Earth Day event April 18 to feature geocaching activity

April 8th, 2015

Earth-Day-LogoPollinator plant sale April 17-19 includes early opening Sunday

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can experience the awe of nature during the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Earth Day celebration April 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event also features a large pollinator-friendly plant sale April 17-19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. including extended hours on Sunday.

The event offers an opportunity to observe diverse specimens from the museum’s vast collections and includes outdoor activities in the adjacent University of Florida Natural Area Teaching Laboratory.

New this year, UF’s George A. Smathers Map and Imagery Library will provide visitors with GPS devices to help locate available geocaches around the Cultural Plaza.

“The museum is like an iceberg, and (more…)

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…)

Apply for junior volunteer program March 2-27

February 23rd, 2015

New public speaking, leadership opportunities available

Junior volunteers pin butterfly specimens in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Junior volunteers pin butterfly specimens in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students ages 12-17 searching for hands-on experience and leadership roles may apply from March 2 through March 27 for the Florida Museum of Natural History’s summer junior volunteer program.

This year, the museum is offering returning junior volunteers the opportunity to speak with visitors in the current featured exhibit, “A T. rex Named Sue,” which tells the story of the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. Volunteers in this new position will give brief talks while standing in front of the fully-articulated cast of Sue, and then answer visitor questions.

With the debut of this summer’s leadership program, the museum will invite a small number of returning applicants to help train their peers, facilitate daily assignments and plan the end-of-summer awards ceremony.

Junior volunteers also will have the opportunity to learn alongside museum staff in a variety of positions that include discovery cart attendant, “Discovery Room” assistant 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…)

Humans altering Adriatic ecosystems more than nature, UF study shows

February 13th, 2015
Shellfish

These shellfish species from coastal areas of the Northern Adriatic Sea were also found in sediments providing a detailed quantitative record of mollusks that thrived in the region 125,000 years ago.
Photo courtesy of Paolo Ferrieri and Daniele Scarponi, University of Bologna

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The ecosystems of the Adriatic Sea have weathered natural climate shifts for 125,000 years, but humans could be rapidly altering this historically stable biodiversity hot spot, a University of Florida study says.

The study details a major shift in bottom-dwelling species in Italy’s Po Basin, a region south of Venice known for its ecologically and commercially important shellfish as well as its tourism industry.

“The fossil record suggests that human activities can alter even those ecosystems that have been immune to major changes naturally occurring on our planet,” said the study’s lead author, Michal Kowalewski, the Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“We may be witnessing a permanent shift,” Kowalewski said. “This restructuring could have lasting consequences for regional biodiversity, including the overall health of the broader marine ecosystems of the Adriatic.”

Mollusks preserve well in the fossil record and (more…)

Visiting Phi Beta Kappa scholar to present free dinosaur lecture Feb. 16

February 12th, 2015
Rowe

Timothy Rowe

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will host a free presentation with paleontologist Timothy Rowe at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 as part of the 2014-2015 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars Program.

Rowe will present a lecture titled “What Happened to the Dinosaurs?” at Powell Hall, 3215 Hull Road, on the University of Florida campus. His talk complements the museum’s current featured exhibition, “A T. rex Named Sue,” which presents the story of the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. A reception will follow the presentation.

The J. Nalle Gregory Regents Professor of Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, Rowe primarily studies the evolution and (more…)

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