Active military receive free admission through Sept. 7

June 17th, 2015

BSM-no-tagGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is offering free admission to all fee-based exhibits for active duty military personnel and their families through Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

This is the fourth 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 than 2,000 museums across America. The program runs from May 25 through Sept. 7.

“We are honored to be part of the Blue Star Museums program again this year and (more…)

Map of Life’s new app: The world’s biodiversity in the palm of your hand

May 19th, 2015

By Jim Shelton

Map of Life app thumbnail

Florida Museum associate curator Rob Guralnick helped lead the new Map of Life app project.

Never has knowledge of the world’s biodiversity knowledge been more at your fingertips, thanks to a new smartphone app created by a partnership between the University of Florida and Yale University. No matter where you are, the Map of Life app can tell you what species of plants and animals are nearby.

Building on the Map of Life website’s unrivaled, integrated global database of everything from bumblebees to trees, the app tells users in an instant which species are likely to be found in their vicinity. Photos and text help users identify and learn more about what they see. The app also helps users create personal lists of observations and contribute those to scientific research and conservation efforts.

“We hope that the Map of Life app, built from 100 years of knowledge about where species are found, will accelerate our ability to completely close the many gaps in our biodiversity knowledge,” said Rob Guralnick, associate curator at the University of Florida, who lead the project with Walter Jetz, a Yale University associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the guiding force behind Map of Life.

Instead of sifting through hundreds of pages in a printed field guide, naturalists get a digital guide that is already tailored to their location. With a novel modeling and mapping platform covering tens of thousands of species — everything from mammals and (more…)

Austin, Bullen 2015 student research award winners named

May 4th, 2015

Vertebrate paleontology graduate assistant Catalina Pimiento received the Austin Award for 2015.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently announced the winners of the 2015 Austin Award and Bullen Award for superior research and significant contributions to the development of museum collections and programs.

Vertebrate paleontology graduate assistant Catalina Pimiento received the Austin Award for her research on the ecology of shark species throughout history, particularly Carcharocles megalodon.

Anthropology graduate student Zackary Gilmore received the Bullen Award for his research to determine the scale of social interactions involved in the construction and use of the Silver Glen Springs shell mound site in the Late Archaic period (about 5,000 to 3,000 years ago).

To gain insight into conservation of modern sharks, Pimiento closely investigates factors involved in the extinction of megalodon, including body size and distribution trends over time.

In her previous research conducted under the guidance of Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden, Pimiento studied shark species from Panama to better understand marine connections during the formation of the isthmus. She found that sharks used shallow-water nursery areas for millions of years as an adaptive strategy for survival. This study has received nationwide media attention, including the National Geographic documentary film “Clash of the Americas.”

MacFadden said he nominated Pimiento for “her excellence in paleontological research and (more…)

Study reveals evolutionary history of hawkmoths’ sonar jamming defense

May 4th, 2015

Hawkmoths, including this species belonging to the subtribe choerocampine, produce ultrasound as a defense against bats. A new University of Florida study found that many species have used a sound-producing system found in their genitals to elude bats for millennia.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Pablo Padron

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the 65-million-year-old arms race between bats and moths, some moth species rub their genitals to jam the calls of bats. Radar jamming is commonly used in human warfare, allowing pilots to render themselves invisible. By unraveling the evolution of hawkmoths’ similar defense, authors of a new study appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences aim to better understand nocturnal biodiversity and improve human uses of sonar.

Study researchers with the University of Florida and Boise State University tracked sonar jamming throughout the evolutionary history of hawkmoths and found that one of the insect world’s most sophisticated defense mechanisms is more widespread than originally thought, existing for millennia.

Until now, the function and evolution of sonar jamming remained largely a mystery, said lead author Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“Before now people thought ultrasound usage in insects was very restricted to certain groups, but it looks much more complex than that,” Kawahara said.

Kawahara and collaborators scoured jungles and forests from Borneo to the Amazon observing hawkmoths. They collected specimens at 70 sites in 32 countries and conducted field-based echolocation experiments and (more…)

Museum’s 2015 volunteers of year includes new student award winner

April 27th, 2015

Crystal Coleman received the museum’s newly formed Student Volunteer of the Year Award for 2015.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently recognized its 2015 volunteers of the year, including a new student award winner.

Russell Henderson and Gerald Kidder were named winners of the James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award, and Crystal Coleman was recognized with a newly formed Student Volunteer of the Year Award. The Florida Museum recognized the winners during its annual volunteer reception April 1.

Winning in the exhibits and public programs division, Henderson served 220 hours during 2014 and has completed more than 1,454 hours at the museum since he began volunteering in 2008 as a docent. He is known by his colleagues to attend a variety of museum programs to further his knowledge, help visitors dig deeper into a topic and keep others informed of new ways to become effective docents.

“Russell’s easygoing approach with museum visitors is one of his most valuable assets,” wrote Florida Museum school programs coordinator Dianne Behringer in her nomination letter. “I very regularly observe laughter and smiles as I pass by Russell and his group.”

Awarded for his work in research and collections, Kidder served 145 hours during 2014 and (more…)

Brownie, Junior Girl Scout butterfly program set for May 1

April 15th, 2015

Emily Winters, production assistant in the “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit, shows Scouts from various troops an owl butterfly during the 2014 “Girl Scouts Explore: Botany” program.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Girl Scouts are invited to participate in an evening exploration of butterflies and moths from around the world at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Girl Scouts Explore: Lepidoptera” program May 1.

The program from 6 to 9 p.m. offers Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts the opportunity to learn how to identify, classify and pin butterfly specimens that will be added to the museum’s collections. By completing the program, Scouts may earn a museum logo patch with an accompanying “Lepidoptera” bar specially designed for the event.

“This event will provide Girl Scouts with a wonderful opportunity to not only learn about butterflies and moths first-hand, but also to interact with women in the science field and researchers with the ‘Butterfly Rainforest’ and the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity,” said Florida Museum educator Amber Hodges.

During the program, Scouts will explore the “Wall of Wings” and (more…)

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…)

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