Study: Seashell loss due to tourism increase may have global impact

January 8th, 2014
These Donax trueloides shells from the Florida Museum collections are the same type of seashells found on the Mediterranean coast of Spain where researchers surveyed a small stretch of shoreline.  Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

These Donax trueloides shells from the Florida Museum collections are the same type of seashells found on the Mediterranean coast of Spain where researchers surveyed a small stretch of shoreline.
Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Global tourism has increased fourfold over the last 30 years, resulting in human-induced seashell loss that may harm natural habitats worldwide, according to a University of Florida scientist.

Appearing in the journal PLOS ONE today, the new study by researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and the University of Barcelona demonstrates that increased tourism on the Mediterranean coast of Spain correlated with a 70 percent decrease in mollusk shells during the tourist season in July and August and a 60 percent decrease in other months. Scientists fear shell removal could cause significant damage to natural ecosystems and organisms that rely on shells, said lead author Michal Kowalewski, the Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum.

“This research is best described as a case study that evaluates shell loss due to tourism and (more…)

Museum of Natural History to hold volunteer orientation Jan. 22

December 24th, 2013

Charlie Hall

Museum docent Charles Hall answers a visitor’s question in the Central Gallery.
Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whether needing hours for a scholarship, wanting to spend time serving others, or having an interest in lifelong learning, the Florida Museum of Natural History has volunteer opportunities for everyone.

The museum will hold an orientation session Jan. 22 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. where prospective adult volunteers ages 18 and older may learn about the different opportunities available.

“Volunteering is a great way to interact with the public, expand your knowledge and use experiences you already have,” said Florida Museum volunteer coordinator Amy Hester.

Florida Museum docent Charles Hall describes volunteering as a great way to spend his time with a rewarding return.

Hall started volunteering at the museum two years ago after his wife of 62 years died. He volunteers five days a week giving visitor tours and (more…)

Museum announces 2014 spring ‘Science Café’ programs

December 23rd, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History will continue its “Science Café” series Jan. 13, 2014, with University of Florida anthropology professor Connie Mulligan discussing “The First Settlers of the New World: Who, Where, When and How.”

This is the third year of the program in which guest speakers and community members gather at local establishments and discuss contemporary science over food. Seating and food orders begin at 6 p.m. with the program starting at 6:30 p.m.

“Our spring series features a variety of topics from the first settlers in the New World to bird intelligence and fossils of Panama,” said Betty Dunckel, director of the Florida Museum’s Center for Science Learning.

The Jan. 13 program at Saboré, 13005 SW First Road, Suite 129 in Town of Tioga, features Mulligan, who will describe how her work on human genetic variation is used to reconstruct who the first settlers in the New World were, and (more…)

Study: Some plants may not adapt quickly to future climate change

December 23rd, 2013
Pam and Doug Soltis, co-authors in new study published in the journal Nature are pictured with various flowering plants. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

Florida Museum researchers Pam and Doug Soltis, co-authors in a new study published in the journal Nature are pictured with various flowering plants.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Eric Zamora

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Using the largest dated evolutionary tree of flowering plants ever assembled, a new study suggests how plants developed traits to withstand low temperatures, with implications that human-induced climate change may pose a bigger threat than initially thought to plants and global agriculture.

The study appearing Sunday (Dec. 22) in the journal Nature and co-authored by University of Florida scientists shows many angiosperms, or flowering plants, evolved mechanisms to cope with freezing temperatures as they radiated into nearly every climate during pre-historic times. Researchers found the plants likely acquired many of these adaptive traits prior to their movement into colder regions. The study also suggests some modern angiosperms, including most flowering plants, trees and agricultural crops, may not have the traits needed to rapidly respond to human-induced climate change, said study co-author Pam Soltis, a distinguished professor and curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics at the Florida Museum on the UF campus. (more…)

Museum lets the dogs out in ‘Wolf to Woof’ exhibit opening Feb. 15

December 23rd, 2013

W2W logoGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors will soon be able to uncover the mysteries of man’s best friend at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s new temporary exhibit, “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs,” opening Feb. 15, 2014.

“Wolf to Woof” is the largest and most comprehensive traveling exhibit on the history, biology and evolution of dogs. It shows how dogs have secured a special place in human society as an incredibly diverse and versatile species that serves as hunters, herders, guards and companions.

“The canine/human relationship is something so special and unique in nature,” said Tina Choe, Florida Museum exhibit developer. “As a dog owner, I am thrilled to share this experience with our visitors.”

The exhibit reveals an in-depth history of dogs and (more…)

New plant genome study may offer clues to improving all major food crops

December 19th, 2013
Florida Museum of natural history distinguished professor, Doug Soltis, holds an Amborella plant in the Florida Museum greenhouse. Florida Museum of Natural History Photo by Jeff Gage

Florida Museum of Natural History distinguished professor Doug Soltis holds an Amborella plant in the Florida Museum greenhouse.
Florida Museum of Natural History Photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers and their colleagues have sequenced the genome of the flowering plant Amborella for the first time, potentially revealing why flowers may have proliferated millions of years ago and offering clues for improving all major food crop species.

Appearing in the journal Science on Friday (Dec. 20), two separate studies analyze the Amborella genome and provide the first insight into how flowering plants differ genetically from all other plants, said study co-author Doug Soltis, a distinguished professor with the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. Amborella trichopoda, a plant found only on the main island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, is unique as the sole survivor of an ancient evolutionary lineage that traces back to the (more…)

Museum to celebrate 35th Collectors Day Jan. 25

December 17th, 2013
Visitors exploring collections during the 2012 Florida Museum Collectors Day. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kate Martin

Visitors explore ice cream memorabilia during the 2012 Florida Museum Collectors Day.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Kate Martin

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have the opportunity to view a variety of collections — from antique cars to Coca-Cola memorabilia and stamps to Legos — during the 35th Collectors Day Jan. 25, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This free event is the museum’s longest-running and one of its most popular public programs, allowing visitors to speak with collectors and learn more about the uniqueness, history and context of their collections.

Florida Museum educator Tiffany Ireland said the program’s goal includes celebrating collectors and their collections, as well as bringing awareness to the importance of collections and (more…)

Museum hosts four school holiday camps Dec. 23-Jan. 17

December 2nd, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This winter break students can ring in the holiday season with scientific exploration and natural history investigation during the Florida Museum of Natural History’s school holiday camps beginning Dec. 23 through Jan. 17, 2014.

The camps for students enrolled in grades K-5 for the 2013-2014 school year provide natural history exploration through museum exhibits and hands-on activities.

“Holiday camps are always an opportunity to have fun while learning about something new – whether it’s engineering feats or how prehistoric people managed day-to-day living,” said Florida Museum of Natural History public programs coordinator Catherine Carey. “Museum camps are hands-on and sometimes messy, but always fun.”

“Float My Boat” on Dec. 23 will dive into engineering principles while students learn to construct a plane, float a boat and (more…)

UF students get free admission, chance to win a scooter at Florida Museum

November 20th, 2013

Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida students visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History can now save money with free admission and a scooter giveaway.

Sponsored by UF Student Government, students with a valid Gator 1 card receive free admission to the Butterfly Rainforest and other fee-based exhibits year-round.

“Granting students free access to paid exhibits supports the fact that we’re an educational facility,” said Jeff Hansen, Florida Museum coordinator of operations and visitor services “It is our hope that more UF students will learn of our facility and utilize it.”

Additionally, Party 99.5 FM and the Florida Museum are hosting a drawing for a new, fully equipped scooter between Nov. 15 and Dec. 5 courtesy of Southern Scooters and (more…)

Museum Megalodon jaw to be displayed in new Panama Biomuseo

November 15th, 2013
Florida Museum of Natural History staff prepare the jaw of a Megalodon shark for shipment to the Biomuseo in Panama. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Florida Museum of Natural History staff prepare the jaw of a Megalodon shark for shipment to the Biomuseo in Panama.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently shipped the jaws of a Megalodon shark to Panama for display in the Biomuseo, a new science museum scheduled to open next year.

The specimen arrived in Panama in October as part of a long-term loan to the new natural history museum, expected to open during the first quarter of 2014. Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden said the facility, located along the Panama Canal and designed by architect Frank Gehry, will be a world-class public exhibit space showcasing the country’s biodiversity and natural history. (more…)

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