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…)

Museum researcher receives 2013-2014 UF Excellence Award

May 2nd, 2014

Neill Wallis Swift Creek Pottery lowresGAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Florida Museum of Natural History researcher recently received a 2013-2014 UF Excellence Award for his research on social networks and communities in pre-Columbian North America.

Neill Wallis, assistant curator in Florida archaeology, was one of 10 University of Florida assistant professors selected to receive the award. Recognizing excellence in research from junior faculty, the $5,000 award may be used to fund travel, equipment, books, graduate student assistants and other research-related expenses.

Wallis’ research programs focus on the development and change of Native American social networks and communities between 3,000 and 500 years ago. Centered primarily on Florida and the southeastern United States, his research more broadly redefines understandings of political and social life in these societies.

“Dr. Wallis is an exceptional young faculty member whose scholarly productivity is outstanding,” said Florida Museum Director Doug Jones, who nominated Wallis for the award.

Since 2011, in addition to senior authorship on six peer-reviewed articles and five book chapters (more…)

Register now for May 21 adult volunteer orientation program

May 1st, 2014
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A museum docent teaches a visiting homeschooled student about paleontology.
Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — From working behind-the-scenes in museum collections to guiding school groups through exhibits, the Florida Museum of Natural History provides volunteer opportunities for people with many interests.

The museum will hold an orientation session May 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. where prospective adult volunteers ages 18 and older will learn about the various opportunities available. Pre-registration is required.

“We have a variety of positions that appeal to those who enjoy interacting with people, those who prefer to work quietly and everything in between,” school programs coordinator Dianne Behringer said.

Barbara Ornstein, who received the 2014 James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award, said she is always learning something new as a museum volunteer.

Since becoming a docent in 2000 due to her interest in science and (more…)

Brownie, Junior Girl Scout botany program set for May 9

April 22nd, 2014
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Brownie Girl Scouts enjoy an exploration event at the Florida Museum.
Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Girl Scouts will have the opportunity to plant a seed of knowledge at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Girl Scouts Explore: Botany” program May 9.

The program from 6 to 9 p.m. allows Brownie or Junior Girl Scouts to explore and investigate plants from around the world, and earn a museum patch with an accompanying “Botany” bar especially designed for the event.

“I remember participating in scouting events at the museum when I was a Brownie Girl Scout so I am very excited to share this experience with current Brownies and Juniors,” said Florida Museum educator Amanda Harvey. “I hope they make memories and (more…)

Barbara Ornstein, Robert Tarnuzzer named 2014 volunteers of the year

April 11th, 2014
The 2014 James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Barbara Ornstein for her contributions to exhibits and public programs and to Robert Tarnuzzer for his work in vertebrate paleontology collections. Florida Museum photos by Kristen Grace

The Florida Museum named Barbara Ornstein and Robert Tarnuzzer its 2014 volunteers of the year.
Florida Museum of Natural History photos by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Hard work has paid off for Barbara Ornstein and Robert Tarnuzzer, who were recognized last week by the Florida Museum of Natural History as winners of the 2014 James Pope Cheney Volunteer of the Year Award.

Ornstein served 199 hours at the museum during 2013 and has completed more than 1,600 hours since she began volunteering in 2000. In addition to her role as a school programs docent, she also participates in outreach programs and exhibit fabrication.

“The keyword that I think best describes Barbara’s volunteer work here at the museum is ‘versatility,’ ” said Center for Science Learning project manager Dale Johnson.

Tarnuzzer served more than 443 hours in the museum’s vertebrate paleontology collections during 2013 and has completed more than 2,800 hours since becoming a volunteer in 2007. He collects fossils in the field and (more…)

Study shows ‘dinosaurs of the turtle world’ at risk in Southeast rivers

April 10th, 2014
This alligator snapping turtle was photographed on the Suwannee River in 2011 after being caught in a trap as part of a three-year research project. Photo courtesy of Kevin Enge

This alligator snapping turtle was photographed on the Suwannee River in 2011 after being caught in a trap as part of a three-year research project.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Enge

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, University of Florida scientists say.

A new study appearing this week in the journal Zootaxa shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species.

The limited distribution of the species, known to weigh as much 200 pounds, could potentially affect the conservation of rivers the turtles inhabit, including the Suwannee, said lead author Travis Thomas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientist and former Florida Museum of Natural History volunteer who began the research as a UF wildlife ecology and conservation student.

“We have to be especially careful with our management of the Suwannee River species because this turtle exists only in that river and its tributaries,” Thomas said. “If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species. The turtle is extremely limited by its habitat. All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go.”

In the study, scientists revised the genus Macrochelys, often called the “dinosaurs of the turtle world” by lay people, to include Macrochelys temminkii and (more…)

Austin, Bullen 2014 student research award winners named

April 7th, 2014
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University of Florida graduate student Francois Michonneau received the 2014 Austin Award.
Florida Museum of Natural History Photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently announced the winners of the 2014 Austin Award and Bullen Award. Two University of Florida students received the awards from the museum’s University Teaching Committee for their research and contributions to the museum’s collections.

Francois Michonneau received the Austin Award for his work on the systematics and evolution of sea cucumbers. The Austin Award honors Oliver Austin, a former Florida Museum ornithology curator, and recognizes one UF graduate student performing research guided by a Florida Museum curator, collection manager or research scientist.

Michonneau conducted his research under the mentorship of Gustav Paulay, the museum’s marine malacology curator, and traveled on expeditions to the French-Polynesian Islands, Japan and Madagascar to collect sea cucumbers, sea urchins and other invertebrates from coral reefs. After more than 20 expeditions, he has contributed about 12,000 invertebrate specimens to the Florida Museum collections.

Jeffrey Vadala received the Bullen Award for his research on the architecture of the Mayan archaeological site Cerros in Belize and (more…)

Florida Museum to host 37th Herpetology Conference Friday, Saturday

April 3rd, 2014
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will host the 37th annual Herpetology Conference Friday and Saturday (April 4-5) at the Paramount Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.

Hosted each year by the Florida Museum Herpetology Division, the conference is the country’s longest-running regional herpetology symposium. The conference aims to bring together the herpetological community for discussion of reptile and amphibian research, education and conservation in a constructive and (more…)

Museum director elected president of science museum association

April 1st, 2014
Doug Jones portrait head crop 1309180500-Edit

Florida Museum of Natural History director Douglas S. Jones.
Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History Director Douglas S. Jones was elected president of the Association of Science Museum Directors at the association’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City in March.

Jones was named interim director of the Florida Museum in 1996 and director the following year. As a curator of invertebrate paleontology, his research focuses on tracking ancient climate changes by studying chemical variations in organisms including sea shells, fish otoliths (ear bones) and mammal teeth.

Jones has been a member of the museum directors association since 1998 and served on its board for six years. As president, he will represent the association to the media and other museum organizations, and run the association’s business meetings.

“I am honored to serve the ASMD as president, being a huge believer in the role of science museums in advancing the public’s understanding and appreciation of science in today’s society,” Jones said.

Jones also serves on the board of directors of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., as well as the boards of The Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences Inc. and (more…)

Celebrate Earth Day with exploration event, plant sale April 18-20

March 25th, 2014

Earth Day Logo ideas_4color_outlinedGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History invites visitors to explore the wonders of the planet this Earth Day weekend with activities April 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a butterfly-friendly plant sale April 18-20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The museum’s Earth Day exploration event features outdoor activities in the adjacent University of Florida Natural Area Teaching Laboratory and diverse specimens from the museum’s collections.

“This year’s theme is ‘Florida Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity,’ ” said Florida Museum public programs coordinator Catherine Carey.  “Guests will have a rare opportunity to see treasures from the museum collections and (more…)

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