New featured exhibit on ‘Wicked Plants’ opens May 14

April 20th, 2016

16434 Wicked Plants FB Graphic 1 FNLGAINESVILLE, Fla. —While the effects of marijuana, mushrooms and poison ivy are fairly well-known, many people may be surprised to learn about the potential danger of common plants in and around their homes.

And beginning May 14, Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will learn about the power that plants hold in its newest featured exhibit, “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit.”

The exhibit features more than 100 plants and is designed to educate guests about botanicals that are harmful to humans and animals, including evildoers lurking in the home and backyard. The story is brought to life inside an old home, where visitors will encounter a deadly dinner in the dining room, terrible toxins in the parlor, social misfits in the bathroom and (more…)

George Washington’s little buttercup

April 15th, 2016

How an extinct ancestor of the plant is helping solve Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery’

Nathan Jud rediscovered this fossil of Vernifolium tenuiloba, which shows the delicate veins of the leaf, in the Smithsonian Institution collections. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Nathan Jud

Nathan Jud rediscovered this fossil of Vernifolium tenuiloba, which shows the delicate veins of the leaf, in the Smithsonian Institution collections.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Nathan Jud

Two men set out on the Potomac River in 1892 looking for fossil plants from the days when dinosaurs roamed the Atlantic Coast nibbling on conifer leaves and ferns. Their paddling came to a halt when up ahead in a bluff on George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, a section of chocolate-colored stone caught the eye of paleobotanist Lester Ward and volunteer Victor Mason. Within minutes of digging, 105-million-year-old branches, leaves and seeds spilled from the mudstone, known for preserving fine details—a plant scientist’s gold mine. Scraps of partial fossils littered their findings. Among them was a tiny, seemingly insignificant leaf, thus beginning the modern history of George Washington’s little buttercup.

Except for a brief mention in Ward’s 1905 book, (more…)

New $1.2 million NSF grant to promote STEM education in grades 6-12

April 8th, 2016
Science educator Laura Beach, from Soquel High School in California, and iDigFossils project coordinator Claudia Grant review 3-D images of a fossil. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeffrey Gage

Science educator Laura Beach, from Soquel High School in California, and iDigFossils project coordinator Claudia Grant review 3-D images of a fossil.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is new hope for kids who spend their free time digging in their backyards in search of dinosaur bones, wishing they could be like the paleontologists from “Jurassic Park,” but maybe with a tamer outcome.

Florida Museum of Natural History and University of Florida researchers at the College of Education recently received a $1.2 million grant to provide 3-D scanners and printers, new laptop computers, and curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math for students in grades 6-12 in Florida and California.

“I don’t think this project would be successful without the collaboration of the College of Education and the museum,” said UF associate professor of educational technology and (more…)

Two former archaeology curators receive lifetime achievement awards

April 8th, 2016
Jerald Milanich was curator of archaeology at the Florida Museum for 35 years. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jill Ribich

Jerald Milanich was curator of archaeology at the Florida Museum for 35 years.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jill Ribich

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History curators emeritus Kathleen Deagan and Jerald Milanich were recently honored with 2015 lifetime achievement awards from the Southeastern Archaeological Conference for their many years of research on early American and Caribbean societies.

Deagan, Florida Museum distinguished curator emerita of historical archaeology, has discovered multiple archaeological sites in the St. Augustine area and uncovered new information about the role women played in early Spanish American and Caribbean societies.

As archaeology curator at the Florida Museum for 35 years, Milanich explored many sites throughout Florida, uncovering ancient artifacts that detail the everyday lives and (more…)

Earth Day event April 16 to feature theater workshop

April 6th, 2016

Earth-Day-LogoPollinator plant sale April 15-17 includes early opening Sunday

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History and Harn Museum of Art will celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 16, with various activities for University of Florida Cultural Plaza visitors.

The Florida Museum will start the weekend with a three-day plant sale beginning Friday, April 15, and running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Featuring more than 150 species, the sale is one of the museum’s largest of the year. Saturday’s celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. features many activities, (more…)

High tides: Florida’s early climate-change resettlements could guide modern sea level rise planning

March 28th, 2016
Former UF students Andrea Palmiotto and Melissa Ayvaz, and researcher Paulette McFadden collect a sediment core in Horseshoe Cove on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Stephen McFadden

Former UF students Andrea Palmiotto and Melissa Ayvaz, and researcher Paulette McFadden collect a sediment core in Horseshoe Cove on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Stephen McFadden

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Miami residents dodging sea-water spewing manhole covers take note: You’re not the first Floridians to deal with climate change.

That honor belongs to the state’s earliest residents, some of whom faced the problem 2,000 years ago and quickly learned how to adapt, a new University of Florida study shows.

The remains of Florida’s first climate-change resettlements offer important lessons from the past, just as rising seas again threaten the peninsula’s coastal populations, says a University of Florida scientist.

Targeting areas affected by rising seas after the last ice age, (more…)

Austin, Bullen 2016 student research award winners named

March 24th, 2016
Biology graduate student Andrew Crowl received the Austin Award for 2016. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Biology graduate student Andrew Crowl received the 2016 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 2016 Austin Award and Bullen Award for student research and significant contributions to the development of museum collections and programs.

Biology graduate student Andrew Crowl received the Austin Award for his research on the evolution and biogeography of plants, particularly a group of rare Bellflowers restricted to the Mediterranean Basin called the Roucela complex.

Anthropology graduate student Meggan Blessing received the Bullen Award for her research on past human practices using modified bones from Stallings Island, Georgia, a shell-bearing site from the Late Archaic period, about 5,800 to 3,800 years ago.

Crowl collected Bellflower specimens throughout the Greek islands and (more…)

Science photo contest winners to be honored March 30

March 21st, 2016
Bowfin (Amia calva), UF 18751

Zachary Randall’s image of a Bowfin won first place.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The winning artists’ images ranging from nanoparticles to a Florida Harvester Ant will be recognized in an award ceremony at the University of Florida Marston Science Library on March 30 at 4:30 p.m.

The Elegance of Science contest was judged by a six-member committee from Gainesville’s art and science communities that evaluated 58 entries on their scientific and artistic merit.

“I look for the same things I would look for in art: appealing composition and color, visual interest and movement in the work, and intellectual intrigue,” said judge Ellen Knudson, (more…)

Is Alaska’s first new butterfly species in decades an ancient hybrid?

March 16th, 2016
Oeneis tanana female, dorsal (top) and ventral views.

This female Tanana Arctic butterfly, Oeneis tanana, showing the dorsal (top) and ventral wing patterns, was misidentified as a close relative for years before being recognized as a separate species. Florida Museum of Natural History photos by Andy Warren

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some might say it takes a rare breed to survive the Alaska wilderness. The discovery of a possible new species of hybrid butterfly from the state’s interior is proving that theory correct.

Belonging to a group known as the Arctics, the Tanana Arctic, Oeneis tanana, is the first new butterfly species described from the Last Frontier in 28 years and may be its only endemic butterfly.

University of Florida lepidopterist Andrew Warren suggests the butterfly could be the result of a rare and unlikely hybridization between two related species, both specially adapted for the harsh arctic climate, perhaps before the last ice age. Details of the finding are available online today in the Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera. Digging deeper into the Tanana Arctic’s origins may reveal secrets about the geological history of arctic North America and (more…)

TEDxUF Club, museum to display portion of ‘Tree of Life’ March 11 from Century Tower

March 9th, 2016

Media Advisory

WHEN: Friday, March 11, 4 p.m.

WHO: The Florida Museum of Natural History and TEDxUF Club will lower a 140-foot-long printed portion of the ‘Tree of Life’ from the top of the University of Florida Century Tower. The complete tree including all 2.3 million named species on the planet would be 400 times longer. The display is a small representation of the tree and includes about 5,500 flowering plant species.

WHERE: University of Florida Century Tower, Corner of Newell Drive and Stadium Road east of Turlington Plaza, Gainesville, FL 32611

WHAT: The “Tree of Life” project is the key to understanding and recording all of Earth’s biodiversity. Scientists use the tree to monitor diseases, discover new medicines, improve and conserve field crops and measure the effect of climate change based on the interconnections between plants, animals and other organisms. Doug Soltis, a distinguished professor with appointments in the Florida Museum and UF’s biology department and Genetics Institute, and his team will discuss the work behind creating a map of Earth’s species to fuel future investigations and discoveries.

The Florida Museum will also present a pop-up station with different activities allowing visitors to explore the topic in greater detail from 3 to 6 p.m.

DETAILS: To browse the current “Tree of Life” online, visit www.etreeoflife.com or www.opentreeoflife.org.

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Writer: Maria Espinoza, PRintern@flmnh.ufl.edu
Source: Douglas Soltis, dsoltis@botany.ufl.edu
Media contact: Paul Ramey, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu, 352-273-2054

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