Museum director elected president of science museum association

April 1st, 2014
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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…)

‘La Florida’ exhibit featuring state’s native wildflowers opens April 19

March 24th, 2014
American Lotus, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, 1999. Photo by John Moran

American Lotus, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Alachua County, 1999.
Photo by John Moran

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors will have an opportunity to discover the unique wildflowers that inspired Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 to name this state “place of flowers” at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s newest photography exhibition.

On display April 19 through Aug. 3, “La Florida: 500 Years in the Place of Flowers” showcases images from Gainesville nature photographer John Moran, who roamed the state to capture the beauty and mystique of Florida’s original Garden of Eden. It features 15 large-format photographs showing the timeless beauty of wildflowers along with a panel describing the history and (more…)

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ gala April 25 to support new Discovery Room

March 19th, 2014

12701 Passport_Facebook Graphic-1GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shake out your snake boots, fasten your trademark fedora and join the Florida Museum of Natural History for a thrilling adventure at the Passport to Discovery: Raiders of the Lost Ark gala April 25 from 7 to 11 p.m.

This year’s annual fundraiser is part of a three-year campaign to create a 2,000-square-foot Discovery Room exhibit for children 8 and under set to open in 2016.

“Our spectacular new Discovery Room is sure to be a family destination,” said Betty Dunckel, director of the museum’s Center for Science Learning. “A vast array of awe-inspiring objects, interactive activities and media resources will provide countless opportunities for shared discovery and fun.”

This year’s event includes dinner catered by Blue Water Bay, dancing with Gosia & Ali and the Indiana Jones experience created by Keith Watson Events. The museum’s campaign is in its last year and (more…)

UF to begin new St. Augustine work after gift of more than 97,000 artifacts

March 4th, 2014
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Kathleen Deagan (center) shows the Fraser family a few of the recently discovered maps from the 1950s excavations in the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, St. Augustine, Fla.
From left to right: John W. Fraser, Elaine Fraser, John W. Fraser II, Steven Binninger, and Gene Kirker.
Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida begins its 20th season of archaeological fieldwork since 1976 this week in St. Augustine at the site of America’s first colony, founded by explorer Pedro Menendez in 1565.

Though the original colony lasted only nine months, researchers have uncovered more than 97,000 artifacts left behind by Spanish immigrants, valued at nearly $3.5 million and recently donated by the Fraser family to the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. Now researchers will begin unearthing the colony’s fortifications to better understand its defenses, said Kathleen Deagan, retired distinguished curator of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum.

“These artifacts are the only evidence we have as to how people lived in the colony and what objects they used,” Deagan said. “The documents from the period only briefly describe the settlers’ time at the site. There is nothing there about their lives and how people coped with being in a new, strange place. Now that we know more about their lives within the colony, we want to understand how they defended it.”

The Frasers own and operate the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park where the first colony site is located. In February, the family visited the museum’s historical archaeology collections at Dickinson Hall on the UF campus to observe how the donated artifacts are being pieced together and (more…)

Dig into geology at eighth annual ‘Can You Dig It?’ March 15

February 27th, 2014

Editors: A complete list of activities follows this release

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors will have their world rocked with volcanic eruptions and geological discoveries at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s eighth annual “Can You Dig It?” event on Saturday, March 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This free, family-friendly event provides hands-on activities and demonstrations to educate visitors about the many aspects of geology and the Earth.

“At ‘Can You Dig It?’ we try to create things of interest for people of all ages and backgrounds,” said event coordinator Matt Smith, a senior (more…)

Application period for summer junior volunteer program begins Monday

February 25th, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students ages 12-17 looking for scholarship hours, a great resume builder or hands-on experience may apply beginning Monday for the Florida Museum of Natural History’s summer junior volunteer program.

The museum will accept applications through March 28 for its popular program, which provides students the opportunity to work alongside museum staff in a variety of positions, including discovery cart attendant, Discovery Room assistant and camp teacher’s assistant.

“The Florida Museum’s junior volunteer program is a great way for youth 12 to 17 years old to gain experience working with younger children, interacting with the public and (more…)

Museum researcher wins NSF grant to study rare Hawaiian moths

February 20th, 2014

Photos available

The Philodoria marginestrigata moth, pictured with a dime for reference, feeds during its larval stage within the leaf tissue of 12 families of native Hawaiian plants. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Chris Johns

The Philodoria marginestrigata moth, pictured with a dime for reference, feeds during its larval stage within the leaf tissue of 12 families of native Hawaiian plants.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Chris Johns

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A Florida Museum of Natural History researcher has received $150,000 from the National Science Foundation to study endangered moth species in Hawaii that haven’t been seen for nearly 100 years and were believed to be extinct.

Assistant curator of Lepidoptera Akito Kawahara and his team will travel to Hawaii in July to collect samples of rare leaf-mining moths from the genus Philodoria, which have not been documented since the early 1900s. Researchers believed the moths to be (more…)

Summer, field camp registration begins March 15

February 19th, 2014

Early sign-up for museum members opens March 1

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A summer camp participant uses clay to create a leaf imprint.
Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Register your child beginning March 15 for discovery and exploration at the Florida Museum of Natural History summer and field camps.

Students in grades 1-6 for the 2014-2015 school year can investigate natural history, examine fossils, discover ancient cultures and meet some of the most interesting members of the animal kingdom during the weeklong camps that run June 9 through Aug. 1.

“Museum camps are always educational and fun,” said Florida Museum of Natural History public programs coordinator Catherine Carey. “This summer, campers will learn about everything from great inventions and archaeology to wolves and dogs in our new temporary exhibit, ‘Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs.’”

Morning, afternoon and full-day sessions are available for summer camps. Students in grades 5-6 may register for field camps focusing on Florida archaeology and (more…)

UF reports fewer shark attacks in 2013, above-average fatalities worldwide

February 17th, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The world experienced the lowest number of shark attacks since 2009, although fatalities in 2013 were above average, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File report released today.

The U.S. saw a decrease in attacks with 47, lower than the 2012 total of 54, which was the highest yearly total of the current century. There were 10 fatalities worldwide, which is higher than the 10-year average from 2003-2012. Two localities, Western Australia (six deaths in past four years) and Reunion Island (five deaths in three years) in the southwest Indian Ocean, remained shark-attack hot spots, while places where shark activity is typically rare or nonexistent also experienced attacks, said George Burgess, curator of the file (more…)

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