters

Florida Museum archaeologists work to uncover the foundation of the Nombre de Dios church in St. Augustine, which is providing clues about daily life in 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Florida.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Gifford Waters

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Large-scale excavations by the University of Florida are underway in St. Augustine of the 337-year-old remains of one of the largest and most ornate churches known to Spanish Florida.

Florida Museum of Natural History researchers have unearthed more than half of the coquina stone and tabby foundations of the church, which was discovered in 2011 and may be the first stone structure completed in colonial Spanish Florida—predating the famous Castillo de San Marcos fort.

Newly discovered architectural features, including a room that possibly served as the friar’s residence and other interior rooms, are providing researchers with a window into daily life at the first and longest-lasting Franciscan mission in Florida, said Gifford Waters, Florida Museum of Natural History historical archaeology collection manager.

“This building at the Nombre de Dios mission gives us insight into the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a time period of the mission that (more…)

UF study names ancient crocodilian featured in Titanoboa documentary

May 23rd, 2014
03_Tboa constricting croc illustration

UF scientists named a new ancient species of crocodilian, illustrated here being constricted by Titanoboa as portrayed in the Smithsonian Channel documentary, Anthracosuchus balrogus, after a ferocious fictional creature (the “Balrog”) that appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Lord of the Rings” and dwelled deep in the middle-Earth “Mines of Moria.” Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —A new University of Florida study describes a 16-foot, 900-pound ancient species of crocodilian that swam in the same rivers as Titanoboa 60 million years ago in the world’s oldest-known rain forest.

The newly named reptile, which has an unusually blunt snout for species in the dyrosaurids family, lived alongside the 58-foot Titanoboa as portrayed in the Smithsonian Channel documentary on the ‘monster snake.’ Scientists assigned the species’ name, Anthracosuchus balrogus, in a study appearing online today in the journal Historical Biology. Unearthed from the same layer of rock as Titanoboa in theCerrejon coal mine of northern Colombia, the species is named for a ferocious fictional creature (the “Balrog”) that appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Lord of the Rings” and dwelled deep in the middle-Earth “Mines of Moria.”

The new species opens a window to the early adaptability and diversity of tropical crocodyliforms, which may help scientists better understand how living crocodiles adapt to changing environments today, said lead author Alex Hastings, a post-doctoral researcher at Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg and former graduate student at the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF’s department of geological sciences.

“It quickly became clear that the four fossil specimens were unlike any dyrosaur species ever found,” Hastings said, noting the species’ short snout paired with large jaw muscles typical of dyrosaurids, would give it an incredibly powerful bite. “Everyone thinks that crocodiles are (more…)

Scientists discover over 100 species in drive to document biodiversity

May 14th, 2014
University of Florida paleontologist Richard Hulbert Jr. displays the holotype fossil specimen of a lower jaw of a 5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat species, Rhizosmilodon fiteae, in Dickinson Hall on the UF campus. The fossil was found in Polk County in Central Florida, and is one of 103 new species described in 2013 by researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Vertebrate paleontologist Richard Hulbert Jr. displays the holotype fossil specimen of a lower jaw of a 5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat, Rhizosmilodon fiteae, one of 103 new species Florida Museum researchers described in 2013.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat, the world’s oldest grape and a bizarre hermit crab were among more than 100 new species discovered by University of Florida scientists last year.

Driven in part by the urgency to document new species as natural habitats and fossil sites decline due to human influences, researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the UF campus, described 16 new genera and 103 new species of plants and animals in 2013, with some research divisions anticipating higher numbers for 2014.

An online search shows the only other major research institution reporting similar information is (more…)

Active military, families receive free admission May 26-Sept. 1

May 6th, 2014

BSM-no-tagGAINESVILLE, Fla. — As part of the Blue Star Museums program, the Florida Museum of Natural History will offer free admission to all fee-based exhibits for active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014.

This is the third consecutive year the Florida Museum has participated in the Blue Star 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 26 through Sept. 1.

“We are honored to be part of the Blue Star Museums program and help provide our nation’s active duty military personnel with a high-quality museum experience,” said associate curator for Lepidoptera Jaret Daniels, who also oversees the museum’s exhibits and (more…)

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