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…)
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…)
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…)
Pollinator 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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The winning artists of images of nanoparticles to a woolly mammoth in the University of Florida Elegance of Science Contest will be recognized in an award ceremony at the Florida Museum of Natural History March 20 at 3:30 p.m.
A committee of six judges from Gainesville’s art and science communities evaluated 94 entries on their scientific and artistic merit.
“I enjoyed seeing the variety of ways you can interpret ‘the elegance of science,’” said judge and professional photographer Kristen Grace, who also works at the Florida Museum. “Some were as simple as a dewdrop on a flower petal and (more…)
New public speaking, leadership opportunities available
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students ages 12-17 searching for hands-on experience and leadership roles may apply from March 2 through March 27 for the Florida Museum of Natural History’s summer junior volunteer program.
This year, the museum is offering returning junior volunteers the opportunity to speak with visitors in the current featured exhibit, “A T. rex Named Sue,” which tells the story of the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. Volunteers in this new position will give brief talks while standing in front of the fully-articulated cast of Sue, and then answer visitor questions.
With the debut of this summer’s leadership program, the museum will invite a small number of returning applicants to help train their peers, facilitate daily assignments and plan the end-of-summer awards ceremony.
Junior volunteers also will have the opportunity to learn alongside museum staff in a variety of positions that include discovery cart attendant, “Discovery Room” assistant and (more…)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tropical turtle fossils discovered in Wyoming by University of Florida scientists reveal that when the earth got warmer, prehistoric turtles headed north. But if today’s turtles try the same technique to cope with warming habitats, they might run into trouble.
While the fossil turtle and its kin could move northward with higher temperatures, human pressures and habitat loss could prevent a modern-day migration, leading to the extinction of some modern species.
The newly discovered genus and species, Gomphochelys (pronounced gom-fo-keel-eez) nanus – provides a clue to how animals might respond to future climate change, said Jason Bourque, a paleontologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF and the lead author of the study, which appears online this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The wayfaring turtle was among the species that researchers believe migrated 500-600 miles north 56 million years ago, during a temperature peak known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Lasting about 200,000 years, the temperature peak resulted in significant movement and diversification of plants and animals.
“We knew that some plants and lizards migrated north when the climate warmed, but (more…)