July 1 marks 100-year anniversary of ‘12 Days of Terror’

June 29th, 2016
Shark researcher George Burgess displays an original July 1916 issue of the New York Tribune describing the New Jersey attacks. ©Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Shark researcher George Burgess displays an original July 1916 issue of the New York Tribune describing the New Jersey attacks.
©Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Before five shark attacks left four people dead and one wounded on the Jersey Shore in 1916, there was widespread doubt a shark would even bite a human.

But the attacks that occurred July 1-12, later dubbed “the 12 Days of Terror,” marked a major turning point in the relationship between sharks and humans that put the fish on the defensive and continues to threaten their existence a century later.

“It literally landed on the desk of the president,” said George Burgess, who directs the Florida Program for Shark Research and International Shark Attack File based at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. “It was affecting everybody.”

The Jersey Shore was a vacation hotspot, and during a polio epidemic and sweltering heat wave in 1916, thousands flocked to the seaside paradise.

The first two attacks happened on the coast, and the last three in Matawan Creek. Some experts suspected a bull shark, because it’s the only shark that regularly swims into brackish water.

But the attacks occurred during a nearly full moon high tide when the tributary had maximum salinity. The high tide, severity of the human injuries and the fact a great white shark was later caught with human remains in its stomach, led Burgess to believe it was a great white.

And it was a 25-foot great white that spiked viewers’ heart rates in the 1975 film “Jaws.”

“When the movie came out, there was a collective testosterone rush up and down the East Coast,” Burgess said. Fishermen wanted to prove their bravery, and catching (more…)

Free ‘Creative B’ movie series kicks off with ‘Mothra’ July 8

June 17th, 2016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will offer extended hours and free film screenings with panel discussions during July as part of the University of Florida Creative B program.

CreativeB_wordmark_sub_lrThe museum is also hosting an opening reception at 6 p.m. July 8 where attendees can meet and greet Creative B featured artist Nobuho Nagasawa prior to the discussion and viewing of “Mothra” (1961) at 7 p.m.

“Creative B is a unique opportunity to speak to experts in the fields of special effects, science and science fiction,” said Tiffany Ireland, Florida Museum educator. “It’s the main event of the summer.”

The museum also will show “Little Shop of Horrors” (1960) on July 15, “The (more…)

Director Doug Jones elected as American Alliance of Museums board chair

June 7th, 2016
Florida Museum Director Doug Jones. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

Florida Museum Director Doug Jones
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History Director Douglas Jones has been elected chair of the board for the American Alliance of Museums. His two-year term began at the conclusion of the organization’s 2016 annual meeting last week in Washington, D.C.

In his new role, Jones will help lead the organization’s programs related to museum accreditation, monitoring the fiscal health of AAM and implementing the group’s 2016-2020 strategic plan. He also will chair two annual meetings and participate in federal advocacy efforts around the country.

An AAM board member since 2012, Jones previously served as vice chair for 2015-2016.

“I’m honored to have been elected to serve in (more…)

Professors receive international biology award

May 24th, 2016
Pam and Doug Soltis Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

Pam and Doug Soltis are known internationally for their research on the evolutionary diversification of flowering plants.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida Museum of Natural History professors have received the 2016 Darwin-Wallace Medal from the Linnean Society of London, considered one of the top international awards given to researchers studying evolutionary biology.

Distinguished professor, Florida Museum curator and University of Florida Biodiversity Institute director Pam Soltis and Doug Soltis, distinguished professor in the Florida Museum and the UF department of biology, received the award today from Linnean Society President Paul Brakefield at the group’s headquarters at the Burlington House in London. The Soltises are principal investigators in the Florida Museum Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics and researchers with the UF Genetics Institute.

“This is an incredible honor, particularly that Doug and I were selected as joint recipients,” Pam Soltis said. “We are humbled by this award and (more…)

Man-eating monster crocodile may be Florida’s newest invasive species

May 19th, 2016
A Nile crocodile emerges from the water at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston. Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Aquarium

A Nile crocodile emerges from the water at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.
Photo courtesy of the South Carolina Aquarium

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spotting native alligators and crocodiles in Florida is common, but anyone who sees a large reptile may want to take a second look— man-eaters that can grow to 18 feet long and weigh as much as a small car have been found in the Sunshine State.

Using DNA analysis, University of Florida researchers have confirmed the capture of multiple Nile crocodiles in the wild.

The ancient icon eats everything from zebras to small hippos to humans in sub-Saharan Africa. Now three juveniles of the monster crocodile have been found in South Florida swimming in the Everglades and (more…)

Limited media access to ‘Wicked Plants’ author Amy Stewart this Saturday

May 16th, 2016

MEDIA ADVISORY

RSVP REQUIRED

WHEN: Saturday, May 21, 5:30 p.m.

WHO: New York Times best-selling author Amy Stewart is available for limited media interviews before she speaks during a members-only reception and book signing at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The museum’s current featured exhibit is based on Stewart’s book “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities.” Media interested in interviewing Stewart must call Paul Ramey, 352-213-0999, in advance.

WHERE: Florida Museum of Natural History, 3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, 32611

DETAILS: For information on “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit,” visit www.flmnh.ufl.edu/wickedplants/. For more information on Amy Stewart, visit www.amystewart.com/.

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Contact: Paul Ramey, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu, 352-213-0999

Active military, families to receive free admission May 30-Sept. 5

May 12th, 2016

Blue Star Museums LogoGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Active duty military personnel and families receive free admission to all fee-based exhibits at the Florida Museum of Natural History from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2016 as a part of the Blue Star Museums program.

This is the fifth consecutive year the Florida Museum has participated in the program, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and (more…)

Deadly fungus threatens Africa frogs

May 6th, 2016
Discovered on Mount Manengouba in Cameroon by David Blackburn in 2008, Cardioglossa manengouba was a common frog before the chytrid fungus emerged and devastated its population. Photo courtesy of Mark-Oliver Rödel

Discovered on Mount Manengouba in Cameroon by David Blackburn in 2008, Cardioglossa manengouba was a common frog before the chytrid fungus emerged and devastated its population.
Photo courtesy of Mark-Oliver Rödel

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  — Misty mountains, glistening forests and blue-green lakes make Cameroon, the wettest part of Africa, a tropical wonderland for amphibians.

The country holds more than half the species living on the continent, including dozens of endemic frogs — an animal that has been under attack across the world by the pervasive chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Africa has been mostly spared from the deadly and (more…)

Building on shells: Study with UGA unraveling mysteries of Calusa kingdom

May 5th, 2016
Two University of Georgia students excavate a site on Mound Key near Fort Myers Beach. Photo courtesy of Victor Thompson/University of Georgia

Two University of Georgia students excavate a site on Mound Key near Fort Myers Beach.
Photo courtesy of Victor Thompson/University of Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. — Centuries before modern countries such as Dubai and China started building islands, the Calusa Indians living in southwest Florida were piling shells into massive heaps to construct their own water-bound towns.

One island in particular, Mound Key, was the capital of the Calusa kingdom when Spanish explorers first set foot in the area. Supported in part by a grant from National Geographic, a new interdisciplinary study led by University of Georgia anthropologist Victor Thompson and (more…)

‘Wicked Plants’ opening celebration May 14 features family activities

May 3rd, 2016

wickedlogoSMwebGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have an opportunity to play an “animal murder mystery game” and participate in other free family-friendly activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 14 during opening day of the new featured exhibition, “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit.”

Visitors can speak with Florida Museum botanists who will bring specimens from the collections, or play “pollinator vision” and “match the plant with the pollinator” with Gators Reaching Out With Botany.

Other participants include Alachua Conservation Trust, the City of Gainesville Nature Operations Division, (more…)

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