Students with ‘A’ in science statewide receive free admission

July 2nd, 2014

A for ScienceGAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History is continuing its popular “A for Science” free admission program for K-12 students statewide.

Students who receive an “A” or “E” grade in a science may present their most recent report card at the front desk and receive a free admission with the purchase of a paid regular price adult admission.

The offer is valid for the “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit, the “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” exhibit open through Sept. 1, or a value admission for both exhibits.

“The ‘A for Science’ program directly supports our emphasis on youth education,” said Darcie MacMahon, who oversees the Florida Museum’s Exhibits and (more…)

Florida Museum kicks off free movie series with ‘The Wolf Man’ July 11

June 26th, 2014

Creative BGAINESVILLE, Fla. — Get ready for a ‘howling’ good time during a month of free movie screenings at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Beginning with “The Wolf Man” (1941) on July 11, the Florida Museum will show werewolf-themed movies Fridays during the Summer B semester as part of the University of Florida “Creative B” program. The museum will be open to the public from 6 to 10 p.m. and UF students receive free admission to the “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs” exhibit each movie night with a valid Gator 1 card.

The series includes a question-and-answer panel discussion on the balance between science and art beginning at 7 p.m., followed by the movie.

“The theme for Creative B this year is ‘forests and deforestation,’ so we are tying the concept of man versus nature and (more…)

UF unearths foundation of only stone mission church in St. Augustine

May 27th, 2014
Florida Museum archaeologists work to uncover the foundation of the Nombre de Dios church in St. Augustine, which is providing clues about daily life in 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Florida.   Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Gifford Waters

Florida Museum archaeologists work to uncover the foundation of the Nombre de Dios church in St. Augustine, which is providing clues about daily life in 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Florida.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Gifford Waters

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Large-scale excavations by the University of Florida are underway in St. Augustine of the 337-year-old remains of one of the largest and most ornate churches known to Spanish Florida.

Florida Museum of Natural History researchers have unearthed more than half of the coquina stone and tabby foundations of the church, which was discovered in 2011 and may be the first stone structure completed in colonial Spanish Florida—predating the famous Castillo de San Marcos fort.

Newly discovered architectural features, including a room that possibly served as the friar’s residence and other interior rooms, are providing researchers with a window into daily life at the first and longest-lasting Franciscan mission in Florida, said Gifford Waters, Florida Museum of Natural History historical archaeology collection manager.

“This building at the Nombre de Dios mission gives us insight into the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a time period of the mission that (more…)

UF study names ancient crocodilian featured in Titanoboa documentary

May 23rd, 2014
03_Tboa constricting croc illustration

UF scientists named a new ancient species of crocodilian, illustrated here being constricted by Titanoboa as portrayed in the Smithsonian Channel documentary, Anthracosuchus balrogus, after a ferocious fictional creature (the “Balrog”) that appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Lord of the Rings” and dwelled deep in the middle-Earth “Mines of Moria.” Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —A new University of Florida study describes a 16-foot, 900-pound ancient species of crocodilian that swam in the same rivers as Titanoboa 60 million years ago in the world’s oldest-known rain forest.

The newly named reptile, which has an unusually blunt snout for species in the dyrosaurids family, lived alongside the 58-foot Titanoboa as portrayed in the Smithsonian Channel documentary on the ‘monster snake.’ Scientists assigned the species’ name, Anthracosuchus balrogus, in a study appearing online today in the journal Historical Biology. Unearthed from the same layer of rock as Titanoboa in theCerrejon coal mine of northern Colombia, the species is named for a ferocious fictional creature (the “Balrog”) that appeared in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Lord of the Rings” and dwelled deep in the middle-Earth “Mines of Moria.”

The new species opens a window to the early adaptability and diversity of tropical crocodyliforms, which may help scientists better understand how living crocodiles adapt to changing environments today, said lead author Alex Hastings, a post-doctoral researcher at Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg and former graduate student at the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF’s department of geological sciences.

“It quickly became clear that the four fossil specimens were unlike any dyrosaur species ever found,” Hastings said, noting the species’ short snout paired with large jaw muscles typical of dyrosaurids, would give it an incredibly powerful bite. “Everyone thinks that crocodiles are (more…)

Scientists discover over 100 species in drive to document biodiversity

May 14th, 2014
University of Florida paleontologist Richard Hulbert Jr. displays the holotype fossil specimen of a lower jaw of a 5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat species, Rhizosmilodon fiteae, in Dickinson Hall on the UF campus. The fossil was found in Polk County in Central Florida, and is one of 103 new species described in 2013 by researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.  Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Vertebrate paleontologist Richard Hulbert Jr. displays the holotype fossil specimen of a lower jaw of a 5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat, Rhizosmilodon fiteae, one of 103 new species Florida Museum researchers described in 2013.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 5-million-year-old saber-toothed cat, the world’s oldest grape and a bizarre hermit crab were among more than 100 new species discovered by University of Florida scientists last year.

Driven in part by the urgency to document new species as natural habitats and fossil sites decline due to human influences, researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the UF campus, described 16 new genera and 103 new species of plants and animals in 2013, with some research divisions anticipating higher numbers for 2014.

An online search shows the only other major research institution reporting similar information is (more…)

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…)

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